"I just arrived from Sweden!" announced Robyn, the dance-pop pixie with the asymmetrical platinum bangs. But Robyn may as well have just arrived directly from 1989 in a DeLorean time machine. While some artists discuss their influences in interviews, Robyn opted to sum hers up in a crowd-pleasing medley that included snippets of Neneh Cherry's "Buffalo Stance" and Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It." There was little question that the former teen star is strongly influenced by old-school, girl-powered hip-hop and electro-pop.
Tuesday's show at the Paradise Rock Club marked round two of a Robyn invasion. After a decade-long absence from this country, Boston was the first stop on a US tour, which began the same day her long-delayed, self-titled album arrived in American stores and digital outlets.
By no small coincidence, it was also International Dance Day. Robyn, her black-winged blouse flapping like a crow trapped in a disco, led her small, devoted following through an hourlong set that faithfully re-created the new album. Her well-crafted songs feature a fair amount of tough-girl posturing. These songs are J.J. Fad-style hip-hop as seen through a candy-colored Ace of Base filter. Even as she prowled the stage and spat, "You wanna rumble in my jungle? I'll take you on," it was more of a playful, tech-pop flirt than a serious threat. Think MC Lyte making a guest appearance on "Pee-wee's Playhouse," and you have the idea.
Robyn is a studio creature and has been since the multilayered vocals of her first US hit, "Show Me Love," was released 11 years ago. But Robyn deserves credit - despite the sometimes obvious backing track - for making her songs engaging in a club setting. With a minimal band of two percussionists and a keyboard player, songs such as "Bum Like You" and "Handle Me" became more aggressive and immediate.
Her vocal range is limited, but she was still able to sing the stuffing out of break-up songs like the gorgeous, gurgling "With Every Heartbeat" and a surprisingly touching rendition of "Be Mine!" She beat the snare drum like a Swedish Sheila E. during "Who's That Girl," and kept the sound engineer busy by chirping instructions, at one point singing, "A little more of me, please," in true dance-diva style.
As the evening wore on, she clearly became more at ease, remarking after a particularly spirited round of clapping that "I didn't know there were people here who liked what I do." It was more than a case of like - it was a full-on crush.
"I went to see Hanson last week," the woman standing next to me confessed. "But this is so much better."
Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.