V118 Heroes: Robyn

V118 Heroes: Robyn

With her North-American tour in full-force, the afterglow from 2018's Honey continues to burn bright.

With her North-American tour in full-force, the afterglow from 2018's Honey continues to burn bright.

Photography: Heji Shin

Text: Julia Gray

This feature appears on V118, our Spring 2019 issue, on newsstands soon!

In 30-minute installments, HBO’s Girls provided a verisimilar look at 20-something life, in which romantic partners, best friends, acquaintances, and, most of all, oneself, are utter works in progress. Soundtracking the final scene of episode three, Robyn’s infectious 2010 dance floor hit “Dancing On My Own” offered a perfect encapsulation. Hannah, newly diagnosed with HPV, is quite literally dancing on her own in her room, and is soon joined in her cathartic aerobics by the romantically challenged Marnie. This kind of disco therapy is a sweet bond in Robyn’s discography, which became a theme on Girls.The show’s final episode in 2017 included the thumping tease of an unfinished Robyn track. The taste of “Honey” (as the song came to be known) left fans yearning to feel Robyn’s fearless vulnerability once again and made for a TV-meets–pop music mash-up for the ages; “#ReleaseHoneyDamnit” soon began trending on Twitter.

Over a year later, Robyn released the album Honey, a slow-burning, nine-song trip that spun sorrow into gold. In her eight-year absence, the singer had undergone psychoanalysis for crippling depression. “It’s the most destabilizing thing ever,” she told the New York Times in October. “You’re so just in the hands of your sorrow.” But on the album Honey, the once-bubblegum Swede is in the thick of building herself back up, finding a warm glow in the dark of solitude.

Robyn in London, July 2018

More than an icon, Robyn is an artist-in-progress. But her 1995 debut, Robyn Is Here, produced by Britney Spears hit-maker Max Martin, cast her in the “Fembot” mold she would later ironize on a song of the same name. Alas the pop powers that be couldn’t contain her; after clashing with her label over “Who’s That Girl,” a song recorded with enigmatic Swedish duo The Knife, she left to found her own, Konichiwa Records, in 2004. Going indie gave way to the heart and grit that shined through in “Dancing On My Own” from Robyn’s 2010 magnum opus Body Talk, which inspires creators to this day.

In the movie Teen Spirit, hitting theaters April 5, aspiring pop-star Violet (Elle Fanning) chooses “Dancing On My Own” for her sing- ing competition debut. The song, which Fanning is heard belting in the trailer, is what inspired the lm in the first place: “The themes of the song—loneliness and endurance—tie in so specifically to Violet’s journey,” says first-time writer-director Max Minghella, best known as driver Nick on The Handmaid’s Tale. “I wrote the first draft right whenthe song came out.” Like in Girls, and for Robyn herself, the song represents Violet’s budding individuality. “It’s both melancholic and celebratory, austere and anthemic. It’s a testament to what a unique and accomplished piece of songwriting it is that, almost a decade later, it has only grown in popularity,” says Minghella.

Robyn has been the soundtrack of our lives, and it’s clear she’ll be one for countless journeys of self-discovery to come.

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