This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #190: Hyperballad by Bjork.
I hold Bjork in extremely high regard. Next to Kate Bush, Bjork is my very favourite female recording artist….and, no one is really even a close third. I place great value on artistry and vision and an uncompromising sense of creativity. Bjork possesses all of these qualities. Bjork is a multi-media artist. She has appeared in films, she is a poet and sculptor, she is a singer/songwriter and performer who is entirely unique when it comes to creating and presenting her craft and she does all of this in a language that is not her native tongue. Bjork was born and raised in Iceland. She first came to the attention of those of us who follow music because of her work in a band called, “The Sugarcubes”. “The Sugarcubes” had several English-language songs that received airplay in North America and, as a result, the world came to be aware of the arresting lead singer named, Bjork.
As you may remember from an earlier post, *(which you can read here), her song, “I Have Seen It All” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song from a Movie. That was the time when she showed up on the red carpet wearing the famous “Swan” dress. The reaction of those watching the Academy Awards that evening was annoyingly predictable in its’ ignorance. Bjork was mocked for wearing a dress that was deemed “silly” and “inappropriate” for an event of the calibre of the Oscars. She was summarily accused as being unaware of North American traditions and, as such, she was deemed irrelevant and was dismissed by the Press, who wished her a speedy return to Iceland where, according to them, she belonged.
Unbeknownst to the media, Bjork was the furthest thing from irrelevant. She is, actually, one of the most imaginative and intuitive performers I have ever encountered. A good case in point is her song, “Hyperballad”. This song is a very grown-up song for mature listeners and, by “mature”, I mean, people who can appreciate the subtle layers of meaning imbued within the lyrics of this song. “Hyperballad” is a scene from the story of my life, as well as, the lives of many of you, as well. It concerns how to maintain that essence of your being once you have fallen in love with your soulmate. A relationship shouldn’t swallow you whole, regardless of how much swooning is involved. To find love is not to lose sight of the person you once were. Obviously, someone else thought that the person you once were was worth falling in love with so, that original part of you has value and is worth protecting. That’s what “Hyperballad” is about.
The song is set on a mountaintop. This is to symbolize that “our own little world” feeling that new lovers carve out for themselves when they fall in love. “Hyperballad” begins with the realization, by Bjork, that, although she loves her partner, she is feeling her old self slipping away because of the relationship. She makes the decision to keep loving this other person but, decides that she needs a visceral outlet for her growing frustrations. This mental and emotional health strategy that she adopts involves throwing things off of the mountaintop at sunrise and watching/listening to them smash on the rocks below. Her closing verse contains one of the most evocative and image-laden verses ever in a song:
“Its early morning.
No one is awake.
I’m back at my cliff
Still throwing things off.
I listen to the sounds they make
On their way down.
I follow with my eyes until they crash
I imagine what my body would sound like
Slamming against those rocks.
And when it lands,
Will my eyes,
be closed or open?”
Then the chorus kicks in where she states that she goes through all of this before her lover wakes up so she can be happier and feel safe with him. When you stop to think about it, the depth of the emotions at play in this song is incredible.
The other thing about this song that separates it from the rest is its’ musical construction. The song is very orchestral during the slow, first half of the song, as we get to know Bjork’s character and try to figure out what she is doing and why. But, when she starts to imagine herself going over the side of the mountain, the tempo changes and the song adopts a more dance-oriented techno beat that is meant to symbolize the rise in her heartbeat and her emotions.
As I said off of the top of this post, I adore Bjork! I can’t imagine ever having the writing chops to write something so concise that, at the same time, is so broad and deep and universal as “Hyperballad”. You know that dinner party question about, “Name a person, living or dead, that you would like to sit down and have dinner with”? Well, for me, I would start with Bjork. I think she is incredible and I hope that you like this song and video…….oh yes, I should mention something about the video! I normally prefer live performance videos of the songs I post (and I will include a live concert video below) but, for “Hyperballad”, the official video is an award-winning video. It is as avant-garde a video as I think we will see in they whole countdown list. I think I will leave it to you to experience the video but, suffice to say, it is extremely well done and is deserving of all of the awards it has earned and is fully deserving of being the video I go with for this post.
So, without further delay, here is Bjork with her fabulous song, “Hyperballad”. Enjoy.
The link to the award-winning video for the song, “Hyperballad” by Bjork, can be found here.
The link to the video for the live version of the song, “Hyperballad” by Bjork, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Bjork, can be found here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for supporting artists who think outside of the box yet, still create the best music around. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.