Song of the Decade
Robyn – Dancing on My Own
AS we are coming to the end of the decade…
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there are a lot of polls out there looking at the best albums and songs from the 2010s. Q Magazine crowned Lana Del Rey’s Video Games the winner at their annual award ceremony. It is from her 2012 album, Born to Die, and is a fantastic song for sure. I am not sure about you, but I have been pondering which songs of this decade stand up. I love Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta and Beyoncé’s Freedom (from Lemonade, 2016). There are songs from each year that stick in my mind but, if it came to deciding which one means the most, it is quite a tricky job. Previous decades have seen various genres blossom and scenes formed; there has been some exceptionally bright Pop and some real anthems. The song that I would put at the top of my pile slightly inches out the competition. It was released as a single on 1st June, 2010 and is from Robyn’s fifth studio album, Body Talk Pt. 1: it is the undeniable highlight, Dancing on My Own. It might seem contradictory of me to celebrate a song that carries quite a heavy heart now when I am just about the write a feature that wonders why Pop has become so unhappy and lacking in bite. I know it seems slightly cheeky declaring my favourite song of the decade one that arrived so soon in the 2010s! I think Robyn was capturing a spirit in Pop and change in the air.
PHOTO CREDIT: Johan Renck
If the Pop of the 1990s and early part of the next decade were more outward and confident, there was a slight change towards the insular and emotional. That is not to say Pop in the 2010s was moody and lacked any spirit. In fact, Robyn’s Dancing on My Own is one of those songs that boasts a very bright and bold chorus whereas its lyrics display something more pained and lonelier. The attention to detail is incredible. Robyn talks about heartbreak on the dancefloor as she walks over stilettos and broken bottles; there is a sweetness and escapist quality to the songs as this fantastic song unfolds. Many of us can appreciate it on a very direct level. The lyrics see Robyn as the narrator see her former love with a “new friend”; Robyn asks whether she loves him better than her. That sense of being invisible and overlooked – Robyn asks why she cannot be seen, as her former love is with someone else – is tangible and will resonate with so many people. Whilst Robyn looks at the betrayal in front of her, she is a mess and spinning around in circles. Dancing on My Own is that mix of spurned anger and recklessness; a strange sense of hope in confinement and heartache. Inspired, in part, by Robyn’s love of sad, gay Disco anthems (such as Ultravox’s Dancing with Tears in My Eyes), Robyn was clearly coming into her own and finding her voice. Composed with Patrik Berger, there is a sadness that lingers through Dancing on My Own.
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It seems that a love that seemed strong is being burned and lost. In some ways, Dancing on My Own reminds me of Yazoo’s 1982, Don’t Go. That mix of heartbroken lyrics and a composition that throws in so much energy and acceleration. Dancing on My Own has throbbing synths, huge electronic percussion and all manner of sparks and colours. Robyn has talked about nights out and how people go out and get drunk to experience some kind of emotion. It is not always about the joyful side; there is a destructiveness. One feels the heroine’s pain but knows that the dancing is a way of getting emotions out and expressing her pain. Rather than get angry or run away, there is a strength to be found in Robyn remaining where she is and escaping into dance. I think the mix of exhilaration and sadness on Dancing on My Own has inspired so many other songwriters. I am not a big fan of Pop songs that offer no light and sap too much energy. Robyn is very open and raw in Dancing on My Own, but there is this release and lift in the chorus. Melancholy sits alongside catchiness; the sheer drama and tension played out in the lyrics is perfectly balanced with hooks only Robyn could write. The emotion of the song is never betrayed, nor is the listener dragged into a sense of despair and hopelessness.
If a lot of Pop artists were avoiding emotional nakedness and soul-baring prior to 2010, Robyn opened the door. If you have been spurned or hurt, the song will resonate and relate. If, like me, you have not been in the same situation as Robyn, the song has a different meaning. I love the bravery of the track and how engrossing it is from the first spin. That splendid blend of loss and defiance definitely registered. So many critics listed Dancing on My Own as one of the best songs of 2010. I think the song has gained strength and legacy over the past nine years. As I said earlier, I do prefer Pop that has a lot of energy and an optimistic mood but, to me, there is a lot to be said for Dancing on My Own. It is an anthem of a song and one that has given a lot of hope and voice to so many people. Whilst few modern Pop songs have the same brilliance in their bones as Dancing on My Own, I can hear the D.N.A. and influence of the track running through so many of today’s artists. I think Pop has sort of splintered and changed a lot since the start of the decade Even though there are a lot of songs that mix emotions and have contradictions, there is a lot of darker and more experimental Pop; more commercial Pop that lacks memorability and depth. Robyn’s 2010 gem embodies the best of today’s Pop but remains deeply personal and unique. There were a fair few challengers when it came to the best song of 2010, but there is something about Dancing on My Own that remains longer in the head. It is a track that kicked off the decade with a definite spark. It makes me wonder whether we will receive a similar Pop jewel…
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