“Dancing on My Own” – Robyn
(Words/music: Patrik Berger & Robyn, available on Body Talk, Part 1, Konichiwa 2010)
Sometimes the extraordinary isn’t complex. I sat down tonight to try to figure out my current favorite moment in “Dancing on My Own” – the wordless vocal Robyn sings for half a bar between the chorus’ final two lines. I thought it might be in the chords, but after picking up my guitar and checking (for the record, capo on 2, E-B-A with C#m-B-A at the end of the verse and chorus) I found it’s a fairly straightforward (and frequently used) progression. I marveled at it almost to the point of frustration before accepting that it’s just Robyn connecting the dots in the melody (and, if my ears are even remotely right, it’s echoed by the keyboard in the outro).
So much of what makes “Dancing on My Own” so compelling to me feels effortless and unforced. All of my favorite moments – the melodic line from above, the just-too-loud drum machine bringing the backing track back after the bridge, or all of the rapid-fire synthesizer notes pulsing throughout - prefer flawless execution over technical complexity. Even the lyrical content – situated in the final jealous cycle before being ready to move on – may be conflicted but is only complex to someone who hasn’t suffered and recovered from heartbreak. Just like the rest of the track, Robyn nails this state of mind – the moment right before rejection becomes empowerment. Or alternately, the music continues playing whether you have a dance partner or not.