I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about one’s 40s like they are two decades. The first half feels like your 30s — still looking good, still spry. The second half feels like your 50s — shit’s breaking down, anti-spry. My 40s were happy, depressed, and happy again. The start of my 40s ushered in with Robyn‘s epic Body Talk EPs in 2010, then nothing for years with the exception of a few singles/collaborations, until 2018’s Honey. Surprisingly, I didn’t fall for Honey like I did Body Talk, until tonight.
It’s been eight years since I last saw Robyn live, which is astonishing to me. Her set at the Barclays Center was classic Swedish fundamentalist — clean, white as snow, ethereal, dreamlike. Even the video screens were covered with transparent fabric to give it a softer, more romantic filter. She took to the stage in a surprisingly stoic way — standing alone atop a staircase, simple white body suit with twinkling silver pasties. She opened with the subtle and slow-building ‘Send To Robyn Immediately’ and the title track of her new album. The setlist was a perfect blend of new music, classics from the Body Talk trilogy and her eponymous 2005 album, and recent collaborations with La Bagatelle and Mr. Tophat.
Robyn is the rare artist that gives me goosebumps when she performs for two reasons: 1) she evokes a raw emotion in her performances; nothing seems canned, and 2) its clear she’s in it for the music. There’s a song for every phase of a relationship: dancing on my own, hang with me, stars 4-ever, be mine, call your girlfriend, with every heartbeat, missing u, indestructible, ever again. She defies category of pop stars — not a chanteuse, not (primarily) a dancer, not a marketing machine — she just writes honest music. ‘Because It’s in the Music’ supports my case.
While I don’t consider Robyn a mere Dancehall Queen, she can get folks up out of their seats and dance. A guy wearing aviators next to me kept hitting me with his flailing arms, which I excused each time because you can’t defy Robyn. Even my friend I went with who’s seven months pregnant said her baby started kicking during ‘Hang With Me’ and didn’t stop.
Ok, so let’s wrap this post up. ‘Dancing On My Own’ was the big crowd pleaser, and it was every single person’s anthem in the early 2010s, including mine. Still a fantastic song, but I’ve grown since then. As a 48-year-old (ever single and owning it again), there’s only one song I’ll live by looking down the barrel of 50, and for this chorus alone:
(That shit’s out the door)
I’m only gonna sing about love
Never gonna let it happen
Then it won’t be for all or nothing
Oh, I swear I’m never gonna be brokenhearted