Pop Goes the Damsel


By Noah Michelson

While other singers are busy playing fame games to court fans, Robyn is taking over the world the old fashioned way -- with her music.

“There’s a part of me that understands why certain artists decide not to do interviews at all,” the notoriously private singer says. “If I were to talk about my personal life and write the songs I’m writing, I wouldn’t have anything left for myself. I think refusing to talk about my life is the only way I can do it because I want my music to be intimate -- you can’t make good music without intimacy.” Still, Robyn is practical, if wary, about the particular demands of being a pop star. “I think [not doing press] is too simple of a solution,” she says. “There are a few things that are really amazing about a professional kind of approach to pop music, but a lot of times pop artists enter the music industry without deciding for themselves beforehand what their goals are. Lady Gaga is right: The fame monster grabs you, and if you’re lucky it takes you on a ride. But I don’t know if that’s always what you want. It’s just one of those things like you’re supposed to get married—you’re supposed to want fame. It’s never really questioned.”

Like Lady Gaga, and many of the other female singers currently playing the fame game, Robyn counts her gay fans as some of her biggest supporters, especially in the United States. 2010 saw a rash of songs, from Katy Perry’s “Firework” to Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” touted as gay anthems, and Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own,” the standout, Grammy-nominated track from Body Talk, could certainly hold its own in that category. A tale of unrequited love plugged into a drum machine, the song distills the alienation and loneliness of wanting something -- or someone -- that can’t be had into five bittersweet but ultimately empowering minutes of electro-pop.

But unlike some straight artists whose jockeying to be the voice of the gay community has left many feeling patronized and pandered to, Robyn doesn’t presume to speak for anyone but herself. “I have never thought of ‘Dancing on My Own’ as a gay anthem, but hearing it put that way doesn’t surprise me,” she says. “Gay culture has always had to embody outsidership. I think we’re all just scared to be lonely. We all want to be loved and we all want to be seen. When you’re different on a very basic level, that feeling is going to be with you more often than someone who doesn’t have to face what being an outsider is really like. I think it’s a song about being on the outside -- very physically -- and if it feels like a gay anthem then I take that as a super compliment.”

Once she wraps up her weeklong tour of Southern California, Robyn will take a bit of a breather before joining Katy Perry for a month of summer tour dates. Then the future is hazy for the singer. There’s a rumor floating around the Web that she’s already recorded the follow-up to Body Talk, but it isn’t true. Still, while Robyn may not be sure of her next step, one thing remains clear -- she will continue to put the music first. “I’d love to try new things, but it’s been so important for me to build the Body Talk album the way I did -- to tour, instead of doing radio promo, to treat the music as the center of everything,” she says. “It’s the only way I can keep doing this. I just don’t think it’s worth doing it any other way.”

To view a slide show of exclusive Robyn photos, click here.

Tags: Music