DANCING ON MY OWN / ROBYN
Updated: Nov 8, 2018
UK Chart Position: 8
Pop music is all about taking universal sentiments and drilling them down into something personal about you. “Dancing on my Own” does what all great pop music is supposed to do. Make you feel euphorically sad. It tiptoes delicately between being bitingly “fuck you” whilst almost slipping into complete emotional devastation. Robyn keeps it together. Just. But it’s a close run thing.
This record has two brilliant things going for it. Firstly, it’s about being “in the club”. Robyn released this in 2010, slap bang in the middle of when everyone from Jennifer Lopez to JLS (yeah…JLS!) were singing about the club/the floor/the DJ. Now, I have a soft spot for “song as club/night out metaphor. But Robyn inverts it by showing us just how devastating a night can turn, from anticipation, to downright disaster, in the space of a minute.
The second thing is the intro. Some great songs have a recognisable factor within a second or two. The dispassionate robotics of “Blue Monday”. The piano roll of “Dancing Queen.” This track has the punch-to-the-solar-plexus beats that are unrelenting and carry us through the entire song. This monotonous imposing one note beat that starts the song isn’t a million miles away from “Kids in America”. But whereas “Kids in America” curiously takes a bit a few meandering whoops and electronic squiggles before getting down to business, this song wastes no time in flexing its muscles and getting to the nub of things.
Lyrically It’s kind of an updated “How Soon is Now” with girl stood in club feeling miserable because boy is snogging someone else. Robyn begins with the conceit that she’s heard about recent events second hand (“somebody said you got a new friend”) – with a hint of raised-eyebrow frosty dismissiveness in the use of “friend”. But the reality is, she knows all about this situation. There almost a sense of sadistic pleasure she’s taking in putting herself through the entire ordeal (“just got to see it for myself”). But after this caustic, slightly spiteful start, she withdraws to the higher moral high ground of the dancefloor to take comforting refuge. So what marks it out as apart from “How Soon is Now” is the very real heartbreak, as opposed to the crap-at-pulling shyness Morrissey displays.
But if the lyrics soften after the first verse, the music is kept tight, taught and propelled by that simple, sinewy beat. There’s hints everywhere at potential breaking points and that an emotional meltdown is being held in check (“I’m all messed up I’m outta line”, “I’m spinning around in circles”). The meltdown is averted (just) by the crashing, rapid-fire burst of beats that follow the song’s hollowed out middle 8 . It’s almost as if the beats are Robyn's’s own defensive armour, shoring her up and fortifying her against an inevitable, private collapse.
Anyway, it’s properly great, Robyn is like some Scandi Empress with great hair, and you can stick it on at any party and it’s gonna work brilliantly. (The single mix is included here because it has a video, but the album version is way better).
Further Listening: “Dancing on My Own” (Fred Falke mix)
The Moment: At 2:43 when Robyn opens fire on the entire club with a machine gun.
In a word: Crushed