Song 137: Bjork, “Hyper-ballad” (1995)


I love this song, but I’ve never known what to do with its lyrics. The images are interesting—mainly, throwing everyday objects, “whatever I find lying around,” off a cliff—but why? What’s it for?

That’s not a criticism. I take a lot of Bjork songs at face value, because I respect the fact that she’s doing something different. No matter what she’s doing, it’s always interesting, and I never feel like it’s inaccessible, that she’s trying to be smarter and weirder than everybody else.

According to an interview, this is what “Hyper-ballad” is about:

“’Hyper-ballad’ is about having this kind of bag going on and three years have passed and you’re not high anymore. You have to make an effort consciously and nature’s not helping you anymore. So you wake up early in the morning and you sneak outside and you do something horrible and destructive, break whatever you can find, watch a horrible film, read a bit of William Burroughs, something really gross and come home and be like, ‘Hi honey, how are you?’”

That’s a surprisingly simple idea from Bjork, so simple that it makes me realize that Post, an incredible record, is probably the most direct thing she did. As I said, I’ve never found her inaccessible, but Post, with its big band song and revenge fantasy, is a collection of songs about different things, with different sounds.

Post and Radiohead’s The Bends came out the same year, and in retrospect, they’re very similar. Not only are they each act’s second record, but they each point to the amazing things to come. The Bends, especially “Street Spirit (Fade Out),” has shades of the dystopia of OK Computer; the glitchy soundscapes of Post sound a little like those of Homogenic. If only we knew what we were in for.


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