We wouldn’t begrudge anyone enjoying this year’s ongoing Melodiefestivalen competition to find Sweden’s entry in the Eurovision contest. It’s ingrained within the essence and fabric of Swedish life and culture, and it gives us a chance to plug a centre for the Swedish diaspora in London that is dear to our heart – the Harcourt Arms near Edgware Road tube station.
The pub is showing all the heats of the competition, and we wish them all the best and coachloads of punters – but we’d like to personally request that they spend one Saturday dedicated to the A-sides, B-sides, C- D- and E- sides, chart singles, chart doubles, albums, albeums, out-takes, shout-takes and shake-it-all-about takes of Robyn.
If there are such things as supergroups and superstars, then Robyn is our nominated super-popstress in every sense for the first decade and a bit of the 21st century. She’s not released a lot of albums and she’s not (yet) got a legacy of Madonna-esque stature (admittedly she’s only in her early 30s), but she’s made every song count, she’s embraced superpop in its finest sense, and her superpop has embraced us. We think a Robynfestivalen would shake any Scandifriend’s rafters – so here’s three quick reasons why we love Ms Carlsson herself.
1) She’s got pure pop minimalism down to a fine art (if it isn’t her innate art already). So many great layered songs telling so many stories with so few words and getting out in time for tea before the 4 minutes and 30 seconds mark. Think about the number of spiritually anaesthetised bands who take that long just to get started on their singles – which are still over before you’re aware of anything significant having happened. Or the number of manufactured acts offering 3 minutes and 30 seconds of concise textbook rubbish that feels 10 times longer. We rest our case – Robyn is the queen of the electro epigram.
2) She’s both evocative and egalitarian. Robyn is not trying to chase any one demographic and let herself be represented by them; she’s making music that feels right to the young ‘uns and to those of us grizzled ‘uns who wonder at the power of pop to reach out and grab us like this years after we thought we’d lost the connection. The soaring, sweet, yearning nature of a song like Stars 4Ever (‘The last train’s gone/we walk through the night’) would make sense to teenagers in Örebro, Ohio, Orpington and Omsk alike. It also makes sense to those of us who wish this kind of music had been all around and in our ears and souls twenty years ago – a total reversal of the classic ‘music was better in my day’ moan. That’s impressive.
3) She’s done things on her own terms. How bold to have had some success as a pop star from a pretty young age and to then turn round in your mid-20s and decide that the autonomous operations of Konichiwa Records would facilitate better music and better success? And be proved right? Stevie Wonder had a far greater public presence when he started dictating the terms to his music bosses; Buddy Holly was at the outset of his career when he did so, and had relatively little to lose. Robyn was in that difficult no-girl’s land territory, but she has done in part what the Beatles managed in stratospheric fashion in the 1960s: her music has become part of the mainstream simply because it is so good that lots of people are obliged to like it. We salute you ma’am.