Pop Goes the Damsel
By Noah Michelson
By the time she released her second album, My Truth, in 1999, the music industry had been invaded by a platoon of teen pop icons. “Britney [Spears] and Justin [Timberlake] had entered the same world as me, and they were like kamikaze pilots who just did everything right,” she says. “I was just not that kind of person, so right then I already knew I wasn’t going to be around for that. They just did it so much better than I did.”
After giving mainstream pop one last try with 2002’s Don’t Stop the Music, the singer befriended musicians and soon-to-be collaborators like electro duo the Knife and Klas Åhlund, producer and founding member of Swedish band Teddybears. “Being around those people made me feel like there was a whole different world where things are done differently,” she says. “I had made the song ‘Who’s That Girl,’ with the Knife, and when I played it for the people at the record company I was working with, they just hated it. I thought, This just doesn’t make sense for me. Why am I trying so hard to squeeze into a hole that’s not my shape? I realized I was stuck in a world I hadn’t chosen for myself. When that really sunk in, I became obsessed with cleaning out my life and building something new from the ground up. I got rid of my management and started my own record company.”
Founded in 2005, Konichiwa Records’s first release was Robyn, which reintroduced the world to the now fully autonomous and freely experimental singer. A gutsy mix of electro-pop, swaggering rap, and string-dizzy dance ballads, the album was met with critical acclaim and commercial success overseas, thanks in part to the single “With Every Heartbeat” which went to number 1 in the United Kingdom and number 5 on the Billboard Dance Chart in the United States.
The singer followed up Robyn with Body Talk, which she released as three mini-albums throughout 2010. This unorthodox move allowed her to continuously offer fans new tracks without having to fully halt her tour to record additional material and kept the focus squarely on the music -- a rare move in an era when pop has become more about posturing than product. For Robyn, doing press, filming guest spots on television shows like Gossip Girl, and opening for other artists including Madonna, and, this summer, Katy Perry -- after having already headlined her own tour -- are simply means to a critical end: getting her songs heard by as many people as possible.