Dancing on My Own

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"Dancing on My Own"
DancingOnMyOwn.jpg
Single by Robyn
from the album Body Talk Pt. 1
Released20 April 2010 (2010-04-20)
Genre
Length4:39
LabelKonichiwa
Songwriter(s)
  • Robyn
  • Patrik Berger
Producer(s)Patrik Berger
Robyn singles chronology
"The Girl and the Robot"
(2009)
"Dancing on My Own"
(2010)
"Hang with Me"
(2010)
Music video
"Dancing on My Own" on YouTube

"Dancing on My Own" is a song by Swedish singer Robyn, released on 20 April 2010 as the lead single from her fifth studio album, Body Talk Pt. 1 (2010), the first in her Body Talk series. The song was produced by Patrik Berger and co-produced by Robyn, with the two of them sharing writing credits. A stark mid-tempo electropop album version of the song was the first released then two more substantially different versions of the song, a layered mid-tempo dance-pop version for radio and an acoustic piano ballad version for BBC Radio 1, were released later that year. The song depicts a female protagonist who's dancing on her own in a club while watching her ex-boyfriend with another woman. Robyn's inspiration for the song came from situations she observed while on her previous tour, clubbing in Stockholm, her favorite "inherently sad gay disco anthems" and allegedly her own breakup.

Lauded in its initial reception by several music critics, many compared the song's theme of bittersweet loneliness to Robyn's previous singles "With Every Heartbeat" and "Be Mine!", ranking it as the greatest song of 2010. As the 2010s came to an end, numerous critics reassessed the influence of the song's original mid-tempo album version as "the ultimate sad banger"[1] on the poptimist movement, eventually ranking it as one of the greatest tracks of the decade. "Dancing on My Own" became Robyn's first number one in her native country following its live premiere on Swedish TV show Sommarkrysset and also reached the top ten in Denmark, Norway and the United Kingdom later that month.

An accompanying music video was first released on May 21, 2010, which shows Robyn portraying the protagonist on the outskirts of a packed club and cutscenes of her moving through the crowd. The song later earned a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards and was awarded "Best Song" at the Grammisgalan in Sweden. Broadcast performances and inclusion on various media promoted the song into the next decade, including most prominently Saturday Night Live, the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert, Mark Ronson's Love Lockdown: Video Mixtape, 2018 film Teen Spirit, reality TV show RuPaul's Drag Race (2009-present), teen-drama series Gossip Girl (2007-2012) and comedy-drama series Girls (2012-2017) and Orange is the New Black (2013-2019).

"Dancing On My Own" was covered by numerous artists, with several releases, especially of its downtempo version. Most prominently, an adult contemporary take inspired by Kings of Leon was released on 15 April 2016 by Britain's Got Talent album Calum Scott. The cover received polarizing reception, with many critics comparing it negatively to Robyn's original. Commercial reception of the former was strong throughout Europe after going viral on streaming services, particularly in the UK. An accompanying music video was released on 15 April 2016 that received over 400 million YouTube views in four years.

Inspiration[edit]

In November 2009, while deep into sessions for Body Talk Pt. 1 (2010) with prior collaborator Klas Åhlund,[2] Robyn's "stormy" six-year relationship with former MMA fighter turned contemporary visual artist Olof Inger was starting to fray.[3] "Tired of the broken heart",[4] Robyn returned to returned to writing about "sad love", a theme she told Z100's JJ Kincaid in 2011 remained prevalent in her work because it was universal yet continued to give her fresh ideas, describing a "crazy...novel" written in "three parts" she'd recently read on the "bathroom walls" of a "London bar" from the same woman that detailed her lament from "still [being] in love with this guy [that didn't] even know she exist[ed]".[5] Clubbing that "dark" month[6] more frequently and intentionally throughout Stockholm, Robyn became inspired people-watching at Berns, Café Opera's 'Sky City,' Hotel at Six's 'Hosoi,' Baba Stiltz's 'CIA'[7] and her and late friend Christian Falk's pop-up club nights throughout Hornstull Beach, 'Tutti Frutti'[8] and 'A Love Supreme,'[9] respectively (among others).

Reminiscing on her time in New York City for promotion of Robyn is Here (1997)'s American release as a "lonely misfit teenager shoulder-shimmying alone in a gloomy corner" of Club Shelter on their "near mythological" last few 'Body and Soul' nights,[10] Robyn knew she "wanted to make a song called 'Dancing On My Own'" but was still unsure "what it was going to be about".[11] Recalling the "real taste of global club culture" she gained from "five years on tour promoting Robyn (2005)", she noticed "something [was] changing" in "the dance world", especially in America. Revisiting recent trends, she realized it was "the last genre to...really be exploited or commercialized in the right way. It's really going to have its time now and not just be looked upon as kitsch."[12] Taking these experiences and Olof's stories from his time as a doorman hearing "how people act when they're insecure...[or] drunk", Robyn conceptualized the club as "an important place for our generation — almost like a church or a place where we go to experience something that's bigger than ourselves,"[13] building narratives about the club-goers' "hopes and...dreams about their big nights out":[14]

"People have so many expectations [and] so many wishes about what their night is going to be: if they're going to meet that person, have a fun time with their friends, have a good high, hear good music. People [...] turn into themselves in a way, and they go to experience some kind of emotion. But it's not always about fun. There's a destructive side to it. But I'm more into the empowerment of going out, because it's always been the place where I could be myself and get inspired. Even if I'm sad, dancing is a way to let stuff out."[15]

Following the example of the "inherently sad, gay disco anthems" she loved, including Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself" (1980),[16] Ultravox's "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" (1984), and tracks by Sylvester, Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder,[17] the song's storyline came to her, picturing "the god-awful feeling of a woman who is watching her ex get with someone new at a club".[18] After Expressen and Aftonbladet reported in January 2011 that Robyn's then-fiance Olof Inger had moved out of their Stockholm apartment in December and their three-year engagement was dissolved shortly after New Year's Day, speculation the song's narrative was in reality Robyn's actual experience with Olof provoked a "terse" response from her spokesman Lina Thomsgård, indicating her client would never discuss her personal life publicly.[19][20]

Creation[edit]

"With an idea of a chorus in her mind," Robyn wanted to work further with Åhlund but couldn't stop "toying" with the song on her own, eventually reaching out to prior collaborator Patrik Berger for a "different perspective". Patrik had prepared for weeks before their first session at his Stockholm studio with a "slew of electronic beats and tracks for Robyn to write over". All of this was for naught as the first thing she said was, "'Can we sit down and write a song on an acoustic guitar today? I'm so tired of writing over electronic beats and tracks.'" Their first result was an "acoustic 'campfire'" demo with "'three chords'" resembling a "'country song'". The chorus came first quickly, followed by the chords and parts of the melody. After days of "fatten[ing]...up" that demo, the two of them realized "...they preferred the original and stripped it all back down"[21][22] again. Brainstorming at the Korg Mono/Poly in his "red velvet" lined Söder cabin studio, Patrik thought about his career up until then as a pop pupil to Max Martin's "Machine"[23] that dominated his native country of Sweden's music industry and realized he wanted to break through what singer Seinabo Sey would go on to describe as the "Swedish [...] formula":[24]

