I first heard Robyn roughly six years ago as the opener for Coldplay on their Mylo Xyloto tour in my hometown of Charlotte, N.C. With her quirky costume, idiosyncratic choreography and dance-y tracks, she didn’t necessarily seem like a natural fit to go with Coldplay (who were just beginning to transition into their more pop-heavy phase).
To be completely honest, I was too young for the content of her music to resonate with me, and I didn’t quite know what to make of her stage presence.
In hindsight, it’s clear that what drew people to Robyn’s music then (and continues to today) was the honesty contained in her lyrics. Not unlike Taylor Swift’s best songs, Robyn’s music invites listeners into an intimate atmosphere that feels a bit like a great conversation with a close friend. With her, you feel like you can dance or cry or both without fear that you’ll be misunderstood.
It’s easy to see why translating this listening experience into the kind of performance that could neatly fit into the confines of an opening set as well as fill an arena setting proved rather difficult.
Yet, last year, I rediscovered her 2010 album Body Talk, which is home to two of her most well-known tracks, “Dancing On My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend,” and quickly grew to understand the appeal of her music.
If the former sounds familiar, it might be because you remember watching Girls’ Hannah Horvath (Lena Dunham) dance to it at the end of the third episode of the first season. And if “Call Your Girlfriend” rings a bell, perhaps you’ve seen the video of Taran Killam re-creating its iconic music video in the writers’ room leading up to her performance on Saturday Night Live.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching that glorious video — what are you doing still reading this? Pause and Google it right now; you won’t regret it.
While Robyn was absent from the music world for several years following the release of Body Talk, she remained a present force in pop culture with a bevy of rabid fans.
For years, The DJ trio ADVENTURE[s], consisting of Cherry Magdalene (Marley Magaziner), Choyce Hacks! (Chris Choyce) and a place both wonderful and strange (Russ Marshalek) hosted This Party Is Killing You (otherwise known as #TheRobynParty), where hundreds of Robyn fans gathered to dance to the singers’ music.
In May of last year, Robyn surprised the partygoers at the Brooklyn Bowl, appearing in person to perform “Love is Free” and “Honey” off of her 2018 album Honey.
Even as a newcomer to her music, watching Robyn successfully enter into a new era in her musical career has been rewarding. It is empowering to watch a badass female artist that has remained true to herself and her craft continue to find success.
With Honey, Robyn maintained her knack for transforming even the most difficult of experiences into danceable hooks that you find yourself singing along to before you’re realizing it. “Missing You,” the first single off of the album, is a prime example of her music at its best.
Next Friday, Ottobar is hosting a Robyn vs. Lady Gaga Dance Party. I’ll be singing along to “Missing U” as I carb-load in preparation for running my first half-marathon the following morning. But come the following evening, you’ll find me celebrating in the crowed at D.C.’s The Anthem at Robyn’s sold-out show, which the likes of Adele have raved about on Instagram.
So, next time you find yourself overwhelmed by feels, be they effervescent, dismal or somewhere in between, give Robyn’s catalog a listen. And if you’re looking for someone to recreate your own version of the “Call Your Girlfriend” video with, I’m available and may or may not have previous experience rolling on the floor to it.