Help me understand Björk

My boyfriend and I often play songs for each other in the early morning. It has become an occasional part of our morning ritual, especially on those mornings when waking up is just that tad more difficult or when getting up just isn’t necessary just yet.

This morning, he grabbed my phone (he is one of those rare ones without a smartphone) and I watched as he typed “Venus as a boy” and I couldn’t help but blurt out “Oh god…”, which in turn made him raise his eyebrows at me.

I let the song play (almost) until the end, which I thought was quite an achievement… I just can’t handle Björk very well… 

I tried to explain why and I noticed how I started to raise my voice and was completely failing at giving him a good explanation. I think I just used a lot of words, starting with “What does Venus as a boy even mean?!” and ending with my piece de resistance: “she just weirds me out”.

So then he said: “you know what? maybe you should write a blog about it…”

Man, he knows me so well, doesn’t he?

So yah, I’m struggling here… Why does Björk annoy me so much and why is it so hard to put it into words?

What I’ve come up with so far:

  • her music is uncomfortable to listen to
  • it’s pretentious and unnecessarily complicated
  • I feel like it’s a “Emperor’s new clothes” situation, where nobody dares say they don’t like it, out of fear of being labeled musically dumb.
  • It just sounds like someone was doodling around with different electronic melodies and riffs and then accidentally added the audio of someone singing in the shower.
  • She always looks like she’s on the verge of a psychotic breakdown.

Luckily, there are more people around that “just don’t get it” and have turned to online discussion forums and blogs to vent and inquire. Some of the explanations people have given for appreciating Björk are:

  • Her (seemingly) very organic, unrestrained approach to singing, combined with the fact that her grasp on the English language is shaky at best, give her vocals a rough spontaneity that is refreshing in an art-pop artist.
  • You don’t have to be crazy to like Bjork but it helps. So do mind altering chemicals.
  • I loved the drama, the glitchiness, Bjork’s amazing vocal range. I find the combination of strings and the urgent, insistent song structure of Joga absolutely mesmerizing.
  • In a nutshell, “understanding” Björk is beyond my ability to explain. I’d just say that it starts with her voice. That’s the gorgeous lighthouse that you follow through the wonderful storm of her ever-evolving music.
  • [In a review on 2015 album Vulnicura] I’ll be the first to admit that, as a huge Björk fan since the late 1990s, I’ve often been at a loss with her music: I adore her experimental, deeply passionate approach to music, but my own appreciation of her music has become increasingly challenged.
  • [In a review on her 2017 video of the Gate] You know when you’ve been out all night, and you’re really fucked, and you finally decide you should try and sleep, so you curl up in bed, dry mouthed, and close your eyes for a second? And then suddenly all this weird shit starts spinning around your brain? Like geometric shapes and faces you don’t recognise and other, intangible stuff you couldn’t even explain to someone with words? Well, Björk’s new video for “The Gate” is kind of like that, but better, because it stars Björk.
  • Her eeeeks, and shrieks turn this little freak into a feisty contender for one of the most unbelievable performers of my generation. Bjork started off as somewhat of a meme in apartment 320, but I submit to you that I have rethought her status as just a meme. In fact she is, nay she will forever be one of the most interesting artists in this game of life we all play.

Hmm… none of this is really helping. Or maybe it is? It’s making me feel that I will never get it and that I just don’t belong in Björk club. But do try to convince me otherwise!

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