"Martin's school of pop is getting old: It makes songs that sound wonderful, but feel inherently repetitive. Sweden's future will be brightest [...] if the kids aren't afraid of getting a little weird. [You have to aim] for a 'window' of song that captures commercial appeal without destroying music's mysteries. That little window is so tiny, you have to throw a lot of balls to see one thing cut through that little crack – to actually change something. [...] When I did that song, so many people were telling me what I should do with it. [...] They were so angry that I produced it in the way that I did. Why? No, it should be like this – it should be raw and gritty."[23]

Swapping "the acoustic guitar for synthesizers with frayed edges and a beat that aimed for a TKO,"[25] Robyn and Patrik finally settled on a blueprint for the final track (this demo being partly revealed in 2018 at the Red Bull Music Academy in New York).[26] From there, a "lot of time" was spent "on the individual components of the song: the drums, the bass and the pounding staccato it starts with." Lyrically, Robyn and Patrik were "super picky" and took even longer. Obsessively trying to come up with the right words to not "sugar-coat the experience" of all of the "messy moments of rejection," they both wanted "uncomfortably honest" lyrics designed to have each phrase read like a "little poem". "Weeks" were spent "texting each other...on lines" with "a couple of days [spent] on each" that filled a "handful of notebooks" by the end, with one entirely "scrapped", as "every single word needed to feel right."[27][28][22]

Release[edit]

Soon after completion of the song, Robyn became "conflicted" about having her collaborators and friends hear it. Recalling her excitement upon initially "'sending the demo to the record label and telling them I thought we had a good single'", its themes of "nostalgia and sentimentality" in retrospect came across like a "teenage version of herself" she was "happy to let go of". Robyn ended up deciding to include the song on Body Talk Pt. 1, working through "difficult" early promotion as these themes "didn't...feel true to [her]" any longer.[29] The public first heard a portion of the final recording of the album version on 10 March 2010 on Robyn's car radio when Robyn ended up playing it for episode 8 of the second season of SVT1's Dom kallar oss artister that followed in docu-style her preparation in Stockholm for the release for several days including choreography, production, and logotype photos.[30]

Following the release of Body Talk Pt. 1's promotional singles on 13 April, the song's original album version first leaked to social media on approximately 19 April,[31] leading to a limited digital release of the single's album version on 20 April.[32] Following the release of its music video to Vimeo on 31 May 2010 (set to the radio version of the track), its album version was officially released to all intended markets and platforms on 1 June 2010 as Body Talk Pt. 1's lead single. Its radio version was released as a bonus track to the album's digital version on 11 June 2010 and a downtempo acoustic piano-based version was then released on Radio 1's Live Lounge – Volume 5 on 25 October 2010. The radio version was distributed for mainstream airplay in the United States on 2 November 2010 and it was again released on certain editions of the end-of-year series compilation with new songs, Body Talk, on 22 November 2010.

Production[edit]

"Dancing on My Own" was composed by Robyn and Patrik Berger. Incorporating elements of electro and disco, two substantially different versions of the midtempo dance-pop and electropop ballad[33] were released (neither to be confused with her downtempo acoustic piano version released later and apart from the Body Talk project). The stark, cinematic album version focuses on the "iconic throbbing bass backbone" that undergirds the track, made using the Korg Mono/Poly (MP-4) analog synthesizer and accented with crisp percussive effects and twinkling arpeggiated accents.[34] The blended, hyperactive radio version (used for the music video) greatly pulls focus from that base to blend it with several more synth and percussive lines, including chiming arpeggiated fourths a couple octaves above the main melody.[35] James Montgomery of MTV News described the song as "a computerized kaleidoscope of chippy, chiming blips and piston-like drums."[36] Robyn told BBC Newsbeat's Steve Holden that she's "proud" of the track as "it features elements of 'many different worlds' she loves, including 'Prince songs, 80s rock ballads and queer electronica.'"

Both midtempo versions are performed in the key of G major with a tempo of 117 beats per minute in common time, which NPR's Sam Sanders notes was "perfectly [and likely deliberately] situated pretty close to what scientists say is the preferred walking tempo for humans," following the "immediately familiar one-five-four" chord progression of G5–D5–C5, with Robyn's vocals spanning from D4 to E5.[37][38] USC musicologist Nate Sloan highlighted the six seconds of silence deliberately placed in the album version between each line in the verses: "Robyn wants you to live in that space – to give you time to insert all of your emotions and stories and feelings into the seconds between the lines.[39]

Lyrics[edit]

Under the "big black sky over my town" (Robyn's favorite lyric and love letter to the weather in her home city of Stockholm[40]), the song depicts a woman who is dancing on her own in a crowded club while watching her ex-lover dancing with and embracing another woman, later singing "I just wanna dance all night," which represents (as Robyn and Patrik explain) "the precise moment on the dancefloor you have to get your 'desperation, frustration and sadness out.' "[22] Some critics saw her attempts to have him notice her and/or muster the strength to interrupt the two of them as likely failing when a small bell effect resembling last call rings at the climax of the song in the middle of its bridge. Over lyrics described by American Songwriter's Jim Beviglia as a "tortuous, cinematic description of the last dance,"[41] the effect hits right at its second line, "the lights go on, the music dies," the echo lingering before its last, "I just came to say goodbye," implying that the protagonist's time has run out.[42] There is "deliberately" no additional context lyrically or in the music video as to how the female protagonist knows her ex would be in the club in the first place other than "Somebody said you got a new friend," and "I know where you at, I bet she's around," nor is it purposefully obtuse to replicate the protagonist not 'showing her hand' to the ex she's confronting and/or trying to win back, as Robyn explained to Z100's JJ Kincaid:

"I think when I write songs I like to do it in a way that enables the listener to listen to it in their own way so I don't want to tell you what it's about. It's about what the song is talking about, of course, it's about love sickness and the total outsider in the middle of a crowd in a club but it's also an empowering song. She's not a victim, she's going there to take care of herself and have a good time even though she's pretty dramatic and crazy...I don't think there is a 'wrong' [interpretation] – whatever people feel when they listen to my music that's fine. I think writing songs is not about just telling it exactly how it was because sometimes it's not as interesting as it is in the song. Writing songs is about bringing that situation or emotion out in a way that's makes you as a listener connect to it in your own way...I'm just fascinated by people."[43]

"Dancing on My Own" has been described as a heartbreak anthem, with emotional lyrics compared to the themes of her previous singles, "With Every Heartbeat" and "Be Mine!"[36] As Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal described the single as sounding "...like what we've come to expect from a Robyn song," Robyn answered that she "felt like I really found my voice on the last album [...] I wrote 'With Every Heartbeat', so there's a reason why 'Dancing on My Own' sounds similar. For me, that's a good thing."[44] However, in contrast to "With Every Heartbeat" being "grimly optimistic", The Guardian's Peter Robinson noted "Dancing on My Own" offers "no hope that things may get better."[42] As Robyn shared with MTV News, "I mean, for me, of course it's a sad love song, but it's a strong song as well, or at least that's what I want people to feel when they listen to it."[36] "I'm a fan of light and dark at the same time," she explained to Kindness at Red Bull Music Academy: "When there's just happiness or just sadness, it just gets boring. That's so predictable. The magic to me is when there are lots of things going on at the same time. That's much more satisfying. That's what I'm drawn to when I make music."[45] The song conveys "not only darkness" but a sense of "empowerment" for a "new start," Berger detailed to Billboard's Christine Werthman: " 'I'm sad, but I'm alright somehow.' You've gotta cheer up a little bit and move on."[46]

