Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Robyn reboots and retakes America with 'Body Talk'

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She just finished taping a TV show. She's walking down a corridor, with a dozen people trying to chat with her, asking her questions, including me in her ear on the phone. She still has to make some arrangements for the upcoming U.S. tour, her third return to the States this year from her home in Sweden. She's on her way to an editing studio to tweak one last track on her next recording, and then she's off to a sound check for another concert.

How'd Robyn get so busy all of a sudden?

"I don't know, I think I'm just lucky," she says. "People get what I'm doing at the moment. Maybe the music environment now is a little bit more open to like unexpected things within pop music. People are used to the idea now of pop made by real people with their own integrity and personality. There's been a longing for that after the end of the '90s and that whole dark part of music. Music has been marketed very kind of aggressively to people, but now people start to enjoy making their own connections."

ROBYN
with Maluca and Natalia Kills
• 6:30 p.m. Saturday
• Metro, 3730 N. Clark
• Sold out

The "all of a sudden" part is a bit misleading. This is Robyn's second time around, at least. Robyn Carlsson made a splash in 1996 with her debut album, "Robyn Is Here," recorded when she was 16 and scoring Top 10 Billboard hits with the songs "Do You Know (What It Takes)" and "Show Me Love."

At the time, her sound was basic pop-R&B. When the album came to the United States nearly two years later, she fit in well with the other rising starlets of the day, from Christina Aguilera and Toni Braxton to Jessica Simpson and Hilary Duff. But she was just Euro enough that RCA, her U.S. label, passed on her second album, even though it had become a hit in Europe. Re-record some of the songs, the label said, make them sound more American. Robyn refused, the album wasn't released here and Robyn faded from American attention as quickly as she'd arrived.

But she stuck to her artistic ideals, and even amped them up a bit. Back home in 2003, she teamed with the Knife, a progressive pop duo also from Stockholm. ("I thought what they were doing was so -- I'm not sure how to say it -- fresh, or new, but without being so experimental, still very accessible and fun," Robyn says.) They collaborated on Robyn's next single, "Who's That Girl?" The label didn't like that, either, and released a compilation instead.

So, Robyn bought herself out of her contract and formed her own label, Konichiwa. Her self-released 2005 record, self-titled as if it were a second debut, scored hits with "Who's That Girl?" and "Be Mine." Robyn was now a blippy, electronic-driven pop singer, utterly contemporary, with attitude, spunk and a powerful voice she'd really grown into. "Robyn" won several Swedish Grammys.

"But it's not like I've done anything that greatly different," she insists. "I've always made pop music. It's still what I do. I started 15 years ago, and I'm happy something has changed. It would be weird if I was doing exactly the same thing. Change is quite natural. I've grown, I've figured more of myself out, I've developed a style that's something more refined. And I've found this way of releasing the music that's much more organic."

Robyn 2.0 rebooted in America with the "Fembot" single earlier this year, which ushered in her next album -- but it wasn't an album. "Body Talk, Part 1" was a short album, an EP of sorts, released worldwide in June via CherryTree Records, responsible for other meteoric acts such as Lady Gaga and Far East Movement. "Fembot" went wild online, "Dancing on My Own" was all over the clubs. Robyn scored raves across media on the first day of the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. "Body Talk, Part 2" came in September, complete with a Snoop Dogg duet, "U Should Know Better." The third installment arrives Nov. 22.

"It's a way of working more organically, in tune with the natural rhythm of my writing and recording," Robyn says.

It's also in tune with how more fans are consuming music these days, in smaller packages more frequently.

"I don't think the album is disappearing. It just doesn't always have to be about the release. It can be about a period where the artist is thinking about a particular thing. It doesn't have to be an album, where you have to have 15 songs or wait until you do. This way, people have stayed excited. We just mixed the third 'Body Talk,' and people are asking about it. It's fun because it brings people into the process. I don't know much more than you guys do, so we kind of experience it all together."

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on November 11, 2010 7:00 AM.

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