June 27, 2007 at 9:46 pm 4 comments

Considering I have some experience with what Bjork is singing about, you’d think this song would resonate with me more than it does. But it doesn’t, and like “There’s More To Life Than This” it seems like Bjork is playacting the emotion of the song rather than genuinely feeling it. Which is fine – she was still young, and we have plenty of evidence that her emotional range has matured.

Her superficiality on this song is also probably due to an effect of her naturally optimistic outlook. Bjork didn’t manage to harness sadness well until … actually, never. Come to think of it, Bjork really doesn’t do sadness. (Weird, hunh?) Even when she does do sadness – like “I’ve Seen It All” – it comes off as bittersweet happiness. Bjork is way too nice to force her negative emotions on other people. She’d rather say “It’s okay! I’m only going blind! Nothing to see!” than bring someone down. I think it’s an interesting point to consider about such a wide-ranging artist, and I’ll get back to it when it is more appropriate.

As for the backing track: it is pretty dated. It still pops and crackles, and I enjoy the loneliness-of-the-dancefloor bit (“There’s no one here/And people everywhere”), but the dated signifiers overwhelm the song’s enjoyability. “Venus As a Boy” comes on right after I’ve finished playing “Crying” and the comparison is shockingly unfair to “Crying.” Not that the song doesn’t try – there’s even a hard rock section filled with geetars – but it’s all lateral, competent perfection with nothing weird or hooky about it. And the weirdness seems so mannered that it only adds to the song’s deadness.

What is exciting to note – and this is true for most of Debut – is to compare Bjork’s voice with how it’s since evolved.

-Her voice is thinner and less warm than what she’d achieve on “Joga” and later tracks, but it has a great naivete she never had again.

-It is more controlled than her Sugercubes work, though. She tended to be more punky and screamy with that stuff, and here, as in most of Debut, she is stretching herself by putting on different poses. “Crying” is a song for the forlorn pop diva, so it is understandable that she’d err on the side of perfection rather than raw emotion.

-Her voice is breathy and feathery: she brings in power either at the beginning of her syllables or at the end (and in the choruses) and lets the rest of the word flap in her slightly wheezy-sounding vocals. In later work she’d tone down the wheeze and make her voice more clear.

-Her English has some idiosyncrasies she’ll lose later: she pronounces “carefully” with a sort of soft “ch” like “L’Chaim” (she does something similar on “Life” when she says “jettoblaster”).


Entry filed under: Debut.

Where Is The Line Who Is It

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Professor Batty  |  June 28, 2007 at 8:10 am

    So Broken is B at her saddest, but it never made it on a regular album- and it is her only guitar-voice duet, I think she wrote that after a break-up (Tricky? or was it Goldie?) it’s on one of her remix EPs and there is a live version from aJools Holland show as well…

  • 2. Liam  |  June 28, 2007 at 12:45 pm

    I disagree with your comment on Björk “playacting” her emotions. One of the (many) reasons I love Björk so much is for her sincerity.

    She expresses her sadness, but she does so without wallowing in it. There’s no self pity, more of a desire to work through the grief in order to move on. There are many “sad” or “negative” tracks she’s done – So Broken, Sod Off, Play Dead, Unravel come to mind.

    I agree with you that she isn’t shedding any tears when she sings “I’ve Seen It All”, but I don’t believe it comes from a reluctance to express negativity. What I’ve always found so depressing about the song is that it comes from the vantage point of someone who has given up the struggle and resigned themselves to their fate. It’s as if she’s saying “Your tears won’t prevent this from happening, so let’s move on to another battle, shall we?”

  • 3. Matthew  |  June 28, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    Well, I don’t know as many B-Side work as you do, Liam. But in comparison to her entire oeuvre, her outright “weepy” work is very limited. I actually like and support this, but it is interesting to compare it to any other contemporary pop artist who tends to mix upbeat/downbeat at roughly a 50:50 ratio.

    I also think we are disagreeing by agreeing here. I think in many of her later works she gets the emotion just right, and it is because she can be startlingly straightforward. I use “sincerity” in a different way than you do, I think, because for me it is almost entirely a negative – sincerity, means for me, a desire to appear sincere, whereas I think Bjork is more just emotionally naked. Bjork never ever seems to me like she wants to manipulate you into feeling her feelings. She wants to express them as clearly as possible so that you can understand and sympathize with her.

    I think her emotional complexity has also progressed an enormous amount since “Crying”, so even though she still gravitates toward upbeat, she’s been mixing it with increasingly negative and sad emotions. It’s why I like Medulla so much, particularly for songs like “Desired Constellation”, “Who Is It”, “Mouth’s Cradle” and “Triumph of the Heart.”

    And as I said later, I think her “playacting” is part of a pop persona she’s putting on. Debut feels very much like Bjork is doing a pastiche of different pop styles, and some of the pastiches work really well, and for me, some of them seem really flat. “Crying” seems flat. Maybe Bjork did cry around London for a bit, but as Simon Cowell might say, “I don’t believe it.” As a young artist it’s important to try on different styles, and I think, in this respect, “Crying” is important.

    But thanks for the disagreement, Liam.

  • 4. Maximus  |  December 20, 2007 at 12:50 am

    I would like to see a continuation of the topic


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