"I know where you're at, I bet she's around," represents the 'self-destructive part of you, when we know we shouldn't go there....like scratching a wound,'" Berger unpacked with BBC Newsbeat and NPR: "One that gets at an extremely teenage feeling: "Yeah, I know it's stupid, I just gotta see it for myself" shows 'You're not being the smartest person on the planet. You're not being the nicest, you're not being the best. You're just a loser – and that's fine.'"[40][47] “We wanted to find that bittersweet emotion of actually making [it feel that] if you’re being left by somebody, [you're] not trying to act strong [with the] ‘I’m gonna move on and I’m too good for you’ kind of crap,” he elaborated to Billboard: “It was more about, ‘It feels like s--t and I’m not gonna be the best person now. I’m just gonna be miserable…’ You can't stop yourself." Beviglia noted the lines “Stilettos [and] broken bottles, I’m spinning around in circles” painted a picture "only a veteran of the clubs would know, all while subtly capturing her character's ineffectuality," while Montgomery observed that the "thoroughly sad song [talks] about Robyn losing her man to another woman, but also about the notion of feeling alone in a crowded room, of being lost and unloved and having no other choice but to be OK with those things," especially at what Beviglia described as "the knockout refrain where the narrator is unseen and all-seeing, with the lines "I'm in the corner, watching you kiss her. I'm right over here, why can't you see me?", then the explanation of "her conundrum in direct devastating terms": "I'm giving it my all, but I'm not the girl you're taking home. I keep dancing on my own." He also saw the inclusion of the word "keep" in that last line as "crucial" for the track to "open a world of new possibilities about the heroine" for the listener beyond the first impression she's just "defeated," including that she's possibly "resilient" or even "delusional," and that regardless, it showed "there’s triumph in just making it out onto the floor...dancing on [your] own is preferable to not dancing at all."[41][36][42]

Music video[edit]

Robyn in Sandra Backlund lip-syncing to camera in rehearsal setting

The music video for "Dancing on My Own" was filmed in a studio in Stockholm, Sweden. It was directed by Max Vitali, who previously worked with Robyn on the second music video for her 2005 single "Be Mine!", choreographed by Maria "Decida" Wahlberg, styled by Naomi Itkes and produced by Nils Ljunggren.[48][49] Visually, Vitali wanted the video to be simple, resembling Robyn's live performances and her then-upcoming tour.[50] In a behind-the-scenes video, Robyn said, "It's going to be looking a little bit like what I'm going to bring on tour. So it's a performance video but it's also going to be in I guess something like a rave or like a club or somewhere where people are dancing, "[51] explaining that the video is about being sad on the dance floor.[51] The video premiered via Robyn's official Vimeo account on 21 May 2010.[52] One day earlier, a behind-the-scenes video was uploaded to her official website.[53]

The video moves between three cutscenes depicting different settings Robyn is in, playing the protagonist depicted in the song while lip-syncing the lyrics as the radio version of the track is played. The first setting is in a darkened club where Robyn is standing still then walking and/or dancing amongst the crowd in the center of the dancefloor while wearing Philip Van De Roq jewellery chains attached to her ear and lapel. The second setting is her dancing in a dark hallway on the edge of the dancefloor near stacks of chairs and other building storage while wearing an altered Alexander Wang dress. In both of these settings she is occasionally watching her ex with another woman and trying to get his attention – though not overtly, nor is there an obvious reference as to who the ex and his girlfriend are among the many club goers depicted.[54] In the final setting of cutscene, Robyn is singing whilst standing still then dancing in a stationary place while wearing Sandra Backlund knitted armour in front of an empty microphone stand that's centered in a "harshly lit rehearsal" setting with an elaborate stage-like contraption wall of spotlights, sound/lighting equipment, fog machines and mirrors behind her. As the song comes to an end, Robyn is shown opening a darkly lit door back in the club to leave.

Decida's choreography for Robyn to turn her back to the camera and feign intimacy with another person by wrapping her arms around herself was designed as a "moment of levity" from her "serious" attempts to get her ex's attention, while her punching gyrations were inspired by the "angry energy" of Rosie Perez's famous opening sequence in Spike Lee's seminal 1989 film Do The Right Thing. Robyn would continue to use both moves in subsequent live performances of the song.[55] Reassessing Naomi's styling in the video years later, Robyn said she loved everything except her hair, describing it to i-D as "ridiculous" and that she "[wasn't] sure what we were thinking there!"[56]

Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork wrote of the video, "When you're a star, sometimes all you need to do is put on a casually stylish outfit, gaze into a lens, move your limbs around in a rhythmic manner, and-- just like that-- a high-quality music video is born. Robyn is a star. And that's exactly what happens in this video."[57] Leslie Simon of MTV Buzzworthy named it a "Video You Need To Know" and wrote, "Amid a sea of strobe lights and PDA-stricken couples, Robyn seems cautiously fed up with dancing solo. Sad. We'll dance with you, lady!"[58]

Reception[edit]

Critical[edit]

"Dancing on My Own" received widespread initial acclaim from music critics and publications. Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal appreciated it showed "the scuffs on her scepter" in comparison to her other promo singles, awarding it their infamous "Best New Music" label the day of release. The outlet's Tom Breihan during its promotion would deem it her "Euro-pop masterpiece."[59][60] Nick Levine of Digital Spy gave the song five out of five stars and wrote that "'Dancing on My Own' is a misty-eyed electro-disco tune that's every bit as emotive as 'With Every Heartbeat' and 'Be Mine' [...] If your bottom lip's not quivering like the bassline by the time the second chorus hits, you've taken waaay too many mood stabilisers."[61] Luke Lewis of NME referred to the song as "a comet-trail of sadness and exhilaration that's easily the equal of Robyn's breakthrough hit, 'With Every Heartbeat.'"[62] The Guardian's Michael Hann stated that song's "pulsing synths and electronic percussion manage to sound both jackbooted and ineffably melancholy."[63] Jer Fairall wrote for PopMatters that "[t]he aggressive stun-gun rhythm of 'Dancing on My Own' can't hide a classic drama-played-out-on-the-dancefloor scenario inherited from standard bearers like ABBA's 'Dancing Queen' and Madonna's 'Into the Groove', nor is it cold enough not to melt at the touch of Robyn's warm, yearning vocals or the song's shimmering keyboard chime."[64] Matthew Horton of BBC Music described "Dancing on My Own" – along with "Fembot" and "Cry When You Get Older" – as "scorchingly catchy, and laced with Robyn's familiar cordial of sparkling hook mixed with unutterable poignancy."[65]

Slant Magazine named "Dancing on My Own" the best song of 2010, writing: "Few artists risk Robyn's emotional nakedness, and with 'Dancing on My Own' she reveals the exquisite flipside to her more empowered 'With Every Heartbeat'".[66] The Guardian named it the best song of the year as well, writing: "'Dancing on My Own' is an extraordinary addition to Robyn's canon of skewed love songs; thoughtful and romantic enough for stuck-on-repeat listening, but with a pop sensibility that makes you want to head out in search of a dancefloor."[63] Pitchfork named it the fourth best of 2010, saying that it "demonstrate[s] she is the Rocky Balboa of pop music."[67] Rolling Stone named it the twenty-sixth best song of 2010, writing: "The Swedish diva spots her beloved with another girl – then turns her sadness into sparkling pop, perfect for solo freakouts."[68] The song landed at number six on MTV's Best Songs of 2010, with James Montgomery writing: "as soon as 'Dancing' gets to that hair-raising build – a breathless rush of drums and adrenaline – you're no longer thinking about what Robyn's saying, really." In January 2011, the American music magazine The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop annual critics' poll ranked "Dancing on My Own" at number three to find the best music of 2010. The song was nominated at the 53rd Grammy Awards in the category Best Dance Recording,[69] but lost to "Only Girl (In the World)" by Rihanna.[70]

