This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, 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. 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.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #333: I’ve Seen It All by Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke).
Back at Song #480, I introduced you to a singer named Elliott Smith and noted that he held a distinction attained by very few others in this list and that was, that his song, “Miss Misery” had been nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song” in a Motion Picture (Good Will Hunting). Well, today, we meet the second musician to be so honoured. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Icelandic singer, Bjork (featuring, Thom Yorke) was from a Dutch movie called, “Dancer in the Dark”, directed by Dutch director, Lars Von Trier. The premise of the movie is that the main character, played by Bjork, is slowly going blind. Before she loses all sight, she is desperately trying to save enough money so that her young son (who has the same degenerative eye disease that she does) can have surgery that will save his sight. The song, “I’ve Seen It All” revolves around a discussion she is having with a friend/lover in which she tries to downplay the impact of blindness while he is encouraging her to live for the moment and see all she can see while she still can. It is a heart-wrenching bit of human drama being told in the form of a song. It was rightly given the honour of being nominated for an Academy Award as “Best Song in a Motion Picture”.
And…that’s where all the trouble started.
One of the things that we tend to do in our part of the world that causes trouble is believing that how things are for us is how they are for everyone; that our History is everyone’s shared experience and that, what is important to us is, therefore, important to everyone everywhere. It isn’t always that way. Take, for example, the Academy Awards. The Academy Awards is the end-of-the-year award show for, mainly, North American movies. Many of us try and see those movies that are nominated for awards in our theatres (Pre-Covid, of course). We discuss the merits of the various actors and actresses up for awards. For a week or two, talk about The Academy Awards fills our social discourse. The event generates its own level of self-importance and we, as an audience, tend to buy into it. One aspect that tends to generate the most buzz is the Red Carpet. What will the Stars be wearing? Who will the Stars be wearing? Enquiring minds seem desperate to know. In reality, the Red Carpet parade is kinda stupid, in my opinion. When did we, as a society, demand to see actresses bare their backs or show their cleavage…..and then, rate it all, accordingly…..as the price they must pay for having acted in a serious movie? We should be better than that and, although we are slowly advancing forward as a society in this area, back when “I Have Seen It All” was nominated, judging the fashion choices of those on the red carpet was akin to a blood sport.
Did you know that when swans mate, they do so for life? Of course, you are probably aware of the story of the ugly duckling that turned into a beautiful swan. Bjork knew all of this when she opted to wear a dress in the design of a swan to the Academy Awards. Being from Iceland, the US movie awards do not generate that much discussion because the cultural influence of the US entertainment industry is not that great there. Popular US movies play there, on occasion but, as Bjork has told the story, she was more familiar with Busby Berkley musicals and Esther Williams swimming spectaculars than most of what was being honoured that night in Los Angeles. So, she wore a dress that looked like a swan to be glamourous and playful…..and, people lost their collective minds!!!
“I Have Seen It All” is a beautiful song and captures a special moment in the lives of two important movie characters…..and, very few, if any, cared in the least! I have always been a fan of Bjork and this song is no exception. I like it a lot. The fact that most people know faaaaaaaar more about her “swan dress” than they know about her movie or this song, says a lot about our value systems in this part of the world. If you have never heard “I Have Seen It All” before then, get ready for a slow, measured dance between two characters; each with differing versions of how best to make use of the light before it all goes dark. Songs can be powerful and moving, at times. “I Have Seen It All” certainly is both. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “I’ve Seen It All” by Bjork (featuring Thom Yorke) can be found here.
The link to the official website for Bjork can be found here.
The link to the trailer for the movie, “Dancer in the Dark”…from which the song, “I’ve Seen It All” was used in, can be found here.