Can I get a hallelujah? It’s Friday, an entirely new month, and the greatest pop act of the last quarter-century released their first solo single in eight years the other day.
Of course I’m talking about Robyn. How could I be talking about anything else this week? In fact, I’m still shocked music outlets were talking about anything other than Robyn’s return.
Robyn hasn’t actually been totally removed limelight for 8 years; in fact, she’s put out a lot of damn music – there’ve been covers, guest vocal features, and collaborative mini albums stemmed out of writing sessions. From the start of her career, she’s been involved in the songwriting process, and even worked with pop genius Max Martin on her 1997 global smash “Show Me Love,” over one year before Martin penned even bigger hits for Britney Spears and The Backstreet Boys in the late 90s.
Spanning her 25+ years long career (she was formally signed to a record label when she was just 14 years old….now she’s her own boss and runs her own label, Konichiwa Records), Robyn’s set the bar high while she continually pushes the envelope as to what the f*%k we consider dance pop music.
While many readers may already be familiar with Robyn’s music, most of the general public knows her as the chick wilding out in a cropped angora sweater in the “Call Your Girlfriend” music video (that SNL’s Taran Killam reenacted and elevated it to a viral sensation in 2010).
For this week’s cmd+f I’m switching things up. Rather than looking into the future and highlighting emerging talent, we’re going to Bill & Ted this bitch and listen to some deep cuts from Robyn’s back catalogue. Her legacy deserves to be celebrated!
“Roll With Me” - Blacknuss feat. Robyn, Joshua & Abel | Before Robyn paved the way for the likes of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, et. al. on western pop radio, Robyn lent her vocals on the quintessentially 1996 jam “Roll With Me.” At 16 years old, you can hear the power in her delivery, and the remarkable control over her tone that she’s maintained with impressive care to this day. Listen here
“Keep This Fire Burning” - Robyn | After writing a few songs over the guilt of her secret abortion for her second album My Truth in 1999, Robyn refused to re-record the bits for her US labels. The album was never distributed out of Scandinavia, and neither was her third studio album, Don’t Stop the Music. “Keep this Fire Burning” was written in 2002 by Robyn in partnership with Swedish songwriting and production duo Ghost. The song found somewhat commercial success within continental Europe and down under in Australia, but was never officially released in the United Kingdom. Instead, the song was given its time to shine and was passed along to of-the-moment sensation Beverly Knight where it became top twenty hit… in 2005! In Robyn’s original rendition, she sells the song wholly with her undiluted promise loving you with all she’s got. For those who have seen the show Mozart In the Jungle, the zany Mexican conductor Rodrigo, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, continuously states throughout the series that all music must be performed with “the blood,” and is typically followed with a passionate shake of his fist to emphasize this claim. Robyn? Has “the blood.” All music she puts out under her name is brimming with “the blood.” Her ability to connect with the listener through her organic passion woven through her lyrics and vocal delivery is what’s helped harvest her expansive legion of dedicated fans. Listen here
“Who’s That Girl?” - Robyn | After the domestic success of Don’t Stop the Music, Robyn decided to work with imaginative Swedish producers for her next album. Circa 2004, “Who’s That Girl?” was born under the production of The Knife, then just a rising brother/sister duo of Karin and Olof Dreijer, who at the time gained international acclaim from the release of their 2003 album Deep Cuts. Robyn’s label, BMG, wasn’t into the song, so Robyn threw deuces, paid out her contract, then said “fuck it; I’mma do it myself.” Konichiwa Records was started, and Robyn became an independent pop artist. Steeled with a gut-punching drum machine and a chorus of erratic synthesizers, “Who’s That Girl?” marked the turning point in which Robyn flipped from bonafide pop prodigy to taking the helm to carve out a new path for pop. Robyn’s pop was no longer composed to serve the general public via the radio; instead it served quiet ballads for your daily shower, hip-shaking break-up anthems for walking your dog, and for times of celestial introspection with your arms open wide, head thrown back, in the middle of the crowded dance floor. Listen here
“Sensual Seduction” - Snoop Dogg feat. Robyn | Perhaps my favorite Robyn guest drop to this date is her 2007 feature on the remix of Snoop Dogg’s corny ode to 70s porno funk “Sensual Seduction.” I’ve intentionally linked the “radio friendly” version to spare y’all. I feel like listening to listening to Snoop croon “sexual eruption” is on par with thinking of family having sex, and we’ll just leave it at that. Back to Robyn: she pairs as a fine bottle of Merlot to Snoop’s cheesefest, adding a touch of sensuality and seriousness to such a fun jam. The union led to Uncle Snoop hopping on Robyn’s track “U Should Know Better” for her critically acclaimed 2010 album Body Talk. Listen here
