Thursday, January 03, 2008

1001 Greatest Pop Songs Of All Time - #36 - Sick With Love by Robyn Loau

Shane: Robyn Loau. Her from Girlfriend. The One That Left. The Camera Hog.

Yes, she did leave Girlfriend after getting jack of the bubblegum pop sound that they were known for, leaving the girls to reinvent themselves and eventually break up (some may have said that her leaving was the death knell for the group), but by leaving she was able to open herself up to all manner of crazy new directions. The Siva Pacifica project for one, in which she went from singing about boys, shoes and love to embracing her island heritage in the best way possible (take THAT, Christine Anu). Needless to say, noone was expecting her to do that - nor the next thing that came from her...

Sick With Love is dark, intense, almost nightmarish, adult, overtly sexual. Basically, all the things that Girlfriend weren't (let's pretend that Mel's spectacular rack wasn't there, shall we). The song came so totally out of left field that I seriously think the record buying public was a little scared. Sure, it hit the charts great guns (not a number one, but a pretty respectable showing) based on Robyn's Girlfriend name, but just as quickly disappeared from the airwaves. But not our hearts.

Say what you want about the lovely Miss Loau and Sick With Love, but we did get a lot of now standard musical tricks from the effort. From the bombastic (some would say overly self-important) strings that announce the arrival of something new for the heady days of 97, through to the vocodering/echo layering of the voice, the dancing in a grungy room filled ankle deep with a myseteous liquid, to the overall
emo-ness of the lyrics - Sick With Love popularised almost everything that we now hate about the charts. It was different then, I swear - hey, at least THIS song is still good.

It's not, nor was it ever, a dancefloor filler. It was designed to show that Robyn was now an adult, and to harken her maturation as a performer. This, it did with aplomb. And the song, we all know is a keeper.

Claire: There's a telling story about the early days of Girlfriend (Australia's greatest ever girl band) in which Robyn Loau, the lead singer, was carpeted for using the word "tits" in an interview. At the risk of stating the obvious, there was no use of that word in Girlfriend because there was no sex in Girlfriend world. Robyn was a girl who had experienced racism and "real life" and who was a born cynic, so shoehorning her into a fun hat and jacket combo was never going to be her fullest musical expression, no matter how well crafted the tunes were. Unlike "the talented one Mel C", the talented one Robyn, had, you know, talent.

Robyn (crucially never bagging out Girlfriend but being IN Girlfriend and not getting paid, a big difference) may have seemed to the untrained eye to be another pop sell out, someone tediously whingeing about her back catalogue, Damon Albarn style, before unveiling her "real music", but the process of her re-invention never quite betrayed her pure pop roots. The songs from lost classic album "Malaria" (never released due to, sigh, record company politics) were much blacker and real, nightmarishly so, but they never lapsed in poetry and or tedium and always had a slick ear for a hook. The albums calling card, Sick With Love is one of the finest pop singles of the 90s, dark, awkward, and as much about hate and loathing as Girlfriend were about friendship and cheer. No matter what anyone thinks of the majesty of Girlfriend, they were unlikely to be singing "Every time I'm making love with you/Kind of makes me feel like I hate you" and wandering through sewers in the film clip. But for the frustrations of the unreleased albums, it would still be regarded as the most successful re-invention in Australian musical history, despite the "help" of Triple J to promote her.

However awkward her stance on Girlfriend is, was or ever will be, her ear for a tune remained solid, and she came up with a perfect musical moment. No wonder she hogged the camera...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malaria is finally getting released this month! Robyn told the crowd at her Sydney gig last week (there's a video on her facebook page).

8:26 PM  

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