Kate Bush is Number One for the first time ever with Running Up That Hill and La Roux has returned to Top 10 with her 2009 breakthrough smash In For The Kill, thanks to Tion Wayne. Drill and rap is currently running through a back catalogue of ‘90s and ‘00s hits to pull from (hello, Aitch) and nostalgia’s at an all time high. But the vintage hit which has lent the most to this year’s pop sphere is unquestionably Robin S’ bonafide house-pop classic Show Me Love.
In the last six months, the track has been sampled by two of the most revered auteurs on the modern pop landscape. First, Charli XCX lifted the track’s unmistakable beat for the backdrop of the fifth single from her album Crash. Used To Know Me is an ice cold, club-ready anthem about removing the shackles placed on you by a controlling ex and moving on.
As if that wasn’t enough to get you dancing, late last week, while most of us were minding our own business, Queen B herself sent the world into a frenzy with a subtle blacking-out of her social media channels – a sure sign a new album era is finally on the horizon, as any pop aficionado will tell you. Not long after, on the summer solstice, Beyoncé dropped Break Your Soul, a stomping ode to funemployment propped up by the instantly-recognisable Korg M1 synth sound of, you guessed it, Show Me Love.
While the track has been a mainstay at both underground raves and highstreet clubs since it was released, as both songs rely heavily on the 1990s classic, Show Me Love is getting, well, even more love right now. In light of all the fuss, we caught up with the singer behind the original house staple, Robin S, to find out how this enduring smash hit first came to be and what she makes of these modern reimaginings of her signature song.
Hey Robin! Take us back to 1990. How did the original Show Me Love come to be?
Well, Show Me Love was something that I was asked to demo to see if I liked it. And honestly, I guess because the person singing it didn’t have the vocal cords to carry the song, I looked at it and was like, ”I don’t think I can do this. I’ve always sang R&B songs with a Top 40 band. I don’t do dance music.” Although I love to dance to dance music, I never imagined myself doing that. So, I had to pull the song apart and figure out where my life fit in with the song and how I could infuse it. What part of this represented my life? What part could I convey to people and convince people was so important, you know?
The song didn’t have much success until it was rereleased in 1992, as the iconic StoneBridge remix that’s familiar to most people. How did that rework come about?
The remix came to be when we partnered with Champion Records, and StoneBridge was with Champion Records. I guess he was looking for some songs to remix or to work with and he happened to pull my song. I think nothing happens by chance. I think everything is designed by God, so it was meant to be and we pulled the record. He decided to play with it and there was the sound.
What was that time like for you as an artist, when this song that’s been sitting in your back catalogue for two years was now achieving global recognition all of a sudden?
It was a time of disbelief, honestly, and one of fear because I’d never experienced this before. It was one of being very happy, one of just mixed-up emotions. [Before] I was singing with a Top 40 band, so being out on my own doing things… It was an experience.
Would you say the success of the house remix ultimately changed the direction you ended up going in as an artist?
Absolutely. You see, I had to grow to love the song. I had to infuse it into my life. Once I did that, and I understood how it affected my life and how I placed my life in the midst of the song, I began to want to sing the song and pour more into it. It wasn’t until fans came to me and said: “You saved my life. You did so much for me.” The LGBTQ+ community came to me and said: “I came out to your song, you gave me courage, you gave me life, you did so much.” Then I understood the true meaning of it. It became about them and not me, so it didn’t matter if I didn’t like it because it gives something to other people.
This year the song has enjoyed multiple new leases of life through some very prominent samples. When did you first hear of Charli XCX’s Used To Know Me?
Um, I think when it came out I heard little bits of it, you know, when you’re places and you hear it [in the background] or something. You’re like, “wait a minute… isn’t that? Oh, OK!” But here’s the thing with samples: we’re supposed to do this. We’re supposed to learn and grow from each other. That’s what this music industry is supposed to be about. Having all that you have and keeping it to yourself is very selfish. We’re supposed to understand what the true meaning of what “each one teach one” is all about.
For sure. Music is all about evolution, right?
Yes. We’re supposed to lend to our younger generation, because if we don’t, then music dies. How do you think we are where we are? Who do you think we learned from? It makes no sense to be selfish. Music is not an island of one person. Music is an island of multiple people.
And then obviously this week the world is in a complete frenzy over Beyoncé’s Break My Soul. Where were you when you heard the song?
So let’s be clear, Robin S is not sitting around twiddling her thumbs, OK? I have a business that I run where I licence my music to other people and corporations to use in commercials. I’m still touring ever since they [opened stuff up after] COVID. I’m running my business, minding my business and doing my business. So, when it came out at midnight, I was in my bed and I didn’t hear it until the next morning. My son called, woke me up and said, “Mom, why don’t you answer your phone?”
“What’s going on?” I said, “What’s happening with you? Why do you keep calling me like this?” He said, “You’re trending everywhere, you’re trending all over! Turn your phone on, look at it, look at it!” So, I turned my phone on and honestly, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or scream. I was just very happy, I was elated. I was filled with emotions because most people take pieces of your song or cover it when you’re dead and gone. I’m so appreciative that she’s giving me my flowers while I’m alive and I get to enjoy it all.
I am honoured more so because Show Me Love is my legacy, and Beyoncé and her team thought enough of me to be a part of her legacy. That’s powerful right there.
It’s such a beautiful union of two empowered female artists from different generations, coming together to create something that feels simultaneously nostalgic and of the moment.
Absolutely. You’ve said it right there. That’s it right there.
Have you been in touch with either Charli or Beyoncé?
No, I have not. I’m sure that it was all done correctly and everybody got what they were supposed to get. It was a wonderful surprise for me. I’m not mad at it. Listen, I told you I was here for Charli, I’m here for Beyoncé. I’m here for everything. Why would I not be, you know? It would be crazy to not be here for it.
What do you think of Break My Soul?
I absolutely love it. It speaks volumes. What it’s saying is exactly what Show Me Love said: be yourself. You can’t steal my joy. You can’t break me down. You can’t have myself. I’m gonna be the best at me that I can be.
Show Me Love and its distinctive beat is often credited with helping to bring house to the mainstream in the 1990s. What do you think it is about the song musically that makes it such an enduring classic?
First of all, when anyone listens to a song, the first thing they gravitate to is the beat. They don’t hear the words. Once they infuse their bodies with the beat, then they start listening to the words. When you have the marriage of the two, it’s undeniable. What I think resonates about Show Me Love is the message that everything is going to be OK. If you don’t love me, it’s OK. If you do, action speaks louder than words. You have to show me. Sometimes people have a habit of dishing out empty words. They say, “oh, it’s good” for the moment, but they don’t really mean it. So, on the action part, you kind of have to show me because I don’t understand your words.