“Monument” - Röyksopp & Robyn | With the success of 2010’s Body Talk under her belt, Robyn set out to once again working with producers shattering the electronic music landscape for her next album. Robyn booked some studio sessions with Norwegian duo Röyksopp, and the sessions were fruitful. In 2014, the three decided to scrape up and polish their recordings for the mini album Do It Again. They went on a global tour, making a stop at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles for one of the greatest concert experiences I’ve attended to date. They closed out the set (before returning for the encore) with a rendition of “Monument,” an epic, 9 and a half minute saga of ghostly instrumentals stretched over booming, MC Escher-esque synths that build horizontally and fizzle into a free jazz frenzy. Listen here and Watch here
“Missing U” - Robyn | This week Robyn released her first official, purely solo single in eight years. Robyn’s declared the track as partly inspired by her fans who’ve amassed her cultish following over the years:”I haven't made an album in eight years, so I haven't seen my fans for a long time either," she said, "I think getting back to them is important.” While fans have craved a new album from Robyn for a better part of the decade, her rarefied repertoire of songwriting and music releases has imprinted its way into the foundation of their music listening experience. In “Missing U,” she sings of love, of loss, of recognizing the void is never truly barren. “There’s an empty space you’ve left behind,” she croons over a bubbling synth, “All the love you gave / it still defines me.” Thanks for coming back to us, Robyn. Listen here
New Music Friday Selects
- This week NPR dropped a comprehensive, exciting survey of the top 200 songs by female artists of the 21st century (which, of course, includes Robyn!) Read here
- Mura Masa has dropped a new groovy little number with Nao titled “Complicated” Listen here
- Rising pop muse Alice Chater, who was featured in last week’s cmd+f has dropped a stripped down rendition of her fire new single “Heartbreak Hotel.” LeAnn Rimes who??? Listen here
- Travis Scott’s new album ASTROWORLD is out and it appears to not have a single feature on it??? Beats are sick Listen here
- UK punk duo Slaves have a new joint out titled “Chokehold” Listen here
- MUNA have remixed Fickle Friends’ tune “Bite” Listen here
- God damn! Each release from cmd+f alum Jade Bird strays further from her Americana roots, and more into her own aura. Her latest release “Uh Huh” kicks SERIOUS ASS Listen here
- Following the same formula as Ariana Grande and The Weeknd’s collab for “Love Me Harder,” The Labels have paired up Bazzi and Carnitas Cabezza for a song and hope it sticks Listen here
A(lmost a)ll of the tracks I have shared in this week’s letter are archived into a single playlist on Spotify for you to follow here.
Subscribe to that playlist, share it with friends, or take some inspiration from the ever growing list to compile some of your own.
NEW MONTH, NEW TUNES! If you’re interested in listening to what I’m rinsing this month, you can follow my August 2018 playlist here. There I will dump a hodgepodge of new and old songs that fit my mood and the trends of the month. Having a personal monthly playlist makes a year in review so easy. Share your playlists with me!
See you next week!
P.S. Are you interested in contributing to cmd+f? Read more details below!
Last December I launched the cmd+vent calendar: an ambitious project that consisted of releasing a daily newsletter for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. I asked a handful friends to reflect on how music impacted their lives throughout 2017. It was much more exciting to share these reflections than compiling yet another end of the year “Best of…” list.
I’ve been thinking of ways to expand cmd+f’s potential over the last 6 months. To foster a more communal atmosphere all year round in this (mostly) weekly newsletter, I’m now inviting one reader per month to share their music discoveries by emerging artists, or artists likely flying under our radars.
To the readers currently subscribed to this letter via email, I’d like to encourage you to reply to this letter (really, just hit “reply” at the top of your box and I promise I’ll get your message), give me a hello, and let me know if you’d be interested in taking over cmd+f one week. You’ll get to write an opening monologue, introduce yourself, and gush about five songs really hitting at your heartstrings. If you’re unsure how this is going to go down, you can anticipate the first guest feature letter is coming out later this month!
For now this invitation only open to email subscribers — so if you have a friend with a vibrant musical palette that isn’t currently subscribed, please have them head over to this link right here!