Saturday Flashback: Robyn – Dancing On My Own

“Why couldn’t we have more of this?”

Tim: Okay, folks: so, when we reviewed Missing U, I remarked that if the upcoming album Honey was as good as that I’d be very happy. Released yesterday, the album is good, as long as you’re having trouble sleeping and are looking for something to help you nod off. So let’s have a listen to a decent Robyn track.

Tim: Because IT’S JUST SO GOOD. So much so that even a limp guitar cover version of it is somewhat listenable. Why couldn’t we have more of this? That would have been nice. Can we, maybe just have a remix album? At least?

Robyn – Honey

“It’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?”

Tim: So, according to a lengthy interview in The Guardian, August’s Missing U is something of an outlier on Robyn’s new album, out on the 26th, in the sense of it sounding a lot like her older stuff. Most of it is closer to this; see what you think.

Tim: And my reaction to that is distinctly: hmmm. It’s nice to listen to, it’s certainly very Robyn, but it’s not exactly great as a pop song, is it?

Tom: Remember when Calum Scott covered Dancing On My Own, and everyone who knew the original was just incredibly disappointed? That’s how I feel about this.

Tim: The problem for me really is the length of it, or at least related to that: it’s too drawn out, too drifting, too rambling to really get me going at all, to get me singing along to any chorus (is there even a proper chorus? I’ve listened to it three times and I’m struggling to identify one).

Tom: There is one! It’s just far too chilled-out. I assumed the monotone bit at about 2:20 was the middle eight, but no, we’re not even half way through. Never mind “don’t bore us, get to the chorus”, the advice is here is just “don’t bore us”.

Tim: It’s a shame – like I said, it’s nice to listen to, but it just doesn’t do it for me as a great pop song.

Robyn – Missing U

“Eight years, Tom, it has been EIGHT YEARS.”

Tim: Eight years, Tom, it has been EIGHT YEARS since we’ve had any solo music from Robyn.

Tom: Blimey, how time flies. I mean, that makes sense given what I remember doing around the time Call Your Girlfriend was out, but it doesn’t feel like it should be that long.

But now she’s back with THIS, and good lord I do hope it’s good because otherwise I might burst into tears.

Tom: That’s a pretty good chorus, isn’t it?

Tim: It’s no Call Your Girlfriend, but it is very good and serves as a nice reminder of why Robyn was, until she relinquished her throne to CHVRCHES, rightly seen as Queen of Synthpop. It has all your standard Robyn tropes – upbeat and heavy layered music, counterbalanced by somewhat morose lyrics – and it’s entirely listenable, multiple times with no sign of getting dull.

Tom: My main complaint is that the chorus feels like it’s building somewhere, but that’s never resolved. It’s like there’s a pre-chorus but no actual chorus. On a second listen, I figured out that’s the whole point.

Tim: There is, we’re promised, a full album coming out later in the year, and if the rest of it’s on a par with this, I’ll be very very happy indeed.

Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

“It takes ages to get there.”

Tom: Wait, really?

Tim: Yep, and yep. Two Scandinivian GIANTS of dance music combine, to bring us this, the first single from a new duet EP.

Tom: Well, that’s exciting.

Tom: That… huh. That is exactly what I expected it to sound like. It sounds like Röyksopp, and it sounds like Robyn. I don’t why I’m underwhelmed by that, because it’s a really good track.

Tim: It is, but to be honest, it took me a while to get it – specifically, three minutes and forty four seconds. At which point it all WENT OFF and became WONDERFUL.

Tom: Right! And I know that’s Röyksopp’s shtick, the whole slow-build thing, but it takes ages to get there.

Tim: And then Annie Mac starts talking all over it, but still it’s very good.


Tim: At the end, though, I had another listen and realised it actually got to a decent level after a couple of minutes, which is better but still sort of a problem – we all know Robyn has a lovely voice, so it’s a shame it takes so long for the production underneath to catch up and be big enough to complement it well. When it does, mind, it’s fantastic, and I can’t wait to hear the whole EP.

Teddybears feat. Robyn – Cardiac Arrest

Isn’t it fun?

Tim: Set this to HD, put it full screen. Watch and listen.

Tim: Isn’t it fun?

Tom: What a waste of pixels. There’s no point putting something in 1080p HD if you’re going to put an 80s fuzz filter over the whole thing. And for a lyric video as well! It’s large text, people, you do not need high definition video for that.

Also, they misspelled ‘exorcist’.

Tim: You bastard, I’d not noticed that, and now you’ve ruined it for me. Anyway, tracks like this are why I love doing this site. It’s a song I would probably never have chosen to listen to – ‘who the hell are the Teddybears? Oh, it’s Robyn, it’s probably not great, I’ll give it a miss.’ – and yet I’ve listened to it and I’ve really enjoyed it. The strange blend of electropop in the verses and sort of rockishness in the chorus just seems to work so well.

Tom: I was all ready to write you a rebuttal, and then you went and wrote it for me —

Tim: I must admit I’m not so keen on the verses – the single lines repeated over and over gets old very quickly, and when it came back after the first round of ‘shake your bone maker’ I almost switched it off – but then the chorus seems brilliant, even if that isn’t much more inventive. It’s when they all merge together at the end, though, that it all just becomes brilliant. I love it.

