182. Bjork – ‘Pagan Poetry’ (2001)

“A secret code carved”

Taken from the album Vespertine

Also released on Greatest Hits, Vespertine Live, Family Tree and Voltaic

UK #38

I just looked over the lyrics of this song and realised I have no idea what any of them mean. None. I hardly knew what Bjork wassinging let alone what the words actually meant. This is neither unusual for Bjork or a bad thing, it just means her vocals, the music and the production all need to be truly wonderful to still make the song this good. And they are, and it is.

‘Pagan Poetry’ is the best song on Vespertine, and the summation of everything that made that album a classic. The music-box melody that ran through the album is here, as are Bjork’s vocals switching violently between fragile and full of power. It’s uncanny how Bjork can be so lyrically cryptic and insular, yet it is understood immediately what she means, what the feelings in the song are, the message she is trying to express. That is the measure of a truly great singer.

There is an amazing bit in ‘Pagan Poetry’ where Bjork madly repeats “I love him, I love him, I love him” over and over, only to be answered by a whole bunch of Bjork’s responding with “She loves him, she loves him, she loves him”. It doesn’t sound like much on paper but it’s a little bit magical in context, I must say. The painful (literally) video is a bit of an uncomfortable viewing experience, but I suppose it does represent how intimate and personal this song is.

Live on Letterman:

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