Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Robyn – Dancing on My Own

And we’re not quite sure what the single is, so let’s go bet-hedging…


Katherine St Asaph: I keep falling for these dance singles, and this is why. It’s midnight, the last dance for some reason (you’re desperate for more hours), and all you can do is watch him in strobe-light closeup as months come to a close. Only this time, the beat won’t let up, there’s a faraway plinking piano, and the whole scene is inexplicably pretty. Add in the simple-but-succinct lyrics — “a big black sky over my town,” to take one line, barely escapes cliche but nevertheless sums up verses’ worth of emotional response — and Robyn’s delivery, and you have near-perfection. Ask me again in a few months and this may well be a 10.

Alex Macpherson: Not as horrific as “Fembot”, merely very boring. Stay in that damn corner, Robyn, and stop pestering the couple having a good time with your tiresome need to constantly bring your “heartbreak” to the discotheque. Better yet, just go home.

Mallory O’Donnell: On a superficial level, this is a definite improvement over the rinky-dink nonsense of “Fembot,” since it plays on Robyn’s dubious virtues rather than her obvious flaws. Sadly, it doesn’t go any actual where with them, but merely cashes in on the Robyn brand name with typical melancholy sheen and arpeggio synths, sung in quite dull fashion over well-EQ’d electro backing. This might have given us quite a rise back in ’07, but right now it just sounds like vicious backtreading. Minus points for the breakdown, which almost excuses the lame dude who you tell us is ignoring you, there in the corner, over there in the spotlight.

Edward Okulicz: Taps the same intense angst of watching the one you love with someone else that swelled up in the climactic line of “Be Mine!” and then makes an entire chorus out of the same substance. The music is an impressive Kleerup mimicry (especially reminiscent of “3am”) and Robyn once again delivers with strength in the verses before letting you know by quivering ever so slightly in the chorus that it’s all a charade. And the lullaby inflection on “I just came to say goodbye” is the first perfect, goosebump-inducing, heart-in-mouth pop moment of the decade.

Chuck Eddy: This might feel devastatingly dark and emotional if it could actually hold my attention, but my mind keeps wandering. Might just need to be in the right habitat. (No, not a dance club — more like, say, a car late at night.) Still, there’s something legitimately ’80s Eurodancepop in the synths — and their tune keeps flashing me on “I Think We’re Alone Now,” perfect. So in the end, it comes pretty close to what I want it to be.

Alfred Soto: A mothworn melodrama gets electro stutters and a voice as devastating as a coffee machine. Now’s the time to say I don’t “get” Robyn — scores two American top tens in the nineties, ignored by the rock press and Pitchfork; burrows into a studio with Klas Ahlund a few years later; rediscovered by Stylus and Pitchfork indie kids even though her American handlers treat her like she’s Amerie. Meanwhile Ciara records a couple of singles doing exactly the same thing only better sung, and the commissariat ignores them.

Jonathan Bogart: Invoking both ABBA and New Order is kind of a baseline requirement for modern grownup dance-pop, right? Then how come so few people do it so well?

Martin Skidmore: I was hoping this would be more of a return to the style I loved on her last album, and it kind of is. The shuddering Moroderish electro backing is a bit cold but has drive, and the song allows some sense of emotion and has a decent enough chorus. I like when she gets a touch more urgent, and you can hear some desperation, but the problem is that it feels like a sister record to the great “Be Mine”, and suffers badly by comparison.

Anthony Easton: It’s too long, and I am unconvinced that the ballad and the robotech musical effects work together (though it did masterfully in “Robot Boy”), but I love the image of stilettos and broken bottles.

Martin Kavka: If Medina’s “Kun For Mig” was the Melancholy Disco Anthem of 2009, this is the genre’s anthem for 2010. Hell, it’s the genre’s Platonic ideal. It refuses all the airy consolations that plague the genre when strings are moved to the front of the mix; the soprano line here doesn’t soothe, but pierces. And I could get lost in the song’s details. Just off the top of my head, I think of the plaintive vowels that make the word “bottles” sound like a sob, the use of some synth setting that imitates a wood block, and the narrator’s refusal to repress pain (“why can’t you see me?”) while she represses pain anyway (“I just came to say goodbye”).

Michaelangelo Matos: This doesn’t do heartbreak quite convincingly, maybe because her voice is too forceful to make that leap here. It worked on “With Every Heartbeat” because the track had the same bruised quality. Here the song is more demure, but she isn’t. It’s an imbalance I can live with.

