On January 27th, 2005, I quit drinking. I decided to take 6 months off, poured the liquor I had in the house down the kitchen sink and told myself I would learn to go out and have fun socially without the aid of alcohol. That was 7 years ago, and I haven’t picked it up since. This fact about me is pretty baffling to most people I meet, especially if I meet them out at a show or on a dance floor. I get a lot of terrible reactions, they look at me like I’m an alien, and I can’t even tell you how many men have become immediately uninterested in me when they realize I likely won’t be making any drunken decisions in the near future. I get that being a non-drinker in my late twenties usually spells out a recovering alcoholic, a muslim or a buzzkill, none of which are true. It must look strange to some people that a girl can bounce around a bar, dance for hours and interact with anyone and everyone without the aid of booze, but I promise you that it’s not only possible, but damn right enjoyable. Make no mistake, I may not drink, but I likely party harder than YOU. I travel the world, meet exotic strangers, do wild and crazy things and dance all night long, all without a drop of alcohol. My entire life is one big party, and I’m happier being present for every moment of it. It’s a pretty wonderful feeling to wake up after a night of dancing and not feel like death, but it did take me a while to learn how to do it without being loaded again. We all get pretty used to the obligatory glass of liquid courage in our hands when we go out looking for a good time. In order to re-learn how to go out, I tried to emulate the girl I used to be, moving around those terrible teen dances with nothing but pure curiosity and silliness running through her veins (and maybe a bit of pot). It got me thinking of the first artist of the late 90s that really got me into dancing before I was every introduced to being drunk, Robyn.
I first fell in love with my favorite little swedish pop tart in grade 8. You probably remember her from her ‘Show me Love’ days, her over-processed, ‘americanized’ album that had her reigning the summer charts for most of 1997. I spent a good part of that year choreographing elaborate dances to her songs with my friends that we would use to make boys notice us at dances at the Moose hall. Right after her explosion into north american culture, Robyn disappeared from my life. She didn’t put out anything I heard for almost a decade, until ‘Be Mine’ in 2005. It was catchy, but not in the bubble-gum pop way her earlier stuff was. It sounded a little more like her, like she was finally singing the lines she wrote instead of what someone put in front of her.
Over the years she slowly released more and more material. Every song was full of quirky, strange beats with clever, fun lyrics laced over them, produced by people with Swedish names so long and full of vowels that I couldn’t pronounce them. I loved them all. Finally, in 2010, she released a 3 part album, ‘Body Talk’ that blew everyone out of the water and finally everyone understood why I had been slipping her songs into dance mixes for the last 5 years.
When she hit the road and toured, I showed up at ticketmaster 10 minutes before they went on sale, and luckily secured a ticket to the show that I knew would sell out quickly. The night of the show my roommate and I strapped on our dancing shoes and walked into one of the best concerts of my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever been part of an audience as genuinely thrilled and transported as the crowd at that show. I’ve rarely seen a singer with no expensive set or wild stagecraft connect everyone and bring down the house so hard, dance around like a scene in flashdance all while somehow managing to nail every note in her set. I took a short video of several moments in the show that I’ve added to the end of this post; it shows only a small fraction of the ambience of everyone dancing together, so in love with this woman and her music. When she finally broke into her single, and my favorite song on the album ‘Dancing on my own’, the only word to describe what happened in that room would be ‘frenzy.’
For a long time now I’ve thought Robyn is the most underrated woman on the pop scene today. There’s something so great about watching someone be totally authentic to themselves in their performance, and to move along with her and everyone in that room who loved her was easily the the most memorable place I have ever danced. There are so many bigger, richer, shinier pop stars out there today and I’ve never seen any of them almost cave in a dance floor like she did that night. She’s going on tour again in the near future (I stalk her website every day for dates), and I highly recommend getting yourself a ticket to a show that I can promise will be amazing. It doesn’t matter if you go completely bombed, completely sober or somewhere in between, she will bring you a place that can’t be replicated with a substance. As for me, you know where I’ll be when she comes to town: right there on that dance floor, sober and loving it, just dancing on my own.