Ah Robyn. Men love her, women think she’s a smug bitch.
Michelle Myers: Did you ever see that episode of “Mad Men” where Peggy Olsen gets naked with that jerk art director, and he gets a boner and then he calls her the “smuggest bitch in the world?” That turn of phrase sums up my feelings towards Robyn quite nicely.
Jer Fairall: Robyn bleeds empathy, from the sheer warmth of her melodies to her ability, currently unparalleled among her peers, to wring genuine human feeling from the dramas played out amidst the throb and strobe lights of the dance floor. No surprise, then, that she ends up contributing what might the most compassionate “other woman” song ever written, a feat otherwise unimaginable in the wake of pop’s degradation at the hands of hacks like Dr. Luke and will.i.am. Snipe that she’s the hipster’s dance diva if you like, but its not like we’re getting anything like this from the charts (the North American ones, at least) these days.
Dan Weiss: I’ve witnessed Robyn’s ascent from feisty indie comeback story to heart-exploding hookmaster with awe. “Call Your Girlfriend” is one of her best even without the context. But the context sure is juicy. Last year’s three-part Body Talk EP extravaganza began with her greatest and least requited hit, “Dancing on My Own” and progressed through the fuckbuddy Rosetta Stone “Hang With Me,” both triumphant in electronic spirit despite their overwhelming postmodern lassitude. In the former, there’s no guy on the table. In the latter, she guards herself for a relationship that sounds more settlement than joyride. Completing the trilogy is “Call Your Girlfriend,” where she wins the guy after all — at the expense of an about-to-be dumped girl who might as well be another Robyn. Putting the sad news in her new prize’s mouth, the line that always gets me is “And it won’t make sense right now/But you’re still her friend.” She sounds a lot less triumphant on this one. When pop is this complex, idols are crowned.
Iain Mew: Weirdly, the other song this most makes me think of is “Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets — it’s the whole thing of deliberately using clichés presented to people when their relationship has ended in a really affecting way, by emphasising that someone is beyond anywhere where words can help. Except that while that song was platitudes offered to Mike Skinner by a caring but ineffectual friend, this one is platitudes ultimately meant to reach a (as far as we know) completely blameless girl, being dictated by someone she doesn’t know, in a manner akin to someone directing a hostage video while pointing a gun. It’s never quite clear whether the desperation in Robyn’s voice is down to guilt or concern that she might not be obeyed, but it’s a devastating performance and alternating the superficially kind words with revelling in her position of superiority, just makes them sound all the more cruel every time the song kicks up another gear.
Alfred Soto: As subtle tonally as Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” or The Pretenders’ “Hymn To Her,” Robyn’s tune directs sympathy towards the girlfriend about to get dumped yet manages, thanks to the singer’s hysterical high notes (“Yoooouu just found somebody neeeeww…”), to convey deep anxiety about the kind of relationship the singer presumably wants to start with the guy; he dumped one girl already, what would stop him from dumping Robyn too? A country music scenario if I ever heard one. Longtime producer Ahlund feeds those “you’s” into a sampler, playing with the keys as if it were 1985 and Scritti Politti’s “Absolute” remained the benchmark for conjuring the ineffable.
Edward Okulicz: Sometimes it feels like Robyn only has to burp and critics will fawn, and it’s not always deserved (i.e. “Fembot” and that awful Diplo one), but here it’s earned so many times over. The tune is as endlessly singable as that of “Dancing On My Own” and the lyrics have the same combination of simplicity and emotional resonance that makes not just Robyn’s best pop, but lots of the best pop of all time. But most of all, it has that one gorgeous moment of emotional punctum: “And now… it’s gonna be me and you” after the second chorus is one of those moments of transcendence that carries the song into world-beating territory. I know she’s basically created a persona which mostly appeals to nerdy boys who overrate their own sense of aesthetic, but man, is she ever good at what she does.
