In a pantsuit that brought to mind '80s book publishing industry realness, Swedish pop star Robyn revealed details about her upcoming, long-anticipated new solo album in New York City on Monday (May 21) night as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. Seated with Kindness, an English musician and collaborator who served as the event's moderator, fans packed one of the Museum of Modern Art's theaters in hopes of finding out anything about her first proper album as Robyn since 2010's jaw-dropping Body Talk. And they were not disappointed.
"It's not finished yet but it's almost there," Robyn revealed, explaining that she sees it as her third album (with 2005's self-titled as her first and Body Talk as her second; the previous three albums she doesn't exactly count as part of her canon).
"I started on my own, in my home studio, listening to music that I love, dancing and listening to beats," she said of the album's genesis. "The new album has much more production work on my end," she says, while noting other collaborators and producers are contributing to it. "But I wanted to flesh it out a bit on my own before bringing other people into the process."
That process was impacted greatly by her experience with psychoanalysis, as well as the loss of collaborator and friend Christian Falk, who died in 2014, prior to the release of their La Bagatelle Magique EP in 2015.
The upcoming album is influenced by everything from '90s house to club music to Michael Jackson (she's been listening to the Thriller and Off the Wall demos a lot) to Janet Jackson and Prince. The late Purple One serves as her own internal quality check for new songs. "I always try to write a song that I think maybe Prince would like," she says. "That’s how I get myself in shape."
House music was a key influence on "Honey," the new song featured in Girls that has yet to see an official release. Robyn explained she was "flattered" when Lena Dunham reached out asking for music to include in the final season of her series, but the early version she provided for Dunham is something she eventually realized she "wasn't happy with." Not that it's bad, per se: "It's a good version, it's more like… it becomes more important to get it to a place where I made it to what I wanted it to be."
That perfectionism accounts for the long wait for the new album. "I used to think the more you push the better it gets, but with this album I've gone more back into the softer I get, the more it happens, and the more colors and dynamic a song gets. And for me, that meant shutting down for a while and being sparse with my impressions and sensitive to what I needed."
She also revealed there's some unfinished material with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, but it doesn't seem like those songs are coming any time soon. "If you’re watching, Jimmy and Terry, let’s finish those songs. We have some stuff with them we've been working on, and it was an honor to be in their presence," Robyn said of the Minneapolis Sound pioneers.
Later that night at Brooklyn Bowl, Robyn made a surprise appearance at the long-running This Party Is Killing You: A Night of All Robyn Everything and debuted the full, complete version of "Honey" to an ecstatic crowd during a DJ set (obviously, the audience at a Robyn-themed dance party is going to lose their minds when Robyn herself appears). She also performed "Love Is Free" live and watched a "Call Your Girlfriend" dance-off, shaking it with the eventual winner on stage.