Commercial[edit]

"Dancing on My Own" debuted at number two on the Sverigetopplistan chart on the issue dated 11 June 2010. The following weeks, the song ascended and descended between number two and number three, before reaching the top position on the issue dated 30 July 2010.[71] The song became Robyn's first number one on the chart, as well as her seventh top-ten hit.[71] In Denmark, "Dancing on My Own" debuted at number thirty-three on the issue dated 18 June 2010. After steadily ascending on the chart for several weeks, the song reached its peak of number two on the issue dated 6 August 2010. It has since then been certified platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in Denmark for selling over 30,000 units.[72] In Norway, the song debuted at number six, which became its peak.[73]

The song peaked at number twenty-two on the European Hot 100 Singles chart, becoming her highest peaking song on the chart. On the UK Singles Chart, it debuted and peaked at number eight on the issue dated 26 June 2010,[74] immediately becoming Robyn's best charting single in the country since "With Every Heartbeat" in 2007.[74] "Dancing on My Own" also reached number three on the UK Dance Chart.[75] In the United States, "Dancing on My Own" debuted at number forty on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. On the issue dated 17 July 2010, it reached its peak of number three and stayed on that position for two weeks.[76]

Media[edit]

Robyn performing "Dancing on My Own" at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert

Performance[edit]

On June 5 after she gave her live premiere of the track's midtempo version for Sommarkrysset on TV4 at the Stora Scenen in Stockholm's Gröna Lund amusement park, her UK premiere of that version aired from a taped performance filmed in a gazebo on the set of the second season and third episode of T4's The Hollyoaks Music Show.[77][78] On 16 June 2010 Robyn premiered the downtempo version of the track on BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge and also performed a cover of Alicia Keys' "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart," later releasing her track on Radio 1's Live Lounge – Volume 5.[79][80] She also performed the downtempo version for London's Capital 95.8 FM's Rimmel Room during a live session on 21 June 2010, in addition to a piano version of "Hang With Me" and a stripped-down version of "With Every Heartbeat".[81][82] The first live performance of the track on US television was on the Late Show with David Letterman on 19 July 2010.[83]

On 30 July 2010, she took a break from her joint All Hearts with American singer Kelis to appear on iHeartRadio in New York City, where she performed the midtempo electropop version of "Dancing on My Own" and again her cover of Alicia Keys' "Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart".[84] On 12 September 2010, Robyn performed a remix of the midtempo version with in-house DJ deadmau5 at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, truncated on their live concert feed for a commercial break.[85] The two did not rehearse the performance until the morning of the show, and Robyn said, "I met him for, like, five minutes, and then we were playing."[86] A few days later, Robyn spoke to MTV News about the performance, saying, "usually, awards shows can be so strange, but [the VMAs] felt really real. There were so many stars there and so many expectations, so I wanted to make sure I went up onstage and did something that felt real, and I got all this love from all the people at MTV. I felt really wanted. It was really amazing." The remix has not been released.[86] On 13 October 2010, Robyn performed the downtempo version on Belgian station Studio Brussel.[87]

On 5 November 2010 on the eleventh episode of SVT's Klubbland mini-documentary series, Robyn's performance of the track was rebroadcast from her 8 October 2010 Body Talk Tour date at the Falconersalen in Copenhagen.[88][89] On 11 November 2010, she performed the song on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.[90] On 24 November 2010, she performed it on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.[91] On 11 December 2010, she performed it alongside "Indestructible" and "Jag vet en dejlig rosa" at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway.[92] On 17 January 2011, Robyn attended the Grammisgalan at the Kungliga Operan in Stockholm, Sweden to accept the awards for Best Song (for "Dancing on My Own"), Best Album, Best Female Artist and Best Composer.[93] On 15 March 2011 she performed the song along with "Fembot" and "With Every Heartbeat" at Studio Hamburg, Germany as part of a promotional mini-concert for Deutsche Telekom's Telekom Street Gigs, later broadcast on ProSieben's We Love In Concert series.[94] On 9 April 2011, Robyn infamously crowd-surfed during her headlining concert at Jeffrey Sanker's White Party Palm Springs, immortalized with a photograph by Joe Scarnici at Getty later used by NME to caption their 10-year anniversary retrospective of the Body Talk series.[95] On 13 April 2011 she performed the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show,[96] the next day she performed the track on an outdoor stage on Jimmy Kimmel Live![97] and the day after that SVT aired a documentary "Musik Special" on Robyn's career, featuring a rebroadcast of the track's taping from the 15 December 2010 concert from Robyn's Body Talk Tour at Berns Salonger in Stockholm.[98] In late May 2011, Robyn performed for California's Great America's Gay Days Celebration.[99]

On 7 June 2011, a live concert taping of the track commissioned by Konichiwa Records from Robyn's 3 August 2010 performance at the Trocadero in Philadelphia was posted to social media to promote the track.[100] She also performed the track on MTV Live for a live television broadcast concert at superclub Amnesia in Ibiza on 26 August 2011 as part of the I Want My MTV Ibiza series.[101] On 10 December 2011, Robyn performed the song on Saturday Night Live.[102] On 1 May 2020, Robyn sang it live over the recording while dancing and holding a selfie stick in a performance from a room of floor-length mirrors with a smoke machine directed by Robyn, Crille Forsberg and Maria ‘Decida’ Wahlberg with lighting by Aila Esko as her video portion of Mark Ronson's "star-studded" 90-minute YouTube livestream Love Lockdown 'video mixtape' quarantine dance party. This livestream mixtape was designed to help Google and YouTube hit their $7.5 million target goal for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization through the UN Foundation. Robyn later uploaded her portion of the livestream as a stand-alone video to her channel, and, with the song taking on a "different meaning" amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it was seen as a highlight by Triple J's Al Newstead[103] and The A.V. Club's Allison Shoemaker.[104]

Television[edit]

The song was featured over Chuck and Blair's sex scene in the final moments of the 7th episode of the Season 4 broadcast on 1 November 2010 of The CW teen drama Gossip Girl titled "War at the Roses". Set at the end of Blair's birthday following a severing by she and Chuck of their "pretense of a treaty," Robyn also played herself earlier in the episode as the hired talent for the party, performing an acoustic rendition of "Hang with Me".

