Bjork: Pagan Poetry
s an artist who seems both infinitely capable at, and perfectly at ease with, reinventing her musical world with every release Björk is almost a unique figure in popular music. Is there anyone else at her level of fame / commercial value that can genuinely do what the hell they like? Who else could perform at the 2004 Olympics opening ceremony with a dress the size of the stadium on the eve of releasing an album built by throat-singers and beat boxers? For all this international notoriety, this Icelandic gamine still manages to break life down to its minutiae; the essence of the very simplest terms.
Where many artists have a defining sound, the only constants of her evolution have been mutability and her incredibly distinctive voice. Her attempts with Medulla to represent “the directness of the human voice” may have begun with the seed of 2001’s “Pagan Poetry”. Amidst the artic cleanliness of plucked harp strings, buzzing bass and icily fragile music boxes comes a moment of silence. Around the 3:56 mark the music drops out with a sprinkling of metallic glitter, leaving Björk alone to intone “I love him” eight times. Around each phrase is a nimbus of nakedness, the slightest of indrawn breaths between the words as she seemingly hovers on the brink of tears.
Instead of this repetition acting as reinforcement, the message is thrown it into confusion: is she convincing herself or convincing the world? Each declaration sounds as hurt as the one before, as if she’s cradling herself and reassuring herself. Her last phrase ends with an incomplete “I…”, after which the shivers of this last enunciation are followed by a choir of mini-Björks who follow her with a chorus of “She loves him” like squeaky clean Disney sidekicks nodding and whispering to each other in agreement.
These precious few seconds say everything without saying anything about intimacy, because baring your soul to yourself or anyone else isn’t an act that is supposed to feel comfortable or easy. In a culture where a world shaking statement like “I Love You” has become a common place band aid (the ultimate cliché and ‘get out of jail free’ clause) and the last refuge of the desperate and the damaged, Björk fills those three words with a world of hurt and confusion.
By: Scott McKeating
Published on: 2004-09-01