Tom: Right. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I love it, but it’s a good track: it’s like reading a book where you have three entirely separate plot threads that only come together in the last few chapters – but when they do come together, everything fits together wonderfully. That last verse is worth it.

Robyn – Indestructible & Call Your Girlfriend

Do they suffer the same problems?

Tom: We’ve harped on about Robyn’s songs for a while, and our complaint is always the same: they start at a moderate level of enthusiasm, the end at the same level, and they go nowhere in between. There’s no rise and fall, just a constant electronic beat and her singing.

Tim: Although it should perhaps be said that in some songs, such as Hang With Me, the moderate level is enough to enjoy the track if it’s on in the background.

Tom: Indestructible has been out as an acoustic version for a while, but the full synth-backed version is being released as a single soon. The question is, of course, is it the same as all the rest?

Tom: Yes, yes it is.

So, rather than say anything further, I suggest we use the rest of this post to discuss what the hell the bridge bit sounds like. Something from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds, perhaps? The opening theme to Treasure Hunt? I can’t quite place it.

Tim: Haha, it is a bit like Treasure Hunt, isn’t it? However, I feel that instead of moving on we should provide properly constructive criticism, rather than just ‘make it louder’. For this song, I have two recommendations:

  • The ‘let the bad ones in and the good ones go’ before the chorus is nice and sway-y, but that is spoiled by the ‘but. PAUSE.’ that happens next. I suggest losing those and instead having a ‘good ones go-o-oh’ leading gently into ‘I’m gonna…’
  • The parts of each verse that first occur with ‘not alone’ and then ‘don’t let go’ should have at least an echo, if not proper backing singers. Although this is optional for the first verse, there is no way the second verse and later should not have it.

Tom: Sorry, what was that? I was busy watching Anneka Rice.

Tim: Well, actually, stop that and pay attention. Because this just in, from fan of the site Gerald: a track from the new album (a culmination of 2010’s Body Talk trilogy) entitled Call Your Girlfriend. Now sit down and brace yourself: it’s actually really good. (In his words: “12 times in one day good”.)

Tim: If we’re being honest, and looking back at what we’ve said above, we’ve always been a little bit harsher on Robyn than she deserves – we’ve said that the songs, when heard just as songs, have not been great, for one reason or another. While all that is true, and I stand by it, we’ve not really mentioned that the music itself is quite good – it’s danceable, especially when mixed into other tracks, and if you hear it in the background of a shop of something you will likely think ‘Ooh, I like this’.

Tom: Believe it or not, that happened to me yesterday when a remix of ‘Hang With Me’ got played at an event I was at. And I liked it. Rewatching it now, even the video seems charming.

Tim: But, there have always been problems. And yet here, no. From when the synth first hits after the initial ‘Call your’, the melody is strong and the verses vibrant. The chorus is energetic with a healthy beat, and I like the way it flows straight back into the verse afterwards. The first part of the bridge is a bit bonkers, in a very good way. The second part of it is proper emotional singing, which is unexpected but great. The ‘caaaalll…’ even comes perilously close to a previously unimaginable Robyn post-bridge climax. Yes, it’s possibly a chorus too long at the end, and the two lines following each of the early choruses are a bit weak, but other than that I just can’t fault it.

Tom: I was all ready to disagree with you and say it was another boring track, but then the chorus kicked in and I decided that you’re exactly right. “The only way her heart will mend” did the musical equivalent of hitting me in the face… in a good way.

Robyn – Hang With Me

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one.

Okay, so Robyn’s new single hit the internet a few weeks back; it’s out August 16th in Sweden and will gradually be released around the world over the following month or so, arriving in the UK on 5th September. Anyway, it’s called Hang With Me, and to be honest it’s not much better than her last one (although a decent remix helps a bit). That is: it’s typical Robyn, and it’s like all her others* – a vaguely good dance track that just gets bored halfway through and doesn’t go anywhere else.

*I should state that I haven’t actually listened to ‘all her others’: just this and her three Top 10 UK hits. I’ve decided that’s enough, though.

You’re right about her songs not going anywhere. Even the video for this one seems like the effort just isn’t there. Yes, you’ve got a fancy camera and yes, you can make even the British motorway system look atmospheric, but there’s got to be something more there.

Speaking about her last single, “Dancing on my Own”, I thought it needed more oomph, and I’ve found a remix that provides it. I have a tendency to improvise my own backing vocal line during the final chorus. Try it. It’s fun.

Agree that it adds a quite-needed ‘something’ to the song; however, it still suffers from the same two problems as the original:

  • the post-bridge bit goes on way too long – in my view, the original could quite easily finish at 3:35-ish and be better for it, and this one should finish at 3:37 with some sort of explosion, although it could perhaps push it to 4:10
  • main problem: there’s absolutely nothing to distinguish between before and after the bridge, which is Just Not On when it comes to this sort of music. As you suggest, backing singers would be perfect. We should write and offer our services for her next track.

To be honest I’m not sure why we felt let down by either of these in particular. They’re all like this.

You’re right. I’ve just listened to a few of the other Dancing On My Own remixes, and they all suffer the same problem: there’s just not enough song there. There’s only one vocal line, with the exception of occasional echoes; it needs a second one added – even just a few “whoa, oh, ohs” – after the bridge.

Lessons from Darin’s producer required, I feel.