The song was also featured playing on Hannah's laptop as she's trying to "craft the perfect tweet about feeling so miserable for her 26 followers" then under her dialogue to roommate (and then good friend) Marnie in the final scene and final credits of the third episode (entitled what she ends up tweeting) "All Adventurous Women Do" for the first season of the HBO comedy-drama series Girls, broadcast on 29 April 2012. Hannah reveals to Marnie (who walks in after work on Hannah dancing to the track) that Hannah's ex-boyfriend Elijah is gay and they end up laughing then dancing the humiliating, awkward and hilarious realization away in the apartment bedroom together. Actress Lena Dunham who played Hannah described the atmosphere on set following the taping in a retrospective to BBC Newsbeat as originally meant to be "so brief and light," but ending up taking on "so much importance because it marked the first time myself and Alison felt comfortable in our characters. You could feel the power and love that went into the song [and] off camera the whole crew was dancing and people were crying." The track ended up becoming the lead cut from the first volume of the series' soundtrack, released on 8 January 2013, then was like "having a companion" for Lena as it accompanied what she described as her "very public" walk to the stage in 2013 to accept the show's first award for "Best Performance in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy" on 13 January 2013 at the 70th Golden Globe Awards, with the show itself winning "Best Series – Comedy" subsequently (also accompanied by the track) at the same ceremony. According to label sources that spoke to Billboard and their reporting on Nielsen SoundScan subsequently, the track had its third best tracking week of sales ending the day of the ceremony at 7,000+ copies, with its first and second best tracking weeks immediately following the episode broadcast itself, at 23,000+ and 9,000+ copies, respectively. Several critics and fans years after the series ended would assess the track's use as not just an episode highlight but series peak, with Lena describing the moment as "magical" and Robyn herself calling it "genius."[105][106][107]

The song was the selection for the episode-closing 'Lip-Sync For Your Life' challenge to stay in the race between competitors Jujubee and Raven in the fifth and second-to-last episode, entitled "Dynamic Drag Duos," of the (then) Logo TV series RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars (season 1), broadcast on 19 November 2012 and subsequently deemed by many critics including Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky as "one of the most dramatic moments in Drag Race history." Moving from the "melodramatic" interview announcement by Raven that she "did not want to have to lip-sync again" but would "fight for my spot to stay in this competition” to her "sweet" embrace and dance with Jujubee, then the "dramatic" subsequent breakdown by Jujubee crying "I can't breathe...I didn't want to do that!" and finally a "visibly distraught" judges' panel reaching the stunning decision announced by RuPaul that "shante, you both stay,” the scene would eventually become known as what Dazed described as an "iconic moment in the franchise." Robyn would describe the scene as "amazing" to Entertainment Weekly's Joey Nolfi prior to the release of her own stint as guest-panelist, Episode 2 of Season 12, entitled "You Don't Know Me," which aired on 6 March 2020: "I love that they’re already crying...that my song is making them hug! I would’ve loved after the line ‘I’m just gonna dance all night,’ I wish they would’ve danced a little bit there but I just think it's the sweetest performance ever. I love that they're supporting each other.... it's in the spirit of the song!" Describing her "gateway drug" to "binging" the series as past contestant Detox's attendance at "every single American show during the Body Talk Tour," she went on to discuss her admiration for drag culture and RuPaul as well as unpack concepts surrounding her own androgynous imagery throughout her career.[108][109][110]

The song was played on the boombox for the inmates party then under the dialogue for the ensuing drama in the complex next to it in the final scene of Episode 7 of Season 4 of the Netflix women's prison comedy-drama series Orange Is The New Black, broadcast on 17 June 2016. Piper Chapman, following her welcoming back of Nichols to Litchfield on the outskirts of the party after a "series of selfish decisions" is tricked, kidnapped from the party, tortured and held down in the kitchen near one of the grills by members of Maria Ruiz's Dominican gang. She's then branded by one of them, Red, with a swastika hidden in a window shape in retaliation for accidentally starting (then cozying up for protection to) a White Power gang.[111][112] Called one of the "best music moments" of the show by Beat's Kate Streader, the song's euphoria reflected in the inmates dancing takes that jarring turn to a "whole new meaning" that reflects Robyn's "woeful crooning" and "pained sentiment" in a scene called one of the "most shocking moments" in the show's history by Digital Spy's Ian Sandwell.

Impact[edit]

Revisit[edit]

Many years later Robyn and Patrik realized their leaps of faith were worth it. After "taking a step back from what she'd created", then "working on herself" (including years of "intensive psychotherapy" for other issues), Robyn felt the song had "moved on from its beginnings" and was no longer conflicted about playing it live, seeing that it had "become something that took on meaning for a lot of people in different ways." Meanwhile, Patrik Berger was reaffirmed of his decision to break from Max Martin's formula as he said the track became "one of those songs where people came up to me, talking about how much it mattered."[107][47][23] Towards the latter part of the 2010s, especially following her return after a "lengthy" solo hiatus with 2018's Honey upon whose tour all of her audiences participated in a takeover of the song's chorus, numerous critics revisited the strength and impact of Robyn's original midtempo version of the track.[113]

Rankings[edit]

In June 2018, Rolling Stone ranked it 19th on its list of 'The 100 Greatest Songs of the Century – So Far' and in October 2020, The Guardian's Alexis Petridis called it "the greatest pop single of the past 20 years".[114][115] In March 2020, after compiling over 35 global outlets' countdowns and 550 tracks, critics' algorithmic aggregator Acclaimed Music went on to rank it as the greatest song of the 2010s.[116] The track was considered the greatest of the decade by Rolling Stone,[117] NME,[118] Stereogum,[119] Slant,[120] Consequence of Sound,[121] The Associated Press,[122] Insider,[123] Esquire,[124] iNews,[125] Vanyaland[126] and Audiofemme.[127] Time,[128] NPR listeners,[129] Paste,[130] Good Housekeeping,[131] The Interns[132] and The Wild Honey Pie[133] ranked it second, Pitchfork third,[134] Elle and Treble fourth[135][136] and USA Today ninth.[137] Gorilla vs. Bear ranked it 12th,[138] Crack Magazine 13th,[139] NBHAP 15th,[140] Uproxx 18th[141] and Harper's Bazaar 22nd.[142]

Career[edit]

Music critic Sasha Geffen assessed the ironic full circle Robyn took following her acrimonious career split in 1998 from music industry titan Max Martin, co-producer of her hits from Denniz Pop's first mid-90s teen-pop wave, "Show Me Love" and "Do You Know What It Takes". Slighted from her rejection to follow Cheiron Studios and Jive's new aesthetic pushing harder into the R&B undertones of her debut but as a jailbait muse with a new heavy metal-accented and hard funk-inflected teen-pop in favor of an indie androgyny following the hard-edged synth-pop of The Knife they went on to mold it to a then little-known Britney Spears. Telling NPR's Sam Sanders she saw the track (and accompanying album) as the ultimate payoff for the enormous risks Robyn took with the "last things she would try before quitting music," including making her own label and doing a 180 on her image in less than a decade, Geffen felt Robyn "succeeded because she still has teen pop in her heart, even if she broke up with that part of the industry. It's important to see her as a teenager who survived. She's learned to carry the intensity of teenage emotion into perfectly adult pop songs ... which I think is incredible."[143] Wired's Jenna Wortham brutally contrasted the life trajectories of the two "pretty blond pop stars" following their fated career choices. Detailing "Maverick Swede" and "UNICEF ambassador" Robyn only "shaved the sides of her head to sharpen her image," Wortham pointed out she "carried a tune, wrote her own songs, and fretted over artistic integrity" and after "telling Jive to shove it" when they "demanded more hits" was on an ascent to "hipster stardom" thanks to "bankable talent" and a "credible, long-arc career." She then soberly assessed Britney as having been a "Lolita lust object of creepy middle-aged men everywhere" who "shaved her head in an apparent cry for help," amidst "making out with Madonna, a messy divorce, custody battle, and 5150" that was now paying the price for accepting the devil's bargain that was Jive's offer, becoming "Forbes' most powerful celebrity in the world" only to plummet "towards madness."[144] Following this choice Robyn bought out of her own contract in 2004, buried the hatchet in her working relationship with Max in the late 2000s (including collaborating on her 2010 Body Talk track "Time Machine") then went on to inspire many of his collaborators by the early 2010s. Her departure from Jive was foreshadowed while explaining her frustration with American culture as it explained her place in the industry to BBC's The O-Zone in 1997, she expanded on this concept with Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal to clarify comments she made to Bon's Carsten Höller in Spring 2010 then described how her evolution dovetailed with the rise of social media to Z100's JJ Kincaid in April 2011:

"That's the whole thing with the States. They like to put people in boxes because then they know where they are and they won't be harmed by them. It's very scary for them if...I'm 18, I'm blonde, I'm Swedish and I listen to R&B and hip-hop and I know more about African culture than a lot of them (even a lot of black people in the States) and at the same time, I'm very proud of my culture and I'm very Scandinavian. It really scares them sometimes. You know?"[145]

"The world of tastemakers with Fever Ray is a completely different world than the commercial industry I grew up in. Sometimes I write songs that just come out in a pop format because I grew up on melody and these amazing artists during the 80s. It's my tradition and it's something that I can't really control. At the same time, I also have this person in me that's like, 'Oh, now I'm doing something very different with Royksopp.' It's really important for me to not take this whole thing too seriously – it's pop music. But at the same time it has to mean something to me. I like dealing with that balance. That's what inspires and fascinates me about what I do. It's a challenge to be a part of the record industry as it's so fucked up."[146]

"What feels interesting nowadays in not only the glossy packaging – content is so much more important now...the late 90s that I was a part of was a time where music was marketed so hard-core to different audiences it was really hard for younger generations to connect to music in an organic way like when I was a kid. That may explain why illegal downloading dominates now. The internet's changed everything – they show what they like and gravitate towards it. I like that – I think it's a really interesting time where things are happening in unexpected ways."[147]

Poptimism[edit]

Released at what Harper's Bazaar's Natalie Maher deemed "the height of the pop renaissance" of the late 2000s/early 2010s, several columnists thought it took a decade for the song's influence to be appreciated critically due to the sharp contrast with its initial commercial reception, a result of several factors including its tone and theme. "Seamlessly ushering dance music to the forefront of the pop continuum by making a record and a single that was easily adaptable to radio play but didn’t alienate its raw emotions, delivering a certain edge and undeniable melancholia", it arrived "ironically" as iNews' Dave Fawbert described it[125] "just when brainless EDM started taking off in the US", "pop was at its biggest, boldest and brashest" and as Treble's Jeff Terich observed, "the protagonist of every other pop hit from the early half of the decade [turned] a possible sexual encounter with a nightclub fling into the 'Most Important Moment on Earth,'" (and Robyn reminded us that "no, it doesn’t always work out that way").[136] "Never touching the Hot 100" as Pitchfork's Ryan Dombal noted[148] Fawbert saw it taking "another nine-and-a-half years" to reveal its impact over the course of the decade after "slowly unleashing its tentacles and hooking itself around the music world." Turning those predominant themes in pop that resulted in the genre being "comfortably discredited" for Insider's Callie Ahlgrim on their head, it not only "heralded the end of the glitzy, VIP-filled, champagne-drenched 'Club' era of songwriting" in Fawbert's view but "changed the trajectory of pop, indie and dance." "Emerging unbothered" for Ahlgrim by these industry whims at the end of the decade, the song had its "cosmic justice" for Dombal "a month after an impromptu post-concert dance party to the song in a filthy Manhattan subway in March 2019," when the song was "finally certified platinum in America."[148] Ultimately, Ahlgrim saw the song "served as a lodestar for so much of this decade’s pop" when "the best work of countless female pop stars (Charli XCX, Lorde, Janelle Monáe, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Ariana Grande)" that followed "beared the mark of her signature poptimism" (of which 'Dancing on My Own' was the 'ultimate example'),[123] becoming what iNews' Hugh Montgomery deemed the "pop-stars' popstar."[149] As "one of pop’s singular figures," TIME's Maura Johnston observed that "whatever direction she's veered in since her days as a teen pop protégé of Max Martin the masses would eventually follow." Max Martin's manager went on to tell her shortly following its release that Max thought it was "one of the best pop songs ever made," and years later at a dinner he told her that he continued to have a "lot" of female artists come into his studio, "...put your album on the table," and say, "I wanna make this!" Robyn described his response as "Well, fuck you, go work with her then!" which she found "very sweet."[22]

Influence[edit]

In October 2020 The Guardian's Alexis Petridis detailed the track's "brilliant electronic rebooting of the old disco trick whereby euphoric club music is paired with lyrical despair" and Pitchfork's Jamieson Cox saw a similar dynamic when comparing her output to fellow Swedes ABBA for a September 2019 retrospective of their iconic greatest hits compilation released in 1992, expressing that she "became one of this decade’s great pop heroes by pinning down that same sad-ecstatic balance and welding it to modern, muscular production."[150] NBHAP's Norman Fleischer also felt ABBA's anthem "Dancing Queen" had "finally found a proper successor" in Robyn's track.[140] Seeing the domination over the music landscape by the close of the 2010s of this kind of song "whose instrumental sets you up for good times, only to sucker punch your heart with lyrics of Biblical sadness," BBC's Mark Savage solely credited Robyn and the single, arguing the "sad banger" had clearly "influenced an entire generation of songwriters."[151] To that end, Lorde shared with Vice her "friendly fixation" with Robyn (including keeping a framed portrait of her on the piano during her performance of "Liability" on Saturday Night Live and in the studio as a "patron saint" to watch over the Melodrama sessions),[152][153] crediting the track as her inspiration for continuing to make music and naming it among the songs suggested by friends in the studio (Lou Reed's "Perfect Day" and The Beach Boys' "God Only Knows") as the song she wished could remain 'immortal'. Singer/songwriter Taylor Swift, after being introduced by and handed the award for "Best Solo Act" from Robyn at the 2020 NME Awards, thanked her (among others) for it, saying "You inspire every single artist doing pop music right now. Honestly, you really do." Héloïse Letissier of Christine & The Queens, who would present her with the award for 'Songwriter of the Decade' at the same ceremony, expressed to BBC Newsbeat and NME that "as a songwriter I can only marvel at a song like Dancing On My Own...it's a gem of pop. I watched her gig in Oslo last year and it was the most cathartic thing I ever saw" and "She never compromised with how she wanted to exist as a woman. She grew older, wiser, and she kept being around without being smoothed out or shying away from deep issues. I think this is really powerful as a woman. It’s multi-faceted and I love it.”[107] Similarly, Pop stars Charli XCX and Zara Larsson acknowledged her influence to The Guardian and NME, with Charli expressing that "Robyn has definitely been part of paving the way for pop stars who fall a little to the left of the Top 40 norm,” that "[paved] the way for pop artists who don't play by the rules" and Zara saying, "She’s what I strive to be in a sense of making my own choices and staying true to myself." [154] Signaling larger sea changes in the industry, Slant's Sal Cinquemani felt the track "epitomized the increasing irrelevance of radio, the term 'single', and even the charts themselves."[155]

The 'Outsider'[edit]

