Robyn on Katy Perry, why dance music is punk, and her next album
Not many singers would be asked to perform on "Gossip Girl" and the Nobel Peace Prize concert. Robyn did both last year. She's serenading Serena and Blair one day in October, imprisoned Chinese political dissident Liu Xiaobo two months later. The set list didn't even need to change that much - "Dancing on my Own" made an appearance at both gigs. Robyn's specialty is making propulsive dance music that is also loaded with emotion, anthemic for dissidents and a pampered Waldorf.
In the last year, with her "Body Talk" trilogy, she's experienced her greatest success here in the States. Tonight, she performs at Rams Head Live. In this longer Q&A, she talked about "Body Talk," why dance music is punk and her next album.
Midnight Sun: Releasing the album in three parts was an unconventional step, and a risky one financially since you run your label. Did you have concerns about it not working? I just released it that way because I thought it’d be an interesting way to work, to stay in the studio more; it was a more natural process of writing and producing. It became this huge thing. In all the interviews I was asked about it, and more and more it looked like something I planned or was smart about. I just wanted to try something new.
MS: Did the album’s positive reaction catch you by surprise? I didn’t expect people to get the idea of releasing it in three parts. I didn't expect it. But seeing how it went down with my audience made me happy because it made me think everyone was on the same page.
MS: And how about its success here? It seems Americans are embracing dance music in a way they didn’t before. The "Gossip Girl" appearance was a validation of that, if anything. I think dance music has a totally different respect now than it used to have, which is really nice. I don’t know, for me, it was always the music I listened to, went out clubbing to. In Europe, dance music has always been thought of as forward-thinking music, almost like punk. It’s an experimental genre. You can’t really pin down what the culture is. You can be any kind of person and still listen to dance music, dance punk or Erasure or Technotronic. It’s taken some time for that culture to seep into America, which is strange, you guys being the creators of rebel music.
MS: Why is this renewed interest happening now? Festivals are back. People love festivals again. There’s dance elements in indie and in popular music, with people like Gaga and Rihanna. There's also a lot of other stuff happening like Major Lazer and rock bands that blend dance into their music.
MS: How did you manage to perform on both "Gossip Girl" and the Nobel Peace Prize in the same year? I was totally surprised they wanted me on there ["Gossip Girl"]. I don't watch the show. But I was happy to be asked. With the Nobel, I'd done it once before.
MS: What was it like performing for that serious a crowd? The Peace Prize is quite a relaxed Nobel. We love taking the piss out of the Norwegians. The great thing about them is they love slick, Hollywood-type aesthetics. They don’t have a lot of classical music. It’s always a good vibe. In France and Britain, they’re very royal about it, but we’re much more relaxed. Three days later, I was doing my own show in Stockholm.
MS: What’s the main difference between American and European audiences? American audiences are very verbal. You guys scream and shout and dance all throughout the show. I love it. Europeans are much more reserved. It’s still my audiences, but they're trickier. But European audiences are also maybe more used to club music being something you can go out and see. Club culture is a real culture there, and maybe people are more used to that concept in a live show.
MS: What happens after the tour is over? I'm going back to the studio. I’m in the studio as often as I can, but these last six months I haven't really. The plan is to keep going with these shorter albums and to have something out sooner than before.
Right after this interview, it was announced Robyn would open a bunch of dates for Katy Perry’s world tour. It’s not clear if she’ll open for Perry at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Photo: Robyn (Handout)