"I'm always going to feel like this person on the outside looking in," Robyn recently told Popjustice. The Swedish singer and songwriter has no fear of pop: A platinum seller in her own country, Robyn cracked the Billboard top 10 in the late 1990s working with famed teen-pop producer Max Martin. As the daughter of a couple who ran an independent theater company, however, Robin Miriam Carlsson is also a woman who enjoys doing things her own way.
The advent of the compact disc distended the length of your average album by about 30 percent, turning the long player into a really long player and allowing rappers with a fondness for skits and rockers with a penchant for grandiosity to indulge in their most gratuitous inclinations. You'd have to go as far back as the year Lady Gaga was born to find as many new pop albums with less than 10 tracks as there are today. In fact, of all the things Gaga has helped re-popularize in the last 16 months, the EP-length album is probably the least extravagant, providing a practical and affordable way forward for an industry that's struggled to figure out how to remain relevant in the digital age.
It's possible that Robyn, the Swedish singer who reached No 1 with With Every Heartbeat in 2007, is a little bit too interesting ever to be a contemporary pop star. Certainly, opening a mini-album – the first of three she plans to release this year – with a song called Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do and closing with a traditional Swedish ballad, Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa, is not in the Simon Cowell playbook. But those bookends are clues to both her defiant independence of spirit and her versatility within the pop idiom, and show precisely why she should be treasured.
Robyn's 2005 self-titled album showed that when she was free to do whatever she wanted, she could do just about anything. However, it took a while for Robyn to reach all of her listeners -- the U.S. had to wait until 2008 to discover it was a modern pop classic -- and during that time, she amassed enough songs to fill three mini-albums. Since she doesn’t have to prove what she can do in the confines of one release, Body Talk, Pt.
Isn’t it weird to imagine Robyn as a ‘90s pop star, dressed in ill-fitting jump suits, backed by a squad of military-styled dancers, making awkward appearances on MTV shows and trying to appear less rambunctious than she wanted to be? If Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera had reinvented themselves as sweethearts of the indie-pop scene while still retaining huge mainstream success, cynical music writers would start speaking in tongues. But Robyn’s transition to the boldest -- and maybe loneliest -- girl in the room allowed her to showcase her versatile range of emotions and musical influences, plenty of which are on display in Body Talk Pt. 1, one of three planned Robyn releases for 2010.
If you wind up liking Body Talk Pt. 1, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s more on its way, which you admittedly might have guessed from the record’s title. Robyn is keen to let you know that she’s doing it this way because she loves this damn job: the eight-song, half-hour duration might sound miserly, but has supposedly come about because the Swedish synth-pop figurehead just couldn’t wait to grace us with the songs she’d finished.
Even with all of her art-school background, post-modern sense of self-awareness, and media-savvy command over her image, Lady Gaga has yet to produce a song that dismantles and tinkers with the complex position of the post-Madonna female pop star as brilliantly as Robyn does on “Fembot”, the first advance single off of her proposed trilogy of albums for 2010, beginning here with Body Talk Pt. 1. Credit this, possibly, to Gaga’s strain to stand above the throng of pre-fab pop princesses while at the same time usurping what was still until very recently their market, but dance floor veteran Robyn appears far more comfortable with her own contradictions.
Her first album of three in 2010 suggests she’s holding something back. Matthew Horton 2010 Swedish riot-pop grrrl Robyn plans to release three albums in 2010, and well she might – it’s now five years since her self-titled triumph surfaced on her own label Konichiwa, enslaving bloggers and buying public alike with its sass and synth smarts. With Every Heartbeat, her alliance with DJ Kleerup which appeared on the international release of the album, even topped the UK singles chart in 2007, but Robyn – a keen guest artist on other people’s hits – has kept her own powder dry these last few years.