Björk – Hyperballad

We live on a mountain
Right at the top
There’s a beautiful view
From the top of the mountain
Every morning I walk towards the edge
And throw little things off
Like car-parts, bottles and cutlery
Or whatever I find lying around
It’s become a habit
A way to start the day

Chorus x2:
I go through all this

Before you wake up
So I can feel happier
To be safe up here with you

It’s real 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 ’til they crash
Imagine what my body would sound like
Slamming against those rocks
When it lands
Will my eyes
Be closed or open?

Chorus x3

Safe up (here with you)

~~~

This is my first music post and I can’t imagine a more appropriate foray than the artistic icon that is Björk. For those who don’t listen to much music, you may know her as “that weird chick from Iceland.” To the rest of us, Björk has helped raise the bar for what is possible to accomplish through music. Her rich career has seen her break the boundaries of genres often merging different instruments and vocal styles to create a very distinct sound that no one could ever replicate. She is most familiar with an electronic/trip-hop infused pop style with deep, brooding lyrics that one may not catch upon a first listen.

Her “Hyperballad” is my personal ‘magnum-opus’ out of her discography. An infectiously catchy pop hit that seems to hide its own darker message under the tone of a love song. The track was on Björk’s seminal second album, “Post,” which was released as she was adapting to the fast-paced life in London where she had moved.

I always find it intriguing when the artists themselves provide input on what a song is about. Often you’ll get nothing, sometimes they spell out the punchline completely. Most of the time however, you get something just vague enough to leave the crowd guessing. It depends on your preference but I like it when things are left kind of vague as they require greater involvement on the part of the listener.

Fun Fact: Hyperballad” is written based off of a dream that Björk had.

Bjork 2.png

Image courtesy of @bjork.

Lyrically, the first thing that struck me was the number of different objects that have a sense of danger or harm around them. In the first stanza, she discusses throwing off “bottles” and “cutlery,” all sharp objects that could injure. Then there’s the language in the later stanza, the fixation on what the objects sound like as they fall down, as well as the rocks down below. Björk suggests that she will feel safer throwing these dangerous objects off the mountain, yet in actuality the objects are harmless assuming one is careful. But in her dream, she views the objects as dangerous and thus they become dangerous, leading to her compulsively and ritualistically throwing them off the edge of the mountain each morning. That is one of the more critical underlying pieces of the song, the narrator’s loss of control.

This is a song about a very deep and intimate relationship. That is the framework within which I interpreted the lyrics. It’s about an abrasive love that may seem idealized and attractive on the pedestal on which it is placed, but upon closer glance doesn’t seem entirely healthy.

Have you ever cared for someone so much, that you sometimes felt that you loved them even more than you loved yourself?

There’s a duality to the lyrics: this love is portrayed in a romanticized way as something bigger than life itself, but at the same time there’s this dark edge to it like thorns on a rose that makes the glossy image to start to fade. Loving someone that much can be great and amazing, especially in the early stages, but eventually it can start to feel overwhelming and it can consume other areas of your life. It can ultimately consume you. You start to become isolated from all the other things that are important to you, you start putting the needs of the other person ahead of your own, you start to become dependent. Björk has been there before, and this song is an ominous reminder that we don’t always live happily ever after. while masquerading as a simple love ballad.

Now I want to focus on the section of the lyrics where Björk vividly imagines what it would be like for her to jump off the mountain and essentially commit suicide. If you read more literally, the lyrics suggest this is a song about an abusive relationship, and that the earlier references to sharp objects and the denotations of the narrator’s compulsive behaviors are nods towards self-injury. I think the song is a little bit more abstract in its message. The hypothetical “suicide” is the end of her relationship. She is unraveling more and more in the second stanza, becoming more mesmerized by the throwing and falling of objects. The more she loses control, the more she perhaps starts to recognize the negative consequences her love is having, and she wonders whether she can let herself go from the relationship.

The final question then, is whether her eyes will “be closed or open?” This part took me some time to work through but here’s how I make sense of it. Whether she jumps off the mountain/ends the relationship can be intentional or inadvertent. If she falls and hits the rocks with her eyes open, she has decided to free herself of this relationship and intentionally let go. But even if she doesn’t willingly make the choice, given the implication of the lyrics it seems she will continue to lose control of her life the longer she stays in the relationship. So perhaps the same result will be reached anyway, but the latter course is much more destructive.

This track is honestly one of my favorite pieces of music of all time, a song that I hold very close to my own heart…as a reminder that even the strongest and purest of loves, can be equally destructive and dangerous in their own right.

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