I have a long-standing battle with my flatmate, one that’s been going on for nearly 5 years now. Every year he implores me to get a Glastonbury ticket, and every year I refuse, each time with more blind stubbornness than the last. I can’t be fucked with Glasto. I’m sure it’s great, but 1) it’s fucking expensive and nobody will let me go for free, 2) you have to book your ticket 4 years in advance and 3) the headliners are fetishized to such a degree that by the time the festival actually comes around I’m so bored of hearing about it that the idea of going makes me want to fill my eyes with hot Bovril. This year, however, I have a much better reason why I’m not going to Glasto – Robyn’s headlining the BBC6 Stage at Latitude, and that’s going to be the best set this summer.
Robyn is one of my favourite people. After hearing Hang With Me, many months were spent binging on Body Talk and falling slowly in love with electric-drum beats and synths. I credit her with genuinely pulling my music taste in a new direction, at a time when I was really bored of what was going on in rock and roll and folk, the two genres I had previously been camped in. Robyn wants to make you dance, but she does it with these songs that are so rare, so gutsy, so different in content and tone.
People lose their shit over good pop music in a way they don’t really do over good rock and roll. I think it’s because it’s the only kind of pop music that gets tolerated in “serious” music circles, the only time that average-to-shite pop music is indulged is under the guise of a cheese night. But there is a reason that the structures and melodies of pop music work so well and are so enduring, and why certain songs crawl into our heads and stubbornly refuse to leave. There’s a science to pop music, a formula to the perfect pop song, and the best writers can take this formula and distil it into something even more potent. Robyn is nothing short of a genius in this regard, take exhibits Be Mine, Dancing On My Own and With Every Heartbeat as evidence.
Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do was the first Robyn song to make me stop in my tracks though, a kind of feminist battle cry about taking charge of a situation and not taking any shit, about feeling stressed and anxious and fed up and dealing with it. Its deceptively simple, dance-led production is layered with Robyn repeating a series of statements: “My drinking is killing me. My smoking is killing me. My diet is killing me. PMS is killing me”, before that most defiant of chorus lines come in.
Then there’s Fembot, which really, is nonsense, but if Janelle Monae can make operatic concept hip-hop / funk under her android persona, then I guess Robyn can too. Robyn’s raps on the verses of Fembot are so playful and on the beat, her lyrics dexterous and razor sharp, and the production of this song so layered and thick with beats, beeps and, um, orgasm sounds I think. I’m pretty sure they’re orgasm sounds. Someone’s having a nice time anyway.
My other flatmate, with whom I have no long standing battles, has just put Call Your Girlfriend on. For the uninitiated, Call Your Girlfriend is pop song about a breakup, except the narrator is the third party, the other woman, the mistress. It articulates something really quite difficult in a really smart, succinct and beautiful way. Also, it jams, with the drum sound, a kind of sweeping thwack, creating the kind of rhythm that forces you to push your “go mental” button.
So this year my Summer revolves around Robyn, and standing in a tent in Suffolk with a can of Jack & Coke leaping around and shouting. Did I mention she’s playing with Royksopp? I didn’t? Oh, well, she is. But you’d already bought your ticket I guess. Ah well, here she is with Snoop. I really hope she brings Snoop.