I bought a new car a few weeks ago. Well, it’s not exactly new- it’s a 1998 Ford Laser, with peeling green paint and missing hubcaps. Whenever I drive up a hill, the speed drops to 50km/h, even if I’ve got my foot pressed flat to the floor. But despite all these things, I like it. I don’t mind driving a piece of shit because it means people are less likely to park next to me in a crowded carpark, and people don’t tailgate me because they assume I don’t have comprehensive insurance on my 18-year-old car.
The one thing, though- the only major drawback- is the fact that it doesn’t have a CD player. Instead I’m stuck with an ancient tape deck and a radio that isn’t tuned properly. This means I have to listen to commercial radio on my commute to and from work- shit! I don’t exactly have high expectations for the music content on mainstream radio, but I find myself constantly shocked at the sheer amount of shit music they play. I really wish Perth had a dedicated classic rock station which just played music that you can actually drive to, but we don’t, so I usually find myself flipping between Triple J, RTR, and (very reluctantly) 96FM and 94.5.
I don’t tend to listen to a lot of popular music (my tastes tend towards the pretentiously obscure, stuff that isn’t in English, or field recordings of melting glaciers/numbers stations) so I suppose it’s been kind of interesting? having to listen to the kind of stuff that’s deemed popular by Austereo. Most of the time I can tune it out, but a few days ago I heard this one song that just totally rubbed me the wrong way. I’m referring to Calum Scott’s cover of Robyn’s 2010 single “Dancing on my Own”.
Look, it’s probably a bit over the top, but this song infuriates me. I thought I was past that stage in my life where I was deeply, personally offended by covers of songs that I love; nope, they still annoy me. Obviously I haven’t matured much since I was fifteen. I don’t mind covers if they’re interesting, if they’re examining the original from a different perspective, but I just think it can be lazy when singers take a song and just slow it down and sing it over a piano or an acoustic guitar or whatever.
The thing is, though, if you just listen to the lyrics of “Dancing on my Own”, you’ll see that it actually probably suits Scott’s approach. It’s either a song about unrequited love or about a failed relationship, and it can certainly be seen as a last, desperate attempt to numb the pain by dancing your arse off at the club. So, this version isn’t radical or interesting in the slightest; it’s what you’d expect if you’d never heard the song before. It’s the original that flips the narrative of the song on its head and is by far the more interesting version.
Despite the lyrics and content of this song, Robyn makes “Dancing on my Own” into a song about female empowerment, about reclaiming yourself after dealing with a bunch of emotional bullshit. I love this song. I think it’s so relatable- we’ve all been the girl in this song, haven’t we? In spite of the lyrics, this has always struck me as such a hopeful track, like eventually things will get better, you can eventually be reborn while dancing with a hundred other people. Robyn’s a bad bitch- she’s hurting, but she’ll keep going, she’s going to keep dancing. I appreciate her version so much more.
“People have so many expectations when they go out, 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 get drunk and 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.” – Pitchfork Interview, 2010