She’s made the perfect pop song – the type that makes you want to sing along, makes you want to dance, definitely gives you the shivers, and if you’ve just broken up with someone – well, god help you. Swedish singer Robyn is the U-turn artist of the decade, having gone from daggy ’97 hit Show Me Love to possibly the coolest song of the year – With Every Heartbeat. The 28 year old has finally conquered the UK charts and as she finally breaks here, she is on her way to Australia for two showcase gigs this weekend.
Indeed, the UK and Australia are playing catch up on the Swedish sensation that is Robyn. Although she had a hit here with the aforementioned Show Me Love (and I promise not to mention it again), before this year, if you wanted another Robyn record you literally had to trek to Stockholm to get it.
Back in Sweden, Robyn has been performing since she was 12, a pint-sized Swedish equivalent of Dannii Minogue or Tina Arena. In ’95 she released her debut album Robyn Is Here and scored a Swedish number two with the single Do You Really Want Me. Fast forward ten years, and the self-titled Robyn was released in Sweden in ‘05 – sans With Every Heartbeat – her fourth album there. Now in ’07 it’s the UK’s and Australia’s turn to discover the Nordic charmer.
While With Every Heartbeat has not been released yet in Australia as an official single (the Princess Superstar-style Konichiwa Bitches will mark her grand re-emergence), it is available on 12” vinyl and of course on the net and is the song that will surely make her mark here. But interestingly, the track was not originally a Robyn track. She wrote and recorded it with Swedish producer Andreas Kleerup and released it under his moniker of Kleerup. But when she realized what a huge hit it was, she added it to her Robyn CD for the UK and Australian releases, which she has released through her own label Konichiwa, her first not on a major.
Armed with the hot little ditty, Robyn trekked across Europe earlier this year to the pop capital, and released her uncontrollable anthem upon the long-suffering pop lovers of London. At the Notting Hill Arts Club the crowd went wild despite never hearing Heartbeat before; and the DJs on Radio 1, who have a reputation for being impenetrable, thought it was the best thing since finding somewhere to send the convicts.
And that was it – the rest of the hard work was done by the track itself, which stayed at the UK number one for a week – holding off Timbaland, much to Robyn’s enjoyment – before it was bumped off by the lesser talent that is Kanye West. It only reached number 18 in Sweden, but seeing as they’ve seen her since she was 12, maybe it’s a case of Robyn-fatigue.
Excited to be coming to Australia for the first time this weekend to drop off a few copies of Robyn, the songstress herself says of its biggest single, “it turned out to be this beautiful song that every one I played it to reacted in this very special way and so I felt I wanted to put it on the album.”
Whether people will make the connection between the uber-now electro chanteuse of Robyn and the kill-me-now mainstream pop singer of Show Me Love is yet to be determined. But one listen to With Every Heartbeat and you could say that all will be forgiven. Indeed, it is the kind of perfect dance/pop song that only comes along every couple of years, so you might as well relish it while you can.
I struggled to think of some others in this rarified category and Kylie’s Can’t Get You Outta My Head, Inaya Day’s Nasty Girl, JCA’s I Begin To Wonder, Olive’s You’re Not Alone, Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You and oldie but goldie Black Box’s Ride on Time were all condenders. What they all have in common is they’re dance tracks that you don’t have to be a dance head to love. They all captured a moment, and like Kylie’s Can’t Get You Outta My Head in ‘02/’03, Robyn’s With Every Heartbeat might just capture the whole summer.
The first single release in Australia is the double-A sided Konichiwa Bitches! / Cobrastyle, which will be released this Saturday. The forthcoming album (out in Australia on October 6) also has a flavoursome range of styles, from the deliciously satiric Zoolander-style opener which almost sticks its tongue out at Princess Superstar, leading into the drums and bass of Konichiwa Bitches – yes, this gal knows how to partay, boom-shaka-laka.
Handle Me is about boyfriends who can’t keep up, while Who’s That Girl is perhaps a cheeky but apt nod to the same question from Madonna posed in ’87. Crash and Burn Girl is a funky electro ditty and Robotboy is exceptionally cute, even childlike. It’s a distinctly new-school sounding album, with its grime, rap, drum and bass and electro tinges, but Robyn also successfully references the ‘80s, as so many do these days. If you like Annie, Pink, Princess Superstar, Roxette, Kate Bush, M.I.A., Debbie Harry or even Cyndi Lauper, you will find something to love here.
The woman they call the Swedish Britney may have gotten off to a bad start with Show Me Love, but it seems that ten years later the songstress has come full circle and is now the one calling the shots when it comes to what’s cool and what’s not. After all, she rejected a request from Kylie Minogue for one of her tracks. “I know she likes the song Dream On, but I think I will keep that song for myself,” says Robyn, and you just know she’s onto something right.
Konichiwa Bitches! / Cobrastyle is out on Modular/Universal this Saturday 15 September. Catch Robyn at the Oxford Art Factory in Sydney on Saturday 15 and at Miss Libertine’s in Melbourne on Sunday 16.