Billboard's Christine Werthman saw the impact of Robyn's "crowning dancefloor elegy" as indicative of a successful pivot from early-career chart success to a template that balanced critical appraisal and a "new audience" that "several pop stars [...] including Carly Rae Jepsen" would later follow.[18] Becoming what NME's Eli Hunt described[156] as the "queen of the misfits," Robyn described this 'new audience' to Spin's Caryn Ganz[157] as consisting of mostly, but not exclusively "35-year-old white males, hipsters, badonkadonk girls from Brooklyn, goths, and nerdy kids." Rolling Stone's Simon Vozick-Levinson similarly saw the "killer single" as "[elevating] her to something approaching voice-of-a-generation status among America’s burned-out youth" after being "ignored" in the 2000s as she "refined her bright, fizzy synth-pop sound to perfection."[117] Robyn expressed to Bon's Carsten Höller just prior to the start of the Body Talk project in the spring of 2010 that she wanted to "stretch" the template of "the blonde, crazy gay icon" set by Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga, expanding on the concept later that year with Entertainment Weekly's Tanner Stransky:

"I’ve always felt connected to the gay audience because there’s an element to the culture that you have had to think about or make up your mind about what it is to be an outsider and I think that that’s something I connect to on a human level because that’s what life is but I also feel it’s really important for me to recognize my gay following in a less stereotypical way than as this blonde female iconic pop star because there are so many parts of gay culture that usually do not get recognized. I never expect people to like me just because they’re gay—I expect people to like me because of the music and I’m not criticizing people who appreciate me for being blonde and fabulous, I’m just saying that I don’t expect people to like me because of that, I just feel connected to the gay scene because of something else."[158]

By the late 2010s out singer/songwriter Sam Smith expressed that they thought the track made Robyn "a huge part of the LGBTQ community because we get to dance our pain away."[151] Rolling Stone's Justin Ravitz on its list of their '25 Essential LGBTQ Pride Songs' concurred, finding the tale of its "heartbroken heroine" at her "most rejected, lonely and isolated dancing alone and for herself" rather than "going home or making a scene" while trying "not to feel like a freak eyeing an ex with his (or her) new piece at a club [...] deeply resonant to queer, marginalized people."[159]

The track was reframed by several critics in 2020 as having greater societal weight than how it was perceived when released back in 2010. Initially just a "relatable hit of heartbreak at the club with a chaser of empowering uplift," its influence rose across a turbulent decade that opened with a Great Recession, was marked by rising ethnonationalism and posthumanization and closed with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, it moved from what Rolling Stone's Vozick-Levinson saw as a "disco anthem in the long hangover of the subprime-mortgage crisis"[117] amidst what Consequence of Sound's Erica Campbell saw as the remnants of "#hustle culture [from] the [late] aughts" to "a primer on subdued defiance" as a reaction to "power structures that shouldn’t have been and are still in place."[121] Audiofemme's Liz Ohanesian saw it as the "[zeitgeist's last gasp] of collective solace" and "[visceral] cathartic relief before the world crashed around us."[127]

Formats and track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Source[168]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Radio dates and release history[edit]

List of release dates, showing country, formats released, and record label
Country Release date Format(s) Label
Sweden[164] 1 June 2010 Digital download Konichiwa Records
United States[188] Interscope Records
Germany, Austria, Switzerland[161][162] 11 June 2010
  • CD
  • digital download
Ministry of Sound
United Kingdom[189] 13 June 2010 Digital download Universal Music
20 July 2010 CD single
United States[190] 2 November 2010 Mainstream airplay Interscope Records

Other versions[edit]

Belgian singer Kato Callebaut performed Robyn's downtempo acoustic version as part of her audition on Idool 2011 then released her studio cover, receiving a gold certification for 10,000+ copies sold.[191] The X Factor (UK) contestant and English pop star Cher Lloyd covered the acoustic version in October 2012 at the Canal Room and iHeartRadio as part of her U.S. promo tour for the album Sticks and Stones.[192][193] American rock band Kings of Leon performed (but did not release) a downtempo rock ballad cover of Robyn's downtempo version on BBC Radio 1 on 10 September 2013, which Billboard went on to describe as an "injection" of its "muscular Southern rock stylings" with "meaty guitar riffs", "Caleb Followill's signature growl in full effect", and with the "'Whoa-oh-oh's' echo on the chorus", a recalling of the singer's "epic "Use Somebody" flare-ups".[194]

American A cappella group Pentatonix released a cover in July 2017 with a music video, their first track as a quartet instead of a quintet.[195] American singer/songwriter Billie Eilish partially covered Robyn's downtempo version with a banjo cover on her second Instagram livestream on 23 August 2017.[196] American actress Elle Fanning performed the midtempo electropop version as the character Violet in the film Teen Spirit, released in September 2018, and it was subsequently released in April 2019 as part of its soundtrack with a promotional music video depicting her role, aiming for pop stardom.[197]

Singer/songwriter Kelly Clarkson covered the downtempo acoustic version on February 28, 2019 in Dallas, Texas on her Meaning of Life Tour.[198] Robyn went on to tell BBC Newsbeat in 2020 that she "really liked" Kelly's version, noting "she has a really powerful voice. She recorded one of my favorite Max Martin songs, Since U Been Gone, which I covered in the Radio 1 Live Lounge. So that's funny."[22]

Alternative rock band Grouplove released an indie pop cover of the midtempo version in March 2020, promoting it on Cover Nation,[199] Sirius XM[200] and ALT 98.7.[201] American folk singer Willie Watson, former founding member of Americana and bluegrass band Old Crow Medicine Show, released a folk version of the song in May 2020, dedicating it in a live stream performance of the song from his own studio to everyone "dancing on their own" amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.[202][203] In December 2020 English singer/songwriter and model Karen Elson released a downtempo alternative country version on her EP, Radio Redhead, Vol.1.[204][205]

Calum Scott version[edit]

"Dancing on My Own"
Calum Scott - Dancing on My Own.jpeg
Single by Calum Scott
from the album Only Human
Released15 April 2016 (2016-04-15)
Recorded2016
Genre
Length4:20
LabelWMG, Capitol
Songwriter(s)
  • Robyn
  • Patrik Berger
Producer(s)John McIntyre
Calum Scott singles chronology
"Dancing on My Own"
(2016)
"Rhythm Inside"
(2016)
Music video
"Dancing on My Own" on YouTube

Inspired by Kings of Leon's cover of Robyn's own downtempo ballad version (which she performed on several outlets including BBC Radio 1 and released via Radio 1's Live Lounge – Volume 5 on 25 October 2010), Calum Scott performed a transposed arrangement for his audition on Britain's Got Talent in April 2015, the original clip of which has garnered over 415 million YouTube views. He subsequently released an adult contemporary cover on 15 April 2016 for his debut solo single on independent label Instrumental (part-owned by Warner Music Group), followed by a 3 June 2016 release in other territories under Capitol Records after signing with them in the United States. The cover was noted for its "soft focus" and piano rock/pop-soul leanings, with critical reception being polarized and chart reception being very strong in the UK and Australia, followed by sleeper hit longevity in Europe and the United States. In October 2016, an official remix of the cover was released by Tiësto, which Vents Magazine deemed "a glistening blend of [his] trademark house mixed with a refreshing, blissed out vibe."[206] Different music videos were commissioned and released for Calum's cover as well as the Tiesto remix.

