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Taking firm control of her artistic integrity

May 15, 2008|Pamela Chelin

IT MAKES no difference to Swedish singer Robyn (Robin Carlsson) when fans discovered her -- in the late 1990s as a mainstream teen pop star or 13 years later as an independent electro pop artist.

"I don't feel like I have to have everybody remember what I did before, and I don't feel like I have to detach myself from my previous albums either," the 28-year-old singer-songwriter says from Montreal, where she is on tour. "It's not about then and now. It's about the whole thing coming together."

That confluence -- and the second generation of her music -- is represented on "Robyn," the electro album released in the U.S. on April 29 on Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records, a record that has won her support among dance-pop enthusiasts and indie fans alike.

The release also signaled her liberation, finally, from the major-label system she felt constricted her development from her days as a teenager.

When she was 17, Robyn, with the help of veteran Swedish producer/hitmaker Max Martin (Ace of Base, Britney Spears) found the international spotlight with her hit single "Show Me Love," off the first of three albums she released in Sweden on BMG imprints RCA and Jive between 1995 and 2002. But after her initial success in the U.S., her latter two albums never earned domestic release, and problems between the artist and her label mounted.

"My options were minimized and I was compromising on almost everything," she says. "That is the problem I had for the 10 years I had within the industry. I ended up in a situation where I felt like I was censoring myself and hindering my development as an artist."

In 2005 Robyn bought herself out of her record deal and started her own company, Konichiwa Records (named after the famous "racial draft" skit on "Chappelle's Show" in which the Wu Tang Clan, declared to be Chinese, say, "Konichiwa, bitches").

"Robyn" was first released on her label in Sweden in 2005, and her broken-hearted ballad "With Every Heartbeat" became a No. 1 hit in England -- where she joined forces with Island (Universal) to release the record while retaining artistic control over all the decisions made involving its release. A licensing deal with Interscope brought "Robyn" to the U.S. this year.

Though she considers herself to be a pop artist, the 21st century Robyn, heavily influenced by Swedish duo the Knife (with whom Robyn collaborated on her album), mixes catchy straight-ahead pop numbers such as "Who's That Girl," with ballads such as the sparse and soulful piano-based "Eclipse" and edgier songs that sound as if they could be Peaches B-sides, such as "Konichiwa Bitches."

She's understandably enthusiastic about her second coming in North America.

"I've made the choices I've wanted to make to get to the place I'm in now," Robyn says.

"I'm really happy about being back, because it feels quite big for me that I've been able to start out really small and keep the integrity of this album intact through this whole process of taking the album outside of Sweden to the U.K. and then taking it here," she says.

"I'd still rather be a Swedish artist only than have to conform. It feels like a small victory for me. Also, it's nice to come back to a country where I've had a career and there are still a lot of people who are aware of my music and that there are a lot of new people in my audience. I feel I have the best of both worlds. I can release my music internationally, which is something I couldn't do from my kitchen in Stockholm, but still get to be a part of everything that affects my communication with my audience."

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theguide@latimes.com

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ROBYN

WHERE: The Wiltern, 3790 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

WHEN: 9 p.m. Saturday

PRICE: $20

INFO: (213) 388-1400

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