The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #163: Dancing On My Own by Robyn (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #163: Dancing On My Own by Robyn.

Robyn is one of the more interesting figures in this entire countdown. She is Swedish, by birth, and is, by merit, as influential a singer, record producer and DJ in her homeland and all across Europe, as Taylor Swift would be in North America. The daughter of artists, Robyn began her career at the early age of ten, doing the voices for animated characters on Swedish television shows. At twelve, she composed and sang the theme song to the top-rated children’s TV show. At fourteen years of age, she was “discovered” by a Swedish band that had come to her school to give a workshop of Music and songwriting. Robyn performed for the band. They were so impressed that they contacted their own manager who, in turn, signed Robyn to a recording contract when she turned of legal age at sixteen.

Almost immediately, Robyn began recording dance-oriented, TechnoPop songs and had several early hits across Europe. However, one of her trademark personal characteristics has always been a fierce sense of personal and creative independence and so, after many disputes between herself and record company executives, who wanted to package her in ways which made her feel uncomfortable, Robyn allowed her contract to expire. It was at that time that she formed her own record label, as an early twenty-something, called Konichiwa Records, and began the next phase of her career as a record producer, herself. It was in this capacity that she recorded and released the song that has become her signature piece and that is, “Dancing On My Own”.

“Dancing On My Own” was released in 2010 and has been declared as being the #1 song, worldwide, in the decade of the 2010s by most major music magazines. This song has been featured in several movies and television shows around the world and has been adopted by feminist groups, as well as, groups who support LGBQT causes, as their anthem. It is a song that has been covered by many artists; most notably, by a man named Callum Scott, who sang a stripped down, acoustic version of “Dancing On My Own” for the TV show, “Britain’s Got Talent”. His performance on the show has been viewed on YouTube almost 50 million(!) times since.

The song, “Dancing On My Own” is set in a night club at last call. It is the story of a girl who suspects her boyfriend is cheating on her and goes to the club to confirm her suspicions, even though she knows it is “stupid”. While she is, quite literally, dancing by herself amid the throngs on the dance floor, she sees the man she loves in the arms of another. As the music plays, they kiss. She sees them. They don’t see her watching. The lights come up. The music fades away. The crowd disperses. She is left to leave the safety of the dance floor, armed with the knowledge that a new life awaits, beyond the doors of the club. “Dancing On My Own” is a song that celebrates the strength needed by those who find themselves as observers in their own lives. For many marginalized groups such as women (in a patriarchal society), people of colour, those with sexual orientations that go beyond the norm, they all see themselves reflected in the character that Robyn sings about in this song. They, also, all feel the strength of her resolve as the song ends. Like so many great bands (such as The Smiths), Robyn has tapped into a universal theme of being like an outsider and of feeling unseen. That she “sees” all of those disaffected souls with this song has been a life-altering experience for those feeling seen for the first time. Such is the power of music. Such is the power of “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn.

To put Robyn’s career into some perspective….she has been aptly compared to Sweden’s musical version of Royalty, which is Abba. As you read these words, Robyn stands as one of the most powerful and influential performers and producers in Europe. That she may not be as well known in North America is just fine with her. Robyn was never in the music business because of the money involved; it has always been about her Art and about her abiity to control her artistic vision. She has taken an uncompromising approach to her career and has been more than happy to focus her attention in Sweden and, to a larger extent, the rest of Europe. If North America wants her, they can come to her on her terms….which is what has happened with the song, “Dancing On My Own”. So, without further delay, here is the #1-rated song of this past decade, “Dancing On My Own by Robyn, as declared by Rolling Stone magazine, Pitchfork magazine, The New Music Express magazine, The Guardian newspaper, Slant magazine, Good Housekeeping(!), Harper’s Bazaar magazine, Stereogum Magazine *(Which I like a lot, if you want a music magazine to follow online.), Esquire magazine, Time magazine, NPR (National Public Radio) and many others, as well. If Robyn seems like a secret then, get ready for that secret to be revealed. Here is the #1 song of the 2010s….”Dancing On My Own” by Robyn. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Dancing On My Own”, as covered by Callum Scott, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Dancing On My Own”, as seen in the TV series, “Girls”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Robyn, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for shining the spotlight on the world’s best talent. Their wonderful website can be found here.

Author: Tom MacInnes

Among the many characters I play: husband, father, son, retired elementary school teacher, writer, Cape Bretoner, lover of hot tea and, above all else, a gentleman. I strive to make a positive difference in the lives of others. In Life, I have chosen to be kind.

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