(This post was originally written on 750words.com. It has been edited.)
Just after eight. I’m listening to Bjork, because she received the Polar Music Prize last night. Ane Brun did an amazing cover of Joga, and it made me want to listen to Bjork’s version. I haven’t listened to Bjork in a long time, but I still love her. I don’t know why people have such a problem with her. Is it the voice or the personality? Don’t let it be the swan dress. People, you have to be better than that. She’s amazingly independent and defiant, and what better kind of role model could we wish for our daughters.
I love how her music is many things at once. It’s punk and pop, but also classical and symphonic. It’s musical. It’s movie music that gets played on the radio. She tricked us, a little, into thinking that epic music could be popular music. I suppose I was just the right age for Bjork. She was huge in the mid-90s. That’s when I was paying attention. That’s when I was learning what else music could be. Because I was lucky to grow up with music in my house. All kinds of music. I never wanted for sound.
I grew up with the best, too. The Beatles and Elton John and Billy Joel and The Who and The Rolling Stones, too, but maybe not as much. Paul Simon, as well as with Garfunkel. Carole King and other people who didn’t just sing, but write, too. Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie, and everyone else who teaches that reinvention can be a great thing. I grew up on great music, so when I started searching for my own touchstones, I demanded only the best. I didn’t last long in the conventional pop world. It didn’t do the same things for me that Second Hand News did. Why settle?
Bjork was that music that I didn’t settle for. You can’t. She challenges you. She makes you uncomfortable sometimes. She makes ugly beautiful things. That’s why she and Michel Gondry were such a perfect match. Both making beautiful things with rough edges. Places where you can get your fingers caught, places that hurt. Places that dig deeper than the rest. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do? I think Sigur Ros is like that, too, and funny that they both come from Iceland. That can’t be a coincidence. Rough lands. Far far away from what we call the New World.
But I haven’t listened to her in a long time. I haven’t listened to a Bjork album since, I think, Dancer in the Dark. It’s not that I didn’t like Dancer, I loved it. I loved the duet with Thom Yorke. Another kindred spirit. Another artist with a voice and a sensibility that refuses to be labelled and boxed up. Again, I haven’t listened to a Radiohead album since Hail to the Thief. Even there, I don’t think I really gave it a big chance. Maybe Amnesiac was the last one. And there again.
It’s not that I didn’t like Dancer in the Dark or Amnesiac and just decided that I wasn’t going to listen to them any more. You know, I’ll listen to the old stuff, but they’re no good anymore. That’s not what happened at all. I just lost track. There is so much music out there. I say I grew up on my parents’s record collection, but I swear there’s stuff in there I’ve never heard. I don’t believe I’ve heard it all, and I had easy access to it my whole life. It’s just that there’s other stuff. Newer stuff. I got into more preppy rock, like The Decemberists and Death Cab and Vampire Weekend. I left a lot of my teenage favourites behind. It’s not fair, of course. But there’s only so much time in the day. I wish I could take in music through both ears, but that’s not how it works. You need both for just one song. That’s how amazing music is.
And I’m still rebuilding my collection. I’ve lost my mp3s a few times now. It’s hard even to remember songs you loved last week for redownload, let alone the songs you loved during your last decade. I just found a Bjork discography torrent. I’ll get to that soon. Sooner, rather than later. That’s all I can promise music these days. I want to hear you all, I swear. But I also want to read all the books, or all the books in my basement, at least. I want to watch all the TV shows I want to watch, but they keep making more. I want to see all the concerts, I want to cheer at all the races, I want to eat great food in all the great cities. I’m a glutton for culture. I want to know the world.