All Is Full of Love
|"All Is Full of Love"|
|Single by Björk|
|from the album Homogenic|
|Released||June 7, 1999|
|Genre||Ambient (album version)
Trip hop (video version)
|Length||4:32 (album version)
4:50 (video version)
|Label||One Little Indian|
|Björk singles chronology|
"All Is Full of Love" is a song by Björk, released as the fifth and final single from her album Homogenic. The version of the song used in the video is actually the original version of the song, while the version on Homogenic is a remix by Howie B.
It was first released as a dance single by Funkstörung with their remixes in late 1998, but later received a full single and video release in the 1999 summer. The song has been acclaimed ever since its release, with music critics calling it the highlight of the album, and also praised it for Björk's powerful vocals and its instrumentation. The single was an alternative rock hit as well as a dance hit in America. It peaked at #8 on the dance charts. Meanwhile, in the UK, the single peaked at #23. It is the first track on Björk's Greatest Hits album.
The famous music video for the song, directed by Chris Cunningham, depicts the assembling of a robotic Björk and her passionate kissing with another robot. Considered a milestone of computer animation, it has received universal acclaim from critics and has won multiple awards. The video was listed amongst the best music videos of all time by Time, NME and MusicRadar, was placed at the top spot in MTV2's 100 Best Videos Ever, and is on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Background and composition
The closing track of Homogenic, "All Is Full of Love" was written and recorded after the rest of the album. Produced by Björk, the original version of the track was replaced "at the last minute" by Howie B's mix. She asked him to capture the atmosphere "when the sun comes out after a thunderstorm." It was inspired by the advent of spring while producing the album in Málaga, Spain. After having been there for six months with few people and in the mountains, Björk felt lonely, but a morning walk in April inspired her to write the track. Björk recalls: "That song's from a moment when I'd had a pretty rough winter and then it was a spring morning and I walked outside and the birds were singing: Spring is here! I wrote the song and recorded in half a day. It just clicked - you know: you're being too stubborn, don't be so silly, there is love everywhere."
The track goes in hand with the album's tribute to her native Iceland; "All Is Full of Love" is also inspired by Icelandic mythology. In an interview with David Hemingway, Björk said: "you have this saga where the Gods get aggressive and the world explodes and everything dies and then the sun comes up and everything starts all over again;" referring to Ragnarök. The previous track, "Pluto", stands for that death and destruction, whereas "All Is Full of Love" stands for that new beginning, "like the birds coming out after a thunderstorm." Björk also called it a song about "believing in love" and that "Love isn't just about two persons. It's everywhere around you. Even if you're not getting love from Person A, it doesn't mean there's not love there." However, she also described it as "taking the piss", considering it "the most sugary song ever." As it opposes the rest of Homogenic's "macho" aesthethic, Björk has described "All Is Full of Love" as the first song on Vespertine.
The album version of "All Is Full of Love" is a drumless ambient song. Unlike the rest of Homogenic, it does not have its characteristic electronic beats, opting to "[create] an intimacy between the growing dynamics of the instrumentation and Bjork's impressive vocal abilities." It uses a long reverb which results in a wash of sound that suggests a very large space, suggestive of the "heavenly" environment envisaged by Björk for the track. According to Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine, the song has a soft pulse, with intervals that build up to an electronic orchestration of industrial beats. David Browne of Entertainment Weekly called it a "moony lullaby" and compared it to the music of Enya. In his review for Spin, James Hunter wrote the track is one of the times Björk "dips her toe into the warm lake of tradition" and noted its "rockish minor-key verses traipse off into Björk gospel."
The video version of "All Is Full of Love" is a midtempo trip hop ballad with soul influences. In opposition to the sonically minimalist mix included in the album, this version has been described as "lushly produced" and includes "fluttering harps and shivering strings." The best known version of the song, and the most preferred by fans and Björk herself, it is known by various names including "Mark Stent Mix" and "Video Mix".
