Swedish pop singer Robyn has matched a string of hits with an unorthodox and uncompromising attitude, and her seventh album only reaffirms her as a pioneer of a new generation of female solo artists.
The 31-year-old burst onto the scene in 1997 with two US top ten singles and a major record deal, but took the bold move of leaving RCA Records to set up her own label, Konichiwa Records, in 2005.
Robyn has not looked back, and scored a UK number one in 2007 with single “With Every Heartbeat”, which combined her songwriting skills with her clubland influences.
“I always knew I was going to make my way to what I’m doing now, but it was a journey,” she told AFP by telephone from the United States before the final gig of her international tour.
“It’s not something you can plan.”
Robyn’s latest album “Body Talk”, which is out worldwide, is her third this year, bringing a “big pop finale” to the trilogy.
“I could easily have gone back into the studio and made five introvert and cold songs but I wanted to finish on a high note,” she explained.
The singer’s unorthodox odyssey through the industry has left her with a clear insight into its failings, and the importance of the wake-up-call delivered by the democratising influence of the Internet.
“I had an idea of trying to make pop music in a way that wasn’t restricted by the structure of how the industry had shaped pop music, but it was hard to do,” she said.
“Now the industry is shrinking back and has regulated itself. It’s good the record companies are having to think about what they are supposed to be doing.”
She is a critic of the way female artists are treated in the industry, particularly the trend of managers to group their signings into genres for marketing purposes, and their reluctance to take potentially expensive risks.
“The problem is the narrow-minded and stupid way older generations and structures look at what the differences between men and women are,” she said, in a typically blunt appraisal.
“It’s not politically correct any more to not be a feminist which is good, but for me, feminism is still necessary and that sucks.”
The singer’s angular and icy exterior recalls 1980s electro-pop icon Annie Lennox, a mantle which has been passed on to a new wave of artists including La Roux and Little Boots.
One of the new generation — and a Robyn collaborator — Coco Sumner, earlier told AFP why she was a “huge fan” of the Swede.
“I think she’s got a brilliant voice but also she’s very ambitious and knows exactly what she wants,” said Sumner, daughter of Police frontman Sting.
Lady Gaga, currently the world’s biggest pop star, is a similarly focused, electro-influenced performer. However, Robyn was reluctant to be drawn into a discussion about Gaga’s influence.
“I wonder if you’d ask that question to a male artist?” she said.
“I understand why it’s interesting and I admire her for her courage but for me to judge whether she’s a good role model, that’s not up to me.”
Robyn provided support for Madonna on her 2008 Sticky & Sweet tour, an encounter she recalls as being highly informative.
“She’s a very hard-working woman and it was interesting to see what the structure of a big tour like that is from the inside,” the Swede said.
“It was an experience, and she said she liked my album, which was cool.”
Robyn served as a UN children’s agency (UNICEF) ambassador for two years in the early 2000s, taking part in campaigns in Kenya and Tanzania.
But despite her huge popularity at home — where she has scored three number one albums and a magazine’s 2010 Swede Of The Year Award– she has no plans to take on any advocacy role in Sweden.
“I’m an interested person, I think it’s interesting to reflect on the society we live in, but I don’t see myself as a politician. I think I only like making music,” she said.