Dancing In Tears: On Robyn’s “Missing U”

You’ve heard the new Robyn song, right?

I’m sure you have because, if you’re reading this, you are probably some fan of contemporary music or things that can be interpreted as “queer music” – and Robyn very much is that. The song – “Missing U” – is typical Robyn, which is to say it laments something sad set to dance music. This is her thing.

I want to say that this song is, in many way, her magnum opus, that it manifests this idea of “dancing while crying,” the tension of something so joyful (dancing) with subjects like intense loss (crying). She’s done this for years with songs like “Call Your Girlfriend,” “Dancing On My Own,” “Every Heartbeat,” and more that all get you moving while reflecting on breakups and let downs and the micro tragedies in life that can create macro riffs in one’s life. It’s the tension of the happy and sad that make her so appealing, a contemporary troubadour of our great discontent.

With “Missing U,” Robyn has does what she does but amplifies the sadness and danciness in a way that is unexpected in how expected it is. The song offers a cascade of pretty, arpeggiating synths that she enters the song on, to announce that she has realized that her relationship is over, which then quickly breaks the beauty into an arm pumping bass thump for her to reflect and analyze her relationship’s fall. “Now your scent on my pillows baby, at least you left me with something,” she sings before breaking into the chorus of looking at such empty spaces as bittersweet reminders of the joy that bring her back to the sadness. By no coincidence, the chorus brings back the cascade, the beauty under the thump, the heavy heartbeat, the sads.

“I miss you,” she repeats, before going back into self-analyzation. The song continues with this, offering more dance elements and near ambient hums to underscore self-exploration before coming back to emptiness. By the song’s end, in the final fucking seconds, she delivers the most devastating blow of what this emptiness is: “All the love you gave me still defines me.” Just as she prepared you to dance onward to the next song, she explains to you – to her lover – that she has to live on with the person’s influence on her body, in her point of view, in her looking at herself. Such is the tragedy of love: you and someone fuse together, making a breaking apart all the more bitter because you see them in yourself.

Heartbreaking, isn’t it? It’s the type of song that chokes you up, makes you get all teary while booty shaking. Thus is the joy of Robyn, an artist who has captured the spirit of fellow “dancing while crying” anthems like Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Sally Shapiro’s “Anorak Christmas” and “He Keeps Me Alive,” Joakim’s “Lonely Hearts,” Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You,” Tiga’s “Gentle Giant,” Autre Ne Veut’s “Counting,” and so many more. Robyn, as we know, is the queen of this sub-genre – and here’s hoping she can continue keeping us moving as we fall into tears.

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