Even though more than a year has passed since the final installment of her damn near unimpeachable Body Talk trilogy was released, Robyn was the musical guest on this weekend’s Katy Perry-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live. As expected, it was endlessly entertaining: Her hair was awesome, her clothes were totally wacky, and her dancing… god, her dancing. It’s joyful and expressive and never reliant upon self-serious “sexy” faces or “angry” faces—truly a pleasure to behold. And as for her singing? Well, I don’t really know. There was some singing, certainly, but it’s hard to tell exactly how much of what we were hearing was being sung live and how much of it was from pre-recorded backing tracks.
I know a lot of people will argue that this doesn’t matter—that things like this have been going on in pop music forever and that different performers have different priorities—and I totally (mostly) get it. But it’s interesting to me nonetheless how this approach works so seamlessly in tandem with recent trends in production. As things become at once airier and more driven by the heavy layering of voices and sounds, there’s just such a vast array of things you could choose to listen to at any moment that you never really find yourself looking to be bowled over by a particularly powerful vocal track, even in a live setting. This can feel like an aesthetic dead end sometimes, especially how it’s been employed by indie rock bands over the past few years—rather than giving you a wealth of things to focus on, they tend to give you nothing at all—but in Robyn’s case, where there’s a bold idea being carried out at basically every turn, it works beautifully.