Parallel universes exist. If you need proof, just take a quick look at Robyn, former teenybopper turned pop starlet, AKA the Swedish answer to Britney Spears. The two girls somehow came from nearly the same beginning, yet couldn't have turned into such polar opposites if they tried.
Robyn first hit the States in 1997 with "Show Me Love," a late '90s jam that was produced by Max Martin. If that name sounds familiar, he was the man behind the curtain for hits by the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and most importantly, Ms. Spears. For a brief time there, Robyn, just like Britney, was an interchangeable major label moneymaking machine.
But whereas Britney turned into tabloid fodder, the Michael Jackson (great singles, all downhill from there) to Robyn's Prince (clearly the one with chops and staying power), Robyn took the artistic high road. When her label asked her to re-record her second album for American audiences, after they deemed it unmarketable, she declined. Long story short, over the next few years Robyn found herself adrift and in the eyes of most casual American listeners, a one-hit has-been.
Yet Robyn never disappeared to the State Fair or reality television weight-loss show circuit. Instead, she started her own label (Konichiwa Records) and recreated, reinvented, and revamped herself into a strange futuristic electro-disco diva. And, through this transformation, she managed to become a critical darling, hipster favorite, and a chart-topper, due in most part to the release of Robyn.
Out already for a few years overseas—with impressive worldwide sales and glowing acclaim—Robyn is about to hit our shores, and if there is any justice out there, the album will go gold 18 times over. It is brilliant; a powerhouse of manic beats, polished hooks, and dance-floor burners, the kind of record that bypasses the "guilty pleasure" status that plagues so many great pop records. Although chances are, Britney's Blackout will continue to sell and Robyn will remain queen of the parallel universe where I desperately wish I lived.