Background and development
|It's a combination of several fetishes: industrial robotics, female anatomy, and flourescent light in that order. It was perfect, I got to play around with the two things I was into as a teenager: robots and porn.|
The music video for "All Is Full of Love" was directed by Chris Cunningham. Björk was impressed by Cunningham's original music videos for IDM musicians Autechre, Squarepusher and Aphex Twin; and by his clear lines, science fiction inclinations and discordant imagery. She sent the original version of the song —not the mix featured in the album— because she thought it best suited his "mood." They decided to make the music video after the album's promotion, so it would not be part of any marketing schedule, but more of a short film. Björk contacted Cunningham and they met at his London office; she brought Chinese Kama Sutra prints as her only guiding reference. Cunningham had also associated the track with sex upon hearing it, but could not figure out how to make the video explicit yet broadcastable. Björk recalls: "I think the only thing I said was that I thought it was very white, [...] and I'm trying to describe some sort of a heaven. But I wanted also to have the other level there, there would be lust, it wouldn't be just clean. [...] And I think I mentioned that I think it should be [...] something that is white and frozen, and then it sort of melts because of love and making love. It's erotic."
Cunningham came up with a treatment which Björk has described as "perfect" and "a masterpiece", but he was not satisfied with it as it was "too literal" and "too easy." He returned with the final treatment a few weeks later, which had the same ingredients combined in a different way. The treatment outlines what would become the music video and says "It's like Karma Sutra meets Industrial Robotics" and that because of the surreal nature of the images, they "could be sexually suggestive as [they liked] and get away with it." Initially, there would be a final stage where the two robots unfold like a flower as they mate, revealing "an indescribably abstract life form made from the two unfolded, artificial, humanoid forms." However, the team could not manage to do it, and Cunningham has said that "perhaps it's just as well, as the music doesn't really allow for it."
The robots were designed by Cunningham and were built in full-size by Paul Catling —who had also sculpted the masks for Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker"— in clay in two hours. He also worked with Julian Caldow in set design, which was put together by Chris Oddy. The treatment describes the set as "an elegant, pristine white environment" with "a Japanese feel to it, a simplicity in its design." The director was, however, dissatisfied with the result and relied heavily on post-production. He exemplifies: "on the shoot there were two main robot arms (operated simply by rods), but in post production, a third and fourth robot arm were created in CGI at Glassworks."
The video was shot at Bray Studios and Greenford Studios; post-production was handled by Glasswork using software Softimage and Flame. Cunningham has said that "every single shot in the video has about four layers." He first shot the set and the props doing nothing, for about 21 seconds; he would then remove the robot and replace it with Björk, who had her face painted white and wore a blue suit. Using a mix of the master shot and a live feed of Björk in frame, they tried to match up her face and the robot body as much as possible. Only her eyes and mouth were actually used, the rest of the robot head is 3D animation tracked from her real one. He has described the filming process as an unpleasant experience:
I always think that my strenght is [...] sculpting stuff up in [post-production], and then a lot of the time things are pretty ramshackle while they're shot. And I think that with the ["All Is Full of Love"] video that was the most extreme example of that, I mean it really was a disaster. [...] In the Avid, ooking at this stuff, it just looked awful and I actually had a panic attack when I went to the telecine to look at the rushes. I just thought "this is a fucking disaster, [...] so cheap and nasty. At it was only when Glassworks started doing the computer graphics that [...] I started to realise how the video was gonna be made completely with the computer graphic addition. I started having ideas for ways of making the video better all the time. So we were kind of improvising stuff in post. Up until that point I had absolutely no faith whatsoever in computer graphics, and now I'm more of a convert, really.
Björk left Cunningham alone to work for the video, refusing to see the product until it was finished. He has stated that this made the work much more easy. Björk has said "I guess when you come across someone as special as Chris you just go humble. And you kind of realize that your role is more to make sure that there is a connection between the tune and the video. And then you set up a space, or like a place where he can work with no interference. And that sort of ends up being your role."
The video begins with a travelling through a dark environment wrought with cables and a faint pulsating light. The sequence has been described as "womb-like, voyeuristic, as if the black box of technology is about to open up." The camera follows these cables to an ethereal, white room where a robot with Björk's features lies in a fetal position. As the room lightens up, two mechanical arms begin to assemble the robot, which opens its eyes and begins to sing the song. Pistons pumping white fluids, drilling and penetrative motions are seen; images with a clear sexual subtext.
Now sitting upright, the robot looks up to see another robotic Björk as the machines stop the assembly. It smiles and extends its hand to the sitting robot, joining in the song. In the climax of the video, the robots passionately kiss and embrace while the machines assemble their backs and light comes and goes. The images of the kissing robots are interposed with shots of