Jonathan Bradley: This is real lump in the throat stuff from Robyn: thunderstorm synths and “Somebody said you got a new friend.” That’s a combination that can’t end well and, of course, it results with our heartbroken voyeur of a protagonist “in the corner, watching you kiss her”. The killer line though, is the masochistic “I know it’s stupid, I just gotta see it for myself” —- delivered like she’s walking herself to the gallows (in stilettos; on broken bottles?). This is a case of typecasting succeeding; after “Be Mine!” and the Kleerup collaboration “With Every Heartbeat,” tales of Robyn sobbing while making pop classics have becomes as rote as they are wonderful. By corollary, therefore, they are as wonderful as they are rote.

14 Responses to “Robyn – Dancing on My Own”

  1. Edward, this is indeed Kleerup producing.

  2. I thought Will was yanking “Fembot” from the lineup; otherwise I wouldn’t have repeated myself.

  3. I was going off what I thought was a reliable source saying it wasn’t – Marit Bergman’s twitter (here and here), though she could be implying that Kleerup isn’t the writer.

    Adore this, think it’s still going to be the 10 “Be Mine!” is now, but can understand why people are cold to it, though Alfred’s interpretation of history is fairly uncharitable.

  4. It’s not Kleerup, it’s Patrik Berger.

  5. Ah; I’d thought that Berger co-composed but did not produce.

  6. Two references that popped up here:

    Kleerup – I thought the last Robyn album was “well-made”, but it left me cold and I almost never put it on except when requested at parties (and one listen was enough of this). But WEB was great, and even though Kleerup’s album was nothing but shallow copies of his own magnum opus, it still worked better at communicating emotions than this wannabe tune.

    Medina – Robyn wishes she could do dancefloor pathos and pain as well as Medina. Unfortunately, Medina probably wishes she could get some of that international success Robyn scored. I know I still can’t get the images and atmosphere ‘Kun for Mig’ forced forth from the darkness out of my mind, while Robyn moves me as much as a mime artist all up in your face on a busy street.

    Still, we’ve got the luxury of ignoring this and dusting off ‘Keep this fire burning’ instead.

  7. The Deadmau5 remix of the English version of “Kun for Mig” — “You and I” — is getting some serious radio burn here in Canada right now.

  8. not sure about alfred’s characterization re ciara. ciara was a pretty big deal on pitchfork/stylus mid-decade, no? just checked their 05 list & “oh” was #35 & “be mine” was at #21, so idk.

    i guess there’s more of an argument wrt albums vs singles from legit american pop stars vs annie/robyn types

    anyway this is the first robyn song i ever bothered to listen to & i think it’s pretty massive. sounds like m83 prod italo to me.

  9. Funny how how certain Singles Jukebox reviewers occasionally turn “rockist” or use the very same “indie scenester” logic they claim to oppose, as long as it suits their agenda.

    “(…) scores two American top tens in the nineties, ignored by the rock press and Pitchfork; burrows into a studio with Klas Ahlund a few years later; rediscovered by Stylus and Pitchfork indie kids even though her American handlers treat her like she’s Amerie.”

    “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans” as Sloan once so accurately put it. Once in a while, it would be wise to hand people a little more credit when it comes to their likes (and dislikes), even if this may lead to a windfall of praise for one artist you may not “get” or deem unworthy. Or better yet, write about the god damn music.

  10. I’d love to read where Alfred Soto ever bitched about rockism or indie scenesters.

  11. Fair enough, MM. I grant he’s perhaps not the one I should’ve picked on in this respect (and I’ve read enoough of his reviews here to know he DOES write about the music too), but the qouted passage does rub me the wrong way nonetheless.

  12. “Writing about the music” is just a nonstarter to me. Music encompasses everything around it, just like any other subject.

  13. Agree on that, too, and should’ve written as much. My masters thesis was on music in a social context. All art happens in a social context (even if some defenders of “the high arts” may argue otherwise). I got a bit ahead of myself.

    The review in question, however, bugs me because it seems to use the recent appreciation of Robyn by a particular group as a reason to dock a grade or two, and very little how the song in question appears in any context.

    Still, maybe I gave that last part of the review to much salience, when it may be that “A mothworn melodrama gets electro stutters and a voice as devastating as a coffee machine” was the thinking for giving it a 6, and the rest just intended as an appendix.

    I like the song fine, btw.

  14. I think this is a fair point. Alfred’s assertion that the indie rock kids didn’t pay Robyn any attention and THEN 10 years layer were responsible for then “rediscovering” her is completely incorrect. (Alfred, if this isn’t what you were implying, I apologise, but the wording suggests this).

    Stylus, Pitchfork et al didn’t get onto Robyn again until a little after “Be Mine!” hit the web in 2005, but the pop kids were jamming on “Don’t Stop The Music” two years before that – “Be Mine!” didn’t come out of nowhere, it was keenly anticipated before the fact in some quarters. She got a fair bit of exposure out of Beverley Knight covering “Keep This Fire Burning” on her 2004 album as well.