Who's That Girl?
By Noah Michelson
Even if you think you don't know Robyn, you probably know Robyn. Or at least chances are, bobbing in the back of your head is a chunk of the addictive, sticky-sweet chorus from her hit "Show Me Love," which stampeded up the U.S. singles chart in 1997. Though she quickly disappeared from the American music scene soon after, the neon-blonde, bowl-cut-wielding singer continued to release major-label albums in her homeland of Sweden until 2004, when frustration surrounding creative control provoked her to launch to her own Konichiwa Records.
Finally calling the shots, Robyn delivered a fearless eponymous album filled with a strutting, mad-dog mix of electro-pop, rap, R&B, and straight-up balladry to commercial and critical acclaim -- including three Swedish Grammys and a U.K. number one single, "With Every Heartbeat."
After three sold-out shows in the U.S. earlier this year and with the American release of Robyn just months away, Robyn chatted with Out from Stockholm about conquering America on her own terms, the origins of her occasional drag tendencies, and why 'pop' most certainly isn't a dirty word.
Out: Your New York City show felt more like a sing-along at Camp Robyn than a concert -- the crowd knew every single word to every single song. Were you surprised by the reaction?
Robyn: You have to be surprised when something like that happens. You can never expect something like that. I was really amazed by how people not only knew "Show Me Love" and the obvious ones, but how they knew the words to every single song. There was a lot of love in the room.
On this mini-tour you played New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco -- arguably the three gayest cities in America. I swear there were a few guys up front who looked ready to devour you. Why do you think the gays love you so much?
I think it's because my music is good and because the gay audience has good taste in music [laughter]. But, really, I think there's a quality about my music -- I've always had a huge gay audience, ever since 'Show Me Love.' I think there's something about the bittersweet quality to what I do that appeals to a gay audience.
You don't seem to be a diva, but there's sometimes a drag element to what you do. The 'Konichiwa Bitches' video could definitely qualify as a drag performance.
I was raised in a theater family, and being on stage and dressing up or playing with characters and different parts of my personality has always been something that's been close at hand. There is definitely a dramatic perspective or dramatic sense to what I do and maybe it's not diva-ish, but it's kind of up there in that world.
Is conquering America something that's really important to you? Do you want to be playing stadiums in Texas?
I would love to be successful, but success means different things for different people. For me, this time around it's been about doing things on my own terms and staying in control of my creative situation. That's number one to me. I feel very satisfied with where I am. I like being in this place where some people know my earlier stuff and some people don't. I don't think people expect much from me -- there's no pressure. I can come in and do my thing. I'm not really thinking too much about what other people are expecting from this album.