Stylus Magazine

Björk : Pagan Poetry

As 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 Medúlla to represent “the directness of the human
voice” may have begun with the seed of 2001’s “Pagan Poetry”. Amidst the arctic 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.

Scott McKeating

publié dans Stylus Magazine - 01.09.2004

 

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