I don’t think popolio has been around long enough for us to do a comprehensive 2008 album and/or single Best Of List. Maybe next year. But, I do think I can offer my thoughts on the best album of the year.
Robyn was part of the pop infestation that took over the US and the world in the 1990s. Coming out of Sweden, she had 2 stand-out hits here with “Show Me Love” and “Do You Know (What it Takes).”
I noticed her at the time, liked the songs, but not enough to buy any singles or the album. She soon retreated back to Sweden and sort of became the Britney Spears of her homeland, continuing to sell records, break them, too, and win numerous awards, I’m sure.
Being the top pop act there she wasn’t heard of in the US again until 2008. The story is familiar. Girl can sing. Girl gets signed by big record company. Girl has some worldwide success for years. Girl eventually craves creative freedom and true individual expression. Girl leaves big record company. Girl creates her own independent record label. Girl creates and release first truly independent and fully creative project. Girl achieves more success than she ever had before.
The album was self-titled and released in 2005 on Robyn’s own Konichiwa Records. It became successful and Robyn continued to release it in other countries in the UK as the years passed. She finally struck a deal for distribution in the US and we didn’t get it here until earlier this year. It wasn’t as big a splash here as was in the other places, but there was plenty of media coverage and critical acclaim. Well, the girl even got to open for Madonna’s Sticky and Sweet Tour on some UK dates. And who doesn’t have their finger on the pop pulse, if not Madonna.
You all know I’m a sucker for reinvention, both musical and image-based. But, not just any reinvention. It has to be authentic and interesting to me and the music has to be good. The music always has to back it up. Once I gleaned she was back, I started checking out the videos and the songs online and this Robyn looked and sounded nothing like the Robyn of the 1990s. I even had to double-check to make sure it was the same girl.
This is a pop blog after all, so I’m picking a truly pop album as the best of 2008. I don’t think anyone has been doing anything that interesting in pop for awhile (save for Christina’s exploration of old soul on Back to Basics in 2006). I picked this up and, even with added tracks for the US release, I was blown away. It was first released in 2005 in Sweden, and, to me, it still sounds fresh in 2008 in the US. I can listen to it pretty much beginning to end. Pop seems to be going in a more electro/dance direction, anyway, but this is definitely not an imitator’s, but an innovator’s approach. Robyn is setting her own tone and marching to her own beat.
Pop often gets a bad rap and every now and then there comes a pop project that exists on a higher level. One of those pop albums you can point to and someone who isn’t into pop can just appreciate as genuinely good music. Pop is often thought of as not as good as other genres or not as adult or mature. It’s not taken as seriously. Sure it can be fun, ironic, and all of that. But, it doesn’t mean it’s not good and doesn’t hold up to other musical forms. Robyn is one of those records that trascends all of those barriers. You should check it out.
Cyndi Lauper’s Bring Ya To The Brink is Confessions on a Dancefloor done better. Madonna spoke about making electronic music have emotion, which she felt it was lacking, when releasing Ray of Light in 1998. Cyndi has definitely done that with house music on this album. Emotional depth and serious subject matter coexist with fat beats and booty-shaking rhythms.