“You can’t really talk about stuff like that in America.”
Robyn’s imminent return is one of 2018’s most hotly-anticipated musical comebacks. The Swedish pop star has been largely absent from the public eye for eight years, and hasn’t released an album since 2010’s critically-acclaimed Body Talk (which featured the classics Dancing on My Own and Call Your Girlfriend). But earlier this month, she announced that Honey, her eighth studio album, would be dropping before the end of 2018.
Robyn’s enduring appeal can partly be attributed to the candidness of her lyrics, and her ability to write about emotions such as lust, jealousy and sadness – and experiences ranging from heartbreak to dancing to grief – in a way that feels frank and truthful. But the singer-songwriter-producer says that honesty hasn’t always worked to her advantage.
In fact, Robyn believes one of her albums wasn’t released in the US because it included songs that referenced abortion. In a new interview, she said her record company refused to release her second LP, My Truth, in the States because it tackled the subject of her having a termination.
“You can’t really talk about stuff like that in America, or you couldn’t at the time,” Robyn recently told The New York Times. “Not if you were an 18-year-old pop star.”
My Truth was released in 1999, and featured two tracks – Giving You Back (above) and 88 Days – in which she discussed having an abortion in her teens. The album didn’t just go unreleased in the US: it wasn’t sold anywhere outside Scandinavia, including in the UK, something Robyn has previously said was down to her refusal to re-record the lyrics for those tracks.
It’s worth noting that albums have been released in the US and UK since 1999 that address the subject of abortion without decrying it. Dido’s 1999 album No Angel features a song (Isobel) about a girl leaving Ireland to have an abortion, while Nicki Minaj’s 2014 album The Pinkprint includes a track that references the termination she had as a teenager (All Things Go).
However, given the cultural influence of the anti-choice movement in the US, it’s not surprising if Robyn’s record label were nervous about trying to sell My Truth over there.
Even today, abortion rights are not secure in the States – and there is particular concern that Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, could work to chip away at women’s reproductive rights if he is elected.
Speaking to The New York Times, Robyn described the first period of her career – around the time when her album was blocked from release outside of Scandinavia – as “totally unpleasant.”
But, she said, her fortunes changed once she launched her own record label in 2005. Through Konichiwa Records, Robyn released some of her biggest hits, including Dancing on My Own.
“A lot of people told me that they thought I was crazy, and that I would lose a lot of money,” she said. “If I would have followed their advice, none of this would have happened.”
Robyn: proof that marching to the beat of your own drum is always worth it.
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