Reception[edit]

Critical reception on the cover was mostly negative. Dazed's Jake Hall slammed the cover in a lengthy editorial for "stripping the song of its initial context," deeming it a "formulaic piano ballad" that "lost the duality which made the original so incredible." The gross irony Calum turned to the exact kind of "franchise masterminds" Robyn "admirably" left behind in 2004 to avoid "diluting her vision for chart success" was not lost on Hall, who argued the "tried-and-tested blueprint of comprehensive backstories, stripped-back piano covers and little musical experimentation" from those that "intrinsically understood the commercial mechanisms of the music industry [...] didn't guarantee longevity," concluding that "the success of Scott’s pared-back rendition only served to highlight the devastating brilliance of Robyn’s timeless original."[207] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis similarly felt his cover "gormlessly sandblasted away the original’s emotional complexity – a very realistic mix of despair, steely determination and euphoria – in favour of mournful bloke-at-a-piano emoting"[208] and Pitchfork's Jayson Greene also found it "dubious" and "weepy" in comparison to Robyn's.[209]

On the other hand, Digital Journal found it "crisp and haunting,"[210] Metro Weekly praised the "powerful confessional,"[211] the track was nominated for a 2017 Brit Award for Best Single,[212] and Robyn herself told BBC Newsbeat that Calum and his voice "interpreted [it] in a way that made the song come alive again...[I'm] super happy for him to have the success...[and] pleased people got to know the song a little bit more," noting there'd been so many covers because it's a "good song".[107] In March 2018, Calum revisited the reaction from the critics and fans with Daniel Welsh on HuffPost UK's Build Series LDN that hit harder "particularly as someone who himself identifies as gay":

"You have to look at the big picture...you’re never going to please everybody. Someone’s going to say something because, you know, it’s an opinionated industry. I had to grow a tough skin because I’m a sensitive lad, I take things to heart anyway, so when people were saying, ‘You’ve ruined her song, it’s her song, how dare you!’, I was like, ‘Oh god, maybe I should have stayed in human resources!’ Everything was a bit of a shock to me – how well it did, but also the criticism I faced. [...] my interpretation of the song was always from a gay man’s perspective, you know? [So] when somebody says, ‘I don’t like your cover’... that’s fair enough, but then this person has just written to me and said that they’ve come out to their family because of my interpretation. So I’ve got to balance everything. I didn’t change the pronouns of the song because I wanted it to come from that place, and because that helped so many people I just stood by it and said, ‘You know, if people don’t like it, that’s absolutely fine, Robyn’s version is still there to be enjoyed’, you know?'"[213][214]

Chart performance[edit]

The cover went viral on streaming services, with Spotify tracking it reaching number one in six countries while ranking in the Top 10 in over 20, peaking at number 2 in the Global Viral 50. On iTunes it charted in the top ten in more than 12 countries. The track had its greatest reception in the UK, where, despite little radio airplay (apart from West Hull FM), it climbed into the top 40 and slowly reached number 4 in July. It was then added to BBC Radio 2's C List playlist and peaked at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart on 5 August. Late in the summer the track had stayed in UK's Top 40 for over 10 weeks, and on 1 September 2016, it was revealed it was the most bought song of the summer in the country. Scott told the Official Charts Company on its reception there that he was "absolutely over the moon" at the news.[215] The track went on to become the best-selling UK single by a British solo artist in 2016.

In the subsequent months and years, the track became a moderate sleeper hit in Europe and the U.S., including by mid-2018 reaching 550M streams and becoming certified platinum in at least four countries.[216] Scott said in a press statement upon signing with Capitol Records in the U.S. that "when I recorded the song in my bedroom, I never thought for a second that it would reach as far as it has and bring this level of support from literally all over the globe...I’m completely overwhelmed by it all."[217]

Music videos[edit]

Calum Scott in the crowd

Self-produced by Calum Scott and directed by Ryan Pallotta, the video was released on 15 June 2016. A crowd of silent people dressed in white are looking towards a light source. Among them, Scott mouths the song lyrics. A man and a woman move through the crowd to find each other. By April 2020 the video had received over 400 million YouTube views.[218]

Haley Fitzgerald and Josh Killacky dance in the Tiësto remix

The official video for the Tiësto remix was commissioned by Capitol Records and released on 4 October 2016.[219] Co-directed by Josh Killacky and David Moore, and edited by Alex Ditommaso, the video depicts a man pursuing a woman who is no longer his lover. With Moore shooting video while riding a hoverboard in a stark studio space, Josh Killacky and Haley Fitzgerald perform a modern dance routine, choreographed by Killacky.[220]

Media[edit]

The cover aired on the 20th episode, "Kill 'em All" of The CW series The Vampire Diaries, broadcast 29 April 2016, while Caroline makes soup for Bonnie while ranting to Alaric about Stefan, commitment and closure. It also aired on the 24th episode, "Ring of Fire" of the ABC series Grey's Anatomy, broadcast 17 May 2017, while Nathan asks Meredith details about Megan, then hugs her in celebration and drives off. Scott promoted the track throughout 2016 and 2017 most notably on Late Night with Seth Meyers, Good Morning America, Elvis Duran and the Morning Show, Good Morning Britain, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Dancing with the Stars. Following the 10th episode "Brainwave Jr." of the DC Universe series Stargirl in July 2020, the cover "racked up 10.5 million U.S. on-demand streams, along with 3,000 digital downloads, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data", topping The Hollywood Reporter's Top TV Songs Chart.[221]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Result
2017 Brit Awards British Single of the Year Nominated

Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (2016–2017) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[222] 2
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[223] 32
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[224] 19
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[225] 30
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[226] 41
Denmark (Tracklisten)[227] 8
France (SNEP)[228] 58
Germany (Official German Charts)[229] 61
Ireland (IRMA)[230] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[231] 7
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[232] 14
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[233] 5
Philippines (Philippine Hot 100)[234] 88
Portugal (AFP)[235] 5
Scotland (OCC)[236] 1
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[237] 4
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[238] 81
UK Singles (OCC)[239] 2
UK Indie (OCC)[240] 2
US Billboard Hot 100[241] 93
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[242] 15
US Adult Top 40 (Billboard)[243] 25
US Dance Club Songs (Billboard)[244] 14
US Mainstream Top 40 (Billboard)[245] 35

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (2016) Position
Australia (ARIA)[246] 21
Denmark (Tracklisten)[247] 87
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[248] 84
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[249] 59
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[250] 12
Chart (2017) Position
Denmark (Tracklisten)[251] 88
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[252] 67
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[253] 92
Portugal Full Track Download (AFP)[254] 40
US Adult Contemporary (Billboard)[255] 42
Chart (2018) Position
Portugal Full Track Download (AFP)[256] 182
Chart (2019) Position
Portugal (AFP)[257] 351

Decade-end charts[edit]

Chart (2010–2019) Position
Australia (ARIA)[258] 66
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[259] 54

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[260] 9× Platinum 630,000double-dagger
Belgium (BEA)[261] Gold 15,000*
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[262] 2× Platinum 180,000double-dagger
France (SNEP)[263] Gold 100,000double-dagger
Germany (BVMI)[264] Platinum 400,000double-dagger
Italy (FIMI)[265] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[266] Gold 30,000double-dagger
Netherlands (NVPI)[267] Gold 20,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[268] Platinum 15,000*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[269] 2× Platinum 20,000double-dagger
Portugal (AFP)[270] Platinum 10,000double-dagger
Sweden (GLF)[271] 3× Platinum 120,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[272] 3× Platinum 1,800,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[273] 2× Platinum 2,000,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

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External links[edit]