#376: Bjork, "Post" (1995)

It seems strange to describe Bjork as an artist who is grating into the microphone for you to get your life together, but that’s how “Army of Me” opens up on Post. Bjork tells us, verbatim, to “stand up / you’ve got to manage / I won’t sympathize / anymore.” This is the same woman who told you all is full of love, but she is not having it today.

It’s offbeat from Bjork, really, but it’s offbeat in the way we now expect from Bjork. I’m not here to gush on how Bjork is this unique, timeless pop star. Post is the album where Bjork tells you how she is doing right now. In 1995, after the politeness of Debut, Bjork smashes that truth and pulls you into her pools of ambition. She dares to cover “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Betty Hutton, brings you to this fairy-tale-folk fable with trip-hop on “Isobel,” and still goes grunge on “Army of Me” to shake your spirit loose and show that she can do more. Post drops and shifts the status quo on how to produce and promote experimental music; it is the album that transforms Bjork into the pop star she is today.

Which begs the question: is Bjork a pop star? There has to be something said about an artist who is able to be as influential as she is today, and still have the amount of creative freedom she has without the heavy commercial cost of being a pop star. She acts in films; works with engineers and scientists on immersive technology; she writes and illustrates children's books. There is this comically, carefully performative identity to Bjork: there are swan dresses, MoMA exhibits, bell dresses (I feel like there’s a theme here), collaborations with Thom Yorke…the list itself could be unpacked in a biography. There is no currency of friendship though, no #SQUAD goals or Instagram feed to scroll through Bjork’s beautifully filtered life. No Twitter hearts, no need to shrink Bjork’s legacy to a single social media screen. She lives the pop culture dream without the pop star vibes: some fame, but with some creative freedom, too. The woman brought a microphone to the beach so she could sing to the sea when writing for Postwhat type of rare romantic freedom is that?

There’s that gushing again, but I’m projecting so much onto this album what I feel like my life should be at this moment. In 1995, Bjork went ahead and worked on an album to share what she knew, wholly and honestly, across the spectrum of genre and lyrical ability. This album did not define the landscape of her work, but helped her race seriously and wholeheartedly through her decades of success. Some scandal may have lingered, but it was more often enormous extensions of honing and processing her craft. That requires some new-wave confidence that seems so distant, potentially lightyears away, to even consider attempting in 1995.

Knowing what you want, and saying what you want however you want to, requires another level of confidence that seems difficult to attain and impossible to interpret altogether. I so desperately wanted Post to be this colorful and textured album that would have taken me back to 1995 and taught me exactly, word by word, how to make confidence happen. There’s the day-to-day panic of being wrong; the fear that working hard is not enough (is it actually ever?);  there it is, the fear. I wanted Post to shake fear out of me for a good hour and a half. That’s all young impressionable women want from their pop stars these days, really, to be heavy and celebratory in their attention and praise and performance. Right?

I wanted Post to rescue me from the self-doubt in writing a light-hearted, personal essay. “Rescue” in itself carries so much weight, and perhaps too much expectation to put on an artist you hardly know anything about, except that she wears cool dresses and strives to make new things nearly twenty years after her debut into the diversified experimental music landscape.

I can’t say I want to be Bjork; but, I think, in order to be more and make things new, we are required to embrace the uneven nature of growth: these hills of self-reflection, slight embarrassment, some sadness we hold closer than we would like to admit, and so forth. But what Bjork acknowledges, and sings throughout Post, is that accepting that discomfort and living through it can help us find out what makes us distinct. We remain faithful to ourselves, we stand up, we manage, we keep moving. We try. That, in itself, is full of love.

—Upma Kapoor