Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bjork/Robyn - Hyperballad

I've never been a huge fan of Bjork, but a friend posted Robyn's recent performance of "Hyperballad" at the Polar Music Prize ceremony, and I took a moment to investigate the original. Despite my overwhelming love for Robyn, I really think the original might take the cake here.

It's a song about the rituals we create that transform the unbearable into the bearable. The protagonist throws objects off the side of a mountain in order to make it through her days. There is the implication of a abusive relationship, and the statement of semi-suicidal thoughts, but the bulk of the song is focused on the ritual and the purpose of the ritual, as one must be in order for any magic of this kind to work. The skittering and burbling electronic background of the original emphasize the ordered nature of the ritual, then exploding during the chorus which showcases the unbearable nature of the situation, and the demanded and desired effect of throwing car parts from a mountain("So I can feel happier, to be safe again with you."). This sort of subtle nicety is missing entirely from the symphonic version performed by Robyn, trading the unstable feeling for a shallower "epic" feel. Robyn's vocal performance also lacks the nuance of Bjork's unique vocal physicality, again robbing the song of it's depth.

Most people put the pain first, and then the salve comes later. Bjork understands that the most effective way to deal with pain is to head it off at the pass, to create a self that cannot be affected by events to come. Beautiful song, and it is unfortunate that Robyn's version does not do it justice.

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