Swedish Pop Sensation Robyn Brings 'Body Talk' To United States
Robyn seems to have a pretty harsh message for anyone listening: "Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do."
But the hard-hitting techno track-which opens the Swedish electro-pop star's fifth album, "Body Talk Pt. 1" - isn't aimed at her label partners or the media. Rather, its target is closer to home.
"I wrote that song after being on tour for a long time," Robyn says. "It's directed at myself, for putting too much work on me. I brought it on myself."
But Robyn (born Robin Carlsson) has only succeeded in increasing her workload. The eight-track "Body Talk Pt. 1" - due June 15 in the United States on Cherrytree/Interscope and a day earlier in the United Kingdom and Europe on her own label, Konichiwa, licensed to EMI in Scandinavia and Universal elsewhere - is actually the first of three albums she plans to release in 2010. "Body Talk Pt. 2" will follow Aug. 2 in the United Kingdom, with a U.S. release to be confirmed. By year's end there will be a third album that will feature new tracks as well as hits from the previous two releases.
"I loved the idea," says Martin Kierszenbaum, chairman of Cherrytree Records, president of A&R for pop/rock at Interscope Records and head of international operations at Interscope Geffen A&M. "It provides music in the way the modern audience is asking for it: swifter, more current and in shorter volume."
"The challenge is that it's obviously not the normal release pattern," Universal Music U.K. director of international marketing Chris Dwyer says. "But it's a way for Robyn to continually talk to her fans."
The convention-flouting plan fits perfectly with Robyn's quirky résumé. She first found U.S. teen-pop success as a 16-year-old with the Max Martin-produced hits "Do You Know (What It Takes)" and "Show Me Love," which both peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. The tracks appeared on her 1997 debut, "Robyn Is Here" (RCA), which has sold 922,000 U.S. copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. But while she made two more Sweden-only albums, it wasn't until she set up Konichiwa in 2004 that she managed to reboot her career internationally.
She sought out like-minded songwriting collaborators (including fellow Swedes the Knife and Klas Åhlund of Teddybears) and took charge of all her visuals, from sleeve artwork to videos. The strategy worked: She scored a U.K. No. 1 in 2007 with the euphoric dance-pop of "With Every Heartbeat" (Konichiwa/Cherrytree/Interscope), from her self-titled fourth album, which has sold 242,000 U.K. copies, according to the Official Charts Co., and 33,000 in the United States, according to SoundScan. Extensive touring followed, which in turn led to the "Body Talk" campaign's unusual structure.
"It was wonderful," she says, "but I didn't have any time to be in the studio. I felt very frustrated at the end of the tour, but I also felt like I didn't want to be in the studio for two years making 15 songs for a whole album."
In July 2009 she and Åhlund began writing in his Stockholm studio. She also visited Oslo to work with Röyksopp on the club-serviced track "None of Dem," and, when the deadline came for delivering the album, Robyn simply sent off the eight tracks that had been completed.
One of those, the cheeky robo-electro of "Fembot," has already gone top 10 in Sweden and Norway. The official lead track, however, is summery dance tune "Dancing on My Own." Set for release as a U.K. single June 13, it has already been A-listed at national top 40 network BBC Radio 1, while stateside it climbs 25-18 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Songs chart.
Cherrytree serviced the track to noncommercial radio in mid-May, with initial support from stations including KNHC Seattle, an early adopter of fellow Cherrytree acts Lady Gaga and La Roux.
"We're going to build the cultural context before we get to mainstream," Kierszenbaum says. "We will grow it organically and incrementally as with Gaga and La Roux."
Touring will follow, interspersed with sessions for "Pt. 2"-Robyn has already recorded with Snoop Dogg. She will play Chicago's Pitchfork Festival July 16 and appear on "Late Show With David Letterman" July 19, with further U.S. dates being booked by Pinnacle Entertainment.
But, for all the live activity-and the closing Swedish folk ballad "Jag Vet en Dejlig Rosa"-Robyn says "Body Talk Pt. 1" remains primarily "a record about the dancefloor."
"It's a really important place for my generation," she says. "It's the new church. It's where people go to experience something bigger than themselves."