Not Dancing on Her Own

Swedish pop superstar Robyn hits the stage with Coldplay — and the DJ decks after hours

July 4, 2012
Robyn will cap off dates at Verizon Center opening for Coldplay with DJ sets at U Street Music Hall featuring DJ Rokk.

Swedish dance-pop maven Robyn is on the road with British rockers Coldplay, but her nights won’t end when she finishes her opening-act sets. Instead, she’ll just be getting started. In every city the tour visits, Robyn will also host club nights with the UK-based DJ Rokk. For the tour’s D.C. dates — Coldplay hits the Verizon Center Sunday and Monday — Robyn and Rokk will spin Saturday and Sunday nights at U Street Music Hall.

Robyn says DJing at small clubs is a good way to interact with fans — and to expend pent-up energy. “I’m used to doing 1½-hour shows with my band,” says Robyn. “It definitely leaves me with some extra energy because we’re only doing 45 minutes on this tour. So, I thought I’d use that time well.”

Born Robyn Miriam Carlsson, Robyn has spent a long career blurring boundaries between the dance floor, the stage and the studio. In 1997 — when she was just a teenager — she scored an international hit with the catchy “Show Me Love.” Two major-label follow-up discs won her several Swedish Grammi awards. Still, she bristled against record-company attempts to turn her into a Scandinavian Britney Spears.

As her star continued to rise, Robyn went indie: She formed her own label, Konichiwa Records, and released a self-titled 2005 album that mixed megapop hooks, pounding dance beats and sharp songwriting that swung between boasting and heartbreaking confessions.

Her 2010 follow-up, “Body Talk” — which featured massively successful singles “Call Your Girlfriend” and the Grammy-nominated “Dancing on My Own” — was named after pal DJ Rokk’s club in London, where Robyn occasionally spun records. So, she wanted him along for the ride in the States for her club-night experiment.

“We both felt like we had a lot of things in common,” says Robyn, “like the kind of music we both like and the way we mix records. For us, it’s about fun, soulful, playful dance music — a lot of stuff we grew up with in the ’90s mixed in with a lot of new music.”

Robyn’s recent hits are definitely club bangers, and she’s an old-school club kid at heart (just watch some of her video moves), so it makes sense that she’d want to return to her roots. And this turn behind the decks just might end up influencing her next album.

“I’m trying to approach it in my own way, in a way that feels natural to me,” she explains. “I think about these kinds of things — live performances, club nights, and my band. I’m trying to figure out where it’s all going, but I want to approach my next record from that perspective.”

Dancehall Queen

Robyn shares her recipe for the perfect club night:

GREAT MUSIC: I’m not a real DJ. I mix once in a while, but mainly I’m a selector; I pick good music. I try to play a lot of different songs, but there are some songs that you always come back to. There’s an old remix of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” that’s cheesy, but I always DJ it. There is a lot of European house and some pop music that I grew up with — Technotronic, Neneh Cherry, some old Malcolm McLaren records. I don’t DJ only old stuff, though. I spin some new things, as well.

GREAT AUDIENCE: I love that people come out to the club nights, and hopefully they’ll get something out of it that they might not get in the clubs they usually go to. It is weird for me, this DJ culture where people just stand around watching me while I DJ. I’m used to more interaction. I expect people to dance when they hear this music.

GREAT DJ: The DJ has become some sort of cool guy that people want to take pictures with. But for me, the DJ is a musician — the director of the night. The best way to DJ is not watching, but getting out on the floor and dancing. That’s how I like to experience DJing.

U Street Music Hall, 1115 U St. NW; Sat., 10 p.m., $30, & Sun., 9 p.m., sold out; 202-588-1880. (U Street)
Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW; Sun, 7 p.m., $29.50, & Mon., 7 p.m., $29.50-$46.50; 202-628-3200. (Gallery Place) 
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