Robyn's Blonde Ambition

An overstressed Swede re-invents herself.

More than a decade after recording "Show Me Love," the sugary Max Martin–penned hit that put Robyn on the pop-culture map in 1997 as an 18-year-old, the Swedish pop singer (given name, Robin Carlsson) needed a change.

"[I got] tired of releasing an album that took me about one and a half years to make, and then you go on tour for like two or three years," she explains. "It all gets divided up into long periods of just doing one thing. I was just bored with that. I wanted to see if I could change that structure a little bit."

She got what she wanted. After bouncing between major labels RCA and Jive for 10 years (as her recent hit "Don't Fucking Tell Me What to Do" puts it, "My label's killing me/These hours are killing me/My tour is killing me/This flight is killing me/My manager's killing me"), she created her own Konichiwa Records in 2005 and transformed into the edgy, electro-pop sensation she is today. This year's brilliant Body Talk trilogy, a collection of songs released on three separate albums throughout 2010, is packed with cutting-edge, declarative club songs. Riding on the success of sleek, emotive singles like "Dancing on My Own" and "Hang With Me," Body Talk has brought Robyn, now 31, more acclaim than she's had since she was a teenager.

"I don't know anybody who knows exactly what it is they're doing when they're 16," she says, referring to the age at which she signed her first record deal. "As you grow older, what happens is you're able to define things, you get a bigger vocabulary as an artist, and you're able to differentiate between different textures and you become more dynamic as a person. It took me a while to find that space. And once I did find it, I was not afraid to risk anything. I felt it was my only way out, or actually like my last option."

In 2010 alone, Robyn has toured the world, made a guest appearance on Gossip Girl, been invited to perform at this year's Nobel Peace Prize Concert, and seen Body Talk Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 simultaneously rank at #1 and #2 on Sweden's album charts (Pt. 3 is being released this month). "That has never happened before in the history of the world," she says proudly of the latter accomplishment. But asked what advice she might have for pop artists in need of a similar reinvention—someone like Britney Spears—Robyn demurs.

"I don't have any advice for anybody. I don't think that's how it works," she says. "I think you figure it out for yourself. That's what I did. I started my own record company, but that might not be the solution that works for her."

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