A Tribute to Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”
On Friday, after an eight-year hiatus, Robyn released her latest album Honey.
Yes, that’s right. It’s been eight entire years since we were twirling recklessly in clubs with fake IDs (or on tables in friends basements with no shoes on) to the Swedish pop singer’s “Dancing On My Own”. Eight years since Taylor Swift was dating Jake Gyllenhaal. Since we first heard about an app called “Instagram”. Since Lady Gaga wore a dress made entirely of meat.
“Dancing On My Own” represented a time of complete joy and endless possibilities for my girlfriends and I. We were 17-years-old and about to graduate from high school, feeling equal parts excited and overwhelmed. We would be leaving home for the first time to live in new cities, with new friends and no parents. If turning 20 was realising you didn’t know how to inflate your parachute, then being 17 was that moment you jumped out of the airplane and for about six seconds believed you could fly.
In an episode from season one of Girls, it was Robyn’s song that played when Marnie arrived home to find Hannah dancing blissfully uninhibited, with her trademark tinge of self-pity, upon discovering that her ex-boyfriend was actually gay. “To be fair, he did seem gay.” Of shooting that scene, Dunham recently confessed it “felt like posing nude. I felt wildly vulnerable, all limbs and breath and instinct.” Five years later Robyn provided the bookend to that iconic moment; during the final season of the HBO show she gave us a brand new song. In an Instagram post, Robyn revealed that Lena had selected the frantic yet optimistic “Honey” to play during the credits of an episode, “It wasn’t ready to be released but I finished this version for Lena and Girls.”
A year later, “Honey” would become the title track on the pop singer’s album. I’ll admit, it feels weird calling Robyn a “pop” artist – in the two decades she’s been in the music industry, she’s never been afforded the same attention, praise or airtime as her fellow pop constituents. With her silvery blonde bowl cut, crooked teeth and androgynous looks, she’s never filled the mould in the same way Katy, Rihanna or Taylor did. Robyn was – and still is – an outcast. And the single best place to be an outcast is the dance floor. It’s a safe space for carefree self-expression. “Dancing On My Own” formed part of the soundtrack to our lives at 17-year’s-old, and three year’s later when we were on the verge of entering our twenties, we were still dancing to that same song, only now we were singing it about new boys that had come and gone, broken our hearts and kissed someone new. At different stages we had each been that girl in the corner of a party, dancing on her own, maybe acting a little crazy, definitely feeling a little drunk, mostly in retaliation to seeing an ex-lover. And just as you were starting to feel defeated, thinking you might just leave and go home, you’d look over and spot your girlfriends right in the middle of the crowd, you’d push your way through a swarm of sweaty bodies to join them on the dance floor and everything was okay again.
You’d found the last safe space. And Robyn was right there with you.