B Michael Payne: Robyn, more than anyone I can think of, is one of those “critical darlings.” I’m not really sure why, though. Her production is honestly just not as catchy as the work behind Katy Perry, Ke$ha, et al. Her lyrics are not that great. She doesn’t even maintain a constant level of sophistication like her buddies The Knife. What Robyn has going for her is fist-punching chutzpah and an inability to resist busting an awkward move. And, therefore, “Call Your Girlfriend” is one of her best songs. Just enjoy her music. She makes it easy to.
Anthony Easton: Expansive, epic, disco candy: reminds me of the emotional payload in something like Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” but, you know, a little more genre savvy.
Katherine St Asaph: Back when the world wanted to blog a Robyn-Katy Perry feud into existence, I wrote that the two weren’t so different. Here’s even better proof: just like Katy with “E.T.,” Robyn takes a gorgeous, sparkle-and-streamers production and makes it nigh-unlistenable. This is a song sung by a complete asshole persuading somebody else to be just as much of an asshole. Sympathy? Someone sympathetic would be staying away from other people’s boyfriends, and instead of luxuriating in her cruelty and giving the track a use, Robyn deploys Robyn! and, in doing so, persuades everybody else to be cool with it. “Dancing on My Own” and “Hang With Me” are just as ebullient without the bitter aftertaste. But hey, she PUNCHES the AIR in an EMPTY ROOM in her VIDEO, so it’s ALL OK!
Kat Stevens: I’ve mostly given up on Robyn. I feel I am never going to be able to connect to her emotionally, especially when she screws up her face like that, so giving a shit about her Just 17 photostory lovelife is just not going to happen. Nor am I likely to be charmed by her gormless playdough electro stuff like “Fembot”, which sets my teeth on edge. But the existence of “With Every Heartbeat” gives me hope that one day another talented producer will tap into her whineyness and harness it for good. This is not that day.
Zach Lyon: If it weren’t for that middle eight in “Dancing On My Own,” directly followed by the sound dropping out and that HUGE I-will-never-not-air-drum-to-this drum smash, the song never would’ve clicked for me and I would have trouble listening to it more than once (as it is, it was one of my favorites of the year). “Call Your Girlfriend” is “Dancing On My Own” without the drum fill. Not that the production or song structure was ever the biggest part of her act prior to Body Talk, and this does come off like Robyn2005 more than the others, but the whole track is so flat, all the way through, that I lose interest a minute in. I’m not on board with Robyn being the most sympathetic pop star in the world, either — I think a lot of that actually stems from her fashion sense, her brand, and maybe even her nationality, more than her lyrics — and right here she just sounds immature. Wouldn’t surprise me on a Taylor Swift record; Robyn just sounds like she needs to grow up.
Pete Baran: Suppose an alien landed in your backyard, and demanded, in the inexplicable alien way that aliens think, that the future of the earth depended on understanding what Robyn was all about. And it gave you four minutes. You could do a lot worse than playing “Call Your Girlfriend,” and then using the 15 seconds left to ask “Any questions?” I’d give us an 80 per cent chance of survival.
Jonathan Bradley: Pop’s Mary Sue does her frowny-face dancing thing over gleaming synths and a pounding four four beat. It’s beautiful and sad in exactly the same way as every other beautiful, sad Robyn song. And, oh yes, it is heartbreaking. “Tell her that the only way her heart will mend/Is when she learns to love again” is a line sung in the third person only as a defense tactic; Robyn’s voice quavers and it’s clear she is familiar enough with the sentiment to know how little comfort it is. But thinking Robyn is actually being nice about this? “Don’t you tell her how I give you something that you never even knew you missed,” she warns her new man. After all, it would be terrible for him to gloat to the old bint about how much better Robyn is, wouldn’t it? Not the briar patch, Br’er Fox!
Michaela Drapes: After months of intense thought on this subject, I have come to the Occam’s razor-ish conclusion that Robyn never actually intended us to take this song’s lyrics at face value. She’s sneaky like that.