Stylus

Bachelorette

My first encounter with Björk took place in my grandmother’s living room. Sitting alone on the parlor couch, the opening sequence to her video for ‘Bachelorette,’ caught my glassy eye in the midst of channel surfing. Her fragile English brought me to a stop as I became intrigued as to what it was exactly she was digging up in the middle of the woods, and where it would lead.

It was in the waning months of 1997, the beginning of my first year of high school, a year that would see me begin to discard the pre-teen affinity for classic rock radio that had worn a deep rut in my musical sensitivity, each repeated song desensitizing me to its effects until every song of the seventies spewed out of the stereo speakers registered as nothing more than a dull, uninspiring collage of boredom. It occurred to me that there was never going to be anything new at that frequency, that should I try and stay there I would be subjected to endless repetitions of clichéd lyrics and stolen guitar licks. There was a blossoming restlessness that was on the cusp of exploding in those moments, but could not without the proper fuel for the fire. Instead, I began to withdraw from music, dissatisfied with the lifeless formats presented to me and mournfully ignorant of any true alternative.

With these fatalistic thoughts swirling about my unfocused consciousness, ‘Bachelorette’ hit like a bomb. Its effects were devastating, vaporizing the sense of malaise and listlessness that fell on my ears like a great weight and muffled the offensive sounds jabbing at my eardrums, and demolishing the mental blocks that had kept my progression at bay. Though the video’s imagery was visually stunning, I was truly transfixed by the imagery of Björk’s lyrics, simply written yet imbued with monstrous emotion and power by her vocals.

The opening verse shudders under the imposing percussion that perfectly envelops the essence of what is being sung, a mixture of dark sensuality, the visceral pain of obsessive infatuation and a desperate search for control. ‘Bachelorette’ delves into the destructive, harmful side of love and lust, crying out after a lover with accusatory, piercing glances. Björk exudes a dangerous volatility here, casting the lovers in roles that capture the friction of their relationship ; she is a path of burning cinders he must walk, he will come to regret his departure like a strayed whale trapped in a bay. In a particular instance, Björk refers to herself as a “fountain of blood” and then asks that the song’s target to “drink me, make me feel renewed.” It appears peculiar, but highlights the dependent, parasitic nature of the relationship, where she offers her own vitality and liveliness to a partner who consumes it recklessly. The symphonic crescendos, along with the dramatically stunning lyrics and Björk’s wounded, wailing vocals contribute to a highly potent mise en scène, lending the song an operatic grandeur that could fill the largest concert hall with its raw intensity.

To me, this song presented something I had never before experienced listening to years of soggy blues riffs and bar band aesthetics. This song demonstrated insight, depth, and complexity that had been previously unfamiliar to me and rooted itself firmly in the depths of my gut, a physically wrenching experience that showed me what good music can really do. ‘Bachelorette’ was one of the musical experiences that hinted at a whole other world of sound and ideas that I had been missing out on, one that I desperately needed to search for in order to uncover anything to parallel that feeling.

Michael Patrick Brady

publié dans Stylus - 06.11.2003

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