It's been almost two weeks since Robyn's back to back sold out appearances at the Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles, and I can't get her music out of my head. Funny because, I can't actually bring myself to listen to her music in anticipation of the emotion it brings up. But if there's one thing lingering beyond that emotional residue, it's about her show at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Robyn's show at the Palladium marked the beginning of her Honey tour, the celebration of eight years of work poured into a beautifully written album that self inflicts the intersectionalities of pop and house music. Vulture fittingly called the performance an "Emotional Catharsis, " a fitting description for a decades-spanning career marked by its accessibly uplifting frame on loneliness. and relationships.
As the Swedish artist slowly first emerged from Palladium's backstage singing "Send to Robin Immediately," my personal favorite off of her latest album for its direct nods to progressive house music, a disconnect began to show itself. The energy of the crowd up just didn't match up against her undeniable energy on stage. As an avid fan of the music and culture that inspires Robyn, I knew what to do as "Send to Robin Immediately festered into a heartbeat of progressive beats: put the energy out there and dance. But the rest of the crowd seemed to be searching and waiting for something else. LA Weekly deemed Robyn too big for the space - a smaller venue than she normally would play, chosen specially thanks to Red Bull Music Festival - a claim that misses part of Robyn's greater mission to create the freedom of a club inside these venues. I thought, "Of course Robyn plays festivals and arenas worldwide, but how will this work on an American crowd in an arena such as MSG?"
This night marked the night I got close to an artist who has defined a decade of my life. Robyn's music served as the soundtrack to my twenties. It defined that space for me and now, hearing it performed live for the first time, I had that near decade of time wash over me. For me, it served as an easily consumable meeting of electronic music in pop form, and for my friends, a gateway drug into electronic music. It connected my obsession with house music and club culture to my current reality and now, songs like "Call Your Girlfriend" will forever have that grounding. I kept hoping she saw how emotional her music made me feel, catching a glance of the girl in the photo pit with tears rolling down her face, but I quickly realized that from Robyn's view, her crowd was right in front of her, with emotion on every face. While she won't be as close to her fans at Madison Square Garden, surely that intimacy will remain.
Known for her love of the space she occupies within music, Robyn hasn't toured like she is currently in nearly five years. She has made up for lost time in the push behind Honey, using her Instagram story as a place to show off her stronger than ever appreciation for club culture. She partied until early hours of the morning celebrating the launch of her new clothing line, and both curated and DJed a late night after party with local Angelinos, supporting her fans and her fellow artists in lockstep. As this and her introduction to her new live show deems, Robyn's live performances are for the long game."When you're listening to club music, there's no reward," she told The New York Times last year discussing the album's title track. "The reward isn't, 'Oh, here's the chorus, here's the lyric that makes sense.' You have to enjoy what it is. You have to enjoy that there's no conclusion." And just like an amazing DJ set, Robyn's live performances increase in energy slowly, yearningly erupting into a dance party in the last third of the event.
Just take a look at The Music That Inspired Honey, a Spotify exclusive playlist that dives into the music that inspired Honey over its eight-year development. There you'll find a list of eclectic, but historically important music, from artists like Mozart to disco icon Sylvester. Its curation signals similarities to Robyn's appeal, allowing fans of pop music to enjoy their moment with David Bowie, ABBA and Marvin Gaye, while slowly incepting with left of center pop, hip-hop and then, house and techno stalwarts like DJ Koze and Floorplan. It's almost like listening to house music's history through song, starting from Motown and moving to disco, hip-hop, and contemporary electronica. Drawing this through line from history's favorite music through to Robyn's own work is what makes it so accessible. For someone well versed in electronic music and overall music history, it makes her music even more powerful.
For many of Robyn's fans, these connections aren't so apparent. On the surface, her music is pure emotion and pain - it's hard not to think of what she's been through while she performs songs like "Missing U," a track she wrote in the wake of the death of Christian Falk, one of her closest friends and collaborators. Robyn keeps a notoriously tight-knit group of artists around her, supporting creatives she truly believes in like Kindness, who supports her on tour and just released a new track featuring her vocals. During her performance in LA, you could hear fans saying, "you can really feel her pain," understanding her loss. Even songs like "With Every Heartbeat" with Kleerup resonate an energy across the room that isn't palpable at home.
But that's not all that Robyn is out here for. Soon after having the sold out crowd of 5,000 on the edge of tears (if not already in them), her hits came back into play - the now infamous singalong of "Dancing On My Own," "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do," and "Call Your Girlfriend" - and the energy in the room met her own presence on stage. Her show had ascended to peak time dance floor status, and those in the crowd who started out looking for something more ended their night saying, "That was the most emotional show I've ever been to."