Progress Report: Robyn
PROGRESS REPORT: Mixing the first of three mini-albums she will release this year.
A big part of Robyn’s story is how, when she felt frustrated with her former label, the Swedish singer started Konichiwa Records and decided how she would write and market her music. The downside of all that control? Everything takes so much time. It’s been five years since Robyn was released (two years since it came out stateside), and she has spent all that time touring and promoting. She’s also set up unique collaborations, received awards, and set up distribution with a US label. This album cycle worked well for Robyn, but it didn’t really work for her — so this year Robyn will record her new album in pieces, releasing parts in the spring, summer, and then fall or winter. “I think this splitting a full album up into different releases is, in a way, how people listen to music as well. It’s more about songs now,” she says. “But for me this is not an EP or a lesser version of an album. It’s an album, but it’s maybe not the normal length, so I can go back to the studio again and release these songs while they’re actually fresh, and go back to the studio and work on more stuff while touring,” she says.
From the song titles mentioned for the first release, the focus seems less on heartbreak and more on putting herself first. The first leaked track (listen here), “Dance Hall Queen,” begins on a solitary bus ride into the city, and includes epithets like “I came to dance / not to socialize.” She wrote the song with Diplo, who came to Sweden to work with her and frequent songwriting partner Klas Åhlund. “We were talking about Ace of Base and we were just having fun with that kind of genre music. And the idea of making this song came out of that discussion. It was fun. We really connected on something where music that you might put in one box becomes something else, depending on how you look at it.” Åhlund also wrote a harder club track that she considers the centerpiece of her new album, “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.”
Not all of the tracks will be so self-confident: “I love big sad pop songs. That’s where I naturally go. That’s the best.” “Fembot,” another song from the new album, is supposedly about turning 30 and contemplating children, so it seems like a contender. But Robyn thinks of the song as a bit more complex than that. “People expect things of you, like kids and like marriage, and I found myself just thinking of that a lot while making this record, so the song is about that in a way, but it’s also fun,” she says. “I’m playing around with the concept of being a woman, and what it means to physically be able to carry kids, but at the same time that’s not always what you see yourself as.”
Robyn also just turned 30, which brings some perspective to her career; she’s obviously a very different person from the one that recorded Robyn. And the pop music landscape has changed in the last five years as well–there seems to be more room on the charts for unusual female pop. Since she’s always insisted that she exists in the commercial world, not the indie world, this can only help. “I feel like, with this record, I have a place now. People recognize this, it’s not too hard for people to figure me out now,” she says. “I feel like the interesting thing for me is the contrast of both touching people and being really honest and true to myself, and at the same time doing something that’s fun and smart. With pop, I think you can do that, because there’s this weird clash between the emotions and everyday life.”
UPDATE: Here’s a video with snippets of four new Robyn songs, including the Röyksopp-produced “None of Them” and “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do.”