Konichiwa, Bitches

This weekend, Robyn is the musical guest on Saturday Night Live, Saturday FREAKING Night Live. At Rockefeller Center. On national TV. As part of one of the most famous shows in American history. In terms of excitement level, for me, this pretty much equates finding a $20 bill on the ground with no one else around and then discovering that a Champion replica Bryant “Big Country” Reeves Grizzlies jersey is available for $20 on EBay, so yeah, VERY high excitement levels.

Incomplete but hopefully sufficient explanation of Robyn in one (long) paragraph for the uninformed, courtesy of my mind and Wikipedia/Pitchfork for some ‘tails and fact-checking: Robyn is Swedish. She rose to prominence in the U.S. in 1997, with the album Robyn Is Here and single “Show Me Love,” around the same time as mainstream young pop sensations Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. Like Aguilera, she was a blonde bombshell. Good-looking, made catchy music, powerful voice. But Robyn didn’t like what she had become, or rather, what the label had forced her to become. She was…like them, like Britney and Christina, all bangs* and no substance. They wanted her to stick to the money-making formula, not experiment, like she did with the song “Who’s That Girl.” It was pop, only a little different. It was electro-pop. With the label not buying the sound, she decided to release her own music on Konichiwa Records, her first new album being 2005’s Robyn. It blew up in Europe, won some awards, and led to the release of 2010’s Body Talk.

*Did they have bangs? Probably not, but that line sounds pretty cool so I’m leaving it in.

And boom. Robyn had become one of the best independent artists on the globe, particularly well-known in Europe. She is a critical darling, getting rave reviews from Pitchfork and even Rolling Stone. Slant and The Guardian named last year’s “Dancing On My Own” the song of 2010. More than that, she has revolutionized pop music.

Electro-pop is no longer cutting edge or all that different. Though many in America have never heard of Robyn (especially before this summer when she opened for Katy Perry and gained significantly more notice), many pop artists have stolen her style. Lady GaGa has done it successfully. Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus have nearly ruined their careers trying to. Bubble gum songs that you have probably forgotten, like “G6,” and Dev’s “Dancing In the Dark,” Anything that sounds robotic and electronic, sounds like Robyn, usually a JV distortion of Robyn.

Though her sound originally separated her from the rest, the message did, too, and still does. Pop is often shallow, forgetful. It kind of has to be. Vapidity breeds sing-along-ability. Robyn’s songs never lack deep, personal feelings, usually her pain. But it’s always a confident longing.

She believed in her own sound, risked money and a career and she succeeded. That’s something to admire.

I like Robyn for another reason. In the summer of 2008, I first heard her. My brother, Mike Dent, was traveling in Asia and I used his car for about three or four weeks. He left me the keys and the self-titled Robyn album.

Before Robyn, I really didn’t branch out into the new, underground music. I listened to hip-hop, the same artists I had been listening to for several years. I listened to the radio and nodded my head and sung along in the car to whatever vanilla jam of the moment was being played.

I’m still not a music snob. I’m still about six months to a year behind any burgeoning sound and find out about most music upon recommendation from others. But it’s progress. Robyn made me want to discover off-beat artists I otherwise would never have tried to seek out.

And now, she’s getting to the point of where she isn’t one of those off-beat artists. She’s going mainstream, even in America. This Saturday could be the tipping point.

Far too often, especially for music fans, we bemoan and even begrudge the mainstream popularity of artists. People who heard of Arcade Fire years ago are pissed they won a Grammy. People who listened to Kings Of Leon during the Aha Shake Heartbreak times say “Use Somebody” is a terrible song.

This is the first time I’ve been confronted with such looming popularity. An artist I listened to early on could be getting big, probably not big enough to be played on Top 40 music stations but still, she isn’t obscure. And I welcome it. I hope we see Robyn at the American Grammy’s some day or headlining a major American tour. Maybe this can be a good start.

As I mentioned to one of my Robyn-listening friends last night, Robyn is on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. He said he couldn’t wait either.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 thoughts on “Konichiwa, Bitches

  1. […] also U2 (Ireland), and the Cranberries (more Ireland), and Brew House favorite Robyn (Sweden) if you want to go the pop road. But here’s one suggestion, especially when Ireland […]

  2. Dicaprio says:

    Your the first music blog I check almost every day. I didn’t know there was a new Acid House Kings video out till I saw the above. So I hope you magane to sort things out outside of the music and thank you again for the great blog you do. Cheers Paul

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: