20 Years of Robyn’s ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’

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Pedantry doesn’t really lend itself well to celebrating the exact anniversary of ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’. In the UK, it was first released in November 1996 – charting at number 83 for one week – before dropping out of the chart and then being re-released in the summer of 1997, when it reached a new peak of 26. And back in Sweden, it was included on the original release of Robyn’s debut album ‘Robyn Is Here’, in 1995. However, it was on this day twenty years ago that it entered the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.

On May 31st 1997, it flew into the US singles chart at a mightily impressive number 36, before finally reaching its peak position of number 7 nine weeks later. May 31st 1997 is important though, as it logged not just the new entry of ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’, but also marked Robyn’s first ever appearance in the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, it was this very song that gave legendary pop maker Max Martin his first ever US Top 10 hit.

‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ was something of an anomaly on the original Swedish release of ‘Robyn Is Here’. Whereas most of the album was made up of songs written by Robyn, Ulf Lindström, and Johan Ekhé – ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ was the sole contribution from Max Martin, Denniz Pop, and Herbie Crichlow (with Robyn on co-writing duties). So even before it went on to open Robyn’s first chapter in global pop music’s history books, the track already stood out as something a bit special.

The fresh pop sound, and its success for Robyn outside of Sweden, meant that when BMG wanted a follow-up single to the US hit, they went straight back to Max Martin and Denniz Pop. And together with Robyn they came up with ‘Show Me Love’, which ended up being Robyn’s second US Top 10 hit (also peaking at 7), and in the UK placing even higher than ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ – becoming a number 8 hit in the British singles chart in March 1998.

It’s a blueprint that not only inspired the sound of its follow-up single, but as anyone who was into pop music in the late 90s will attest to – ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ assisted in shaping a large section of the pop soundscape throughout the half a decade that followed it. From Britney to Mandy, and from Solid HarmoniE to *NSync, if they weren’t being given another Cheiron produced slice of funked up pop, they were sure as hell enlisting another producer to come up with a soundalike. The influence of ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ on pop music was massive. And today’s a very important day in pop history because of that.

What ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’ started twenty years ago today resulted in the global scale launch of one of Sweden’s most well-loved, critically acclaimed, and consistently awesome music exports of all time. Robyn is a pop legend. Of the highest order. And the creative highlights that have followed in the twenty years since the breakthrough of ‘Do You Know (What It Takes)’, hardly need pointing out here.

Though to hell with it – we’ve put together a Spotify playlist of 20 of Robyn’s best, to celebrate today’s anniversary.

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