Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m a music lover. But Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk holds a special place in my heart—admittedly a place I’d forgotten about for a while until recently viewing her “show” at the MoMA (showing through June 7).
I really wanted to go the Björk sound and video installation because while my oldest daughter and I grew up with her music, my two youngest weren’t as familiar—and in preparation for a family trip to Iceland this summer (which I visited with my oldest many years ago), I thought it would be good homework. But I also believe it’s hard to truly understand Björk unless you’ve been to Iceland: The wide-open spaces, the otherworldly feel, the fact that you can choose a farm-stay location based on whether or not it’s a fairy dwelling!
The first song of hers I ever heard, a song that became a part of the lexicon of our family, was “Sick for Toys,” recorded when Björk was in The Sugarcubes and music came on cassette tapes. “Sick for Toys” is an AWESOME song when you have kids. But we realized after we saw the MoMA show that my two youngest daughters hadn’t even heard it yet! So of course, we had a listen. Nothing like a song you haven’t heard in 20 years to make you feel old and also bring back happy memories.
But back to the exhibit: The first thing to see at the MoMA is the video Black Lake. You go into a room and sit on the floor and are surrounded by surreal sound and a film of Björk singing a song that’s clearly about love and heartbreak. Like me, Björk is now a grown woman, but it’s amazing to see she hasn’t lost her childlike magical creative spirit—in fact it’s only gotten bolder and more confident.
The actual exhibit (which you have to get tickets for) is different from any I’ve been to before. On the surface, it looks similar to other art shows, and without music, you could get through it in 10 minutes and feel like you’ve “seen” it—which is what I would typically do. But the show requires you to wear headphones, which, unless you have ADHD and are incredibly impatient, forces you to slow down, really listen, and feel her journey.
It was very emotional for me to watch my youngest daughter experience Björk for the first time in this way, to see her enthralled attention and patience. And through the journey, I was reminded of some songs that have been critical soundtracks to my life. The song Hyperballad especially, which I listened to a lot during a certain period of my life, reminded me of how much Björk means to me. And then, walking into my teenager’s room last night and catching her listening to Björk—and to a song I had never even heard before—told me I had done my job as a mother, which is all about planting seeds of love and curiosity in our children so that they can grow in their own way.
The show has gotten mixed critical reviews. But as I always say: F*@# the critics. If you get a chance, go and immerse yourself in an otherworld where there is freedom from criticism and just the magical joy of creation.
Here is my essential Björk playlist:
1. Sick for Toys/Sugarcubes
The Perfect song to play when a kid is having a temper fit because he or she wants more toys!
“I go through this/Before you wake up/So I can feel happier/To be safe up here with you.” That’s all you need to know.
3. Army of Me/Björk
Great song for when you have a difficult person in your life to deal with.
A song of independence, self-sufficiency, and solitude.
5. It’s Oh So Quiet/Björk
Simply one of the most fun songs to sing (I mean scream) ever recorded.
6. Human Behavior/Björk
Just an iconic rhythm and sound of Björk.
7. I Miss You/Björk
“But I haven’t met you yet”—perfect. And “I remember, but it hasn’t happened yet.” Oh, yes.
8. Big Time Sensuality/Björk
This is the kind of music I would love to dance to if I ever went out dancing.
9. Triumph of a Heart/Björk
Discovered this song at the MoMA show—the video is HYSTERICAL (directed by Spike Jones).
10. Black Lake/Björk
The song featured at the MoMA, which is heartbreaking and lovely. Tears….
11. All Is Full of Love/Björk
The song I had never heard before until I walked into my teenager’s room last night.