What Robyn Taught Me About Being Free

Without much fanfare, MTV turned 40 this month.

The fact that you haven’t heard about it just reinforces how little relevance the network currently enjoys. But back in its heyday of the early 1980’s through mid-90s, MTV was an enormous cultural force and tastemaker.

The legend is that MTV came out of nowhere – appearing on our screens completely out of the blue and without warning – but that isn’t entirely true. If you are as old as I am, you probably remember it’s predecessors, like Friday Night Videos and the omnipresent “I Want My MTV” ad campaigns that flooded the airwaves for months before launch.

I distinctly remember being in my cool Uncle’s living room awaiting the very first moments of the broadcast, seeing the Apollo launch that signified the start of this new era and watching “Video Killed The Radio Star”, the prescient first video they ever aired.

My nine year old mind was blown.

For the next 10 years I was all in on MTV. I had my first ever celebrity crush on a VJ named Martha Quinn with her punk bob and new wave aesthetic (ironically, these were exactly the kind of girls who would not date me in high school years later, but I digress). I had first learned about Kurt Cobain’s suicide from the network as it constantly played in the living room of my college apartment (my roommate, Jay, spent his entire day flipping between MTV and CNN, but, again, I digress).

There have been a lot of great videos over the years but my absolute favorite is “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn.

Here it is:

There are tons of reasons to love this video. First is Robyn’s punk bob and new wave aesthetic (are you sensing a theme here). Also, the song slaps, is a banger or whatever the kids call good music these days. The lyrics exude a cocky bravado about stealing a lover from someone else – kind of the other side of Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know” coin. It’s a dance-pop gem. I never get tired of listening to it.

But those aren’t the reasons it’s my favorite video.

The reason it’s my favorite is Robyn’s performance. She’s certainly not a dancer at the level of Janet Jackson or Usher (to name a couple of spectacular performers from this era). But the absolute freedom and joy she seems to be expressing in these three minutes and twenty-one seconds I find unbelievably captivating. The entire video is just a single shot of her in a warehouse but I find myself not able to look away. I want to feel whatever it is she’s feeling.

At the risk of an awkward segue, this is the type of freedom that I’ve experienced from training. And it’s the type of freedom I’ve witnessed in others as well.

Just as financial freedom can open some doors to the life you imagine yourself living, the freedom to move with proper range of motion and in the absence of pain, the stamina to go out for a 7 mile run or spend an afternoon chasing around your kids, the freedom to have the confidence to take your shirt off at the beach or go sleeveless at a wedding – these are not small things. And, given your particular priorities, will enhance your life in ways you may not even be able to imagine right now.

Capability is freedom. It’s not absolute – you’ll need other things in order to feel free – but it is essential. You will never feel fully free without it. Quite honestly, it’s the best gift that training gives.

MTV hasn’t shown videos for decades now. I find that to be a real shame as the advancement of technology and the ease of shooting high quality video could certainly lend itself to some potentially awesome art.

But more than lamenting the lack of special effects or stories told in four minutes to the latest radio hit, I miss getting a glimpse into that perfect moment when a song and an artist and a concept come together in a brilliant, joyous and completely free way.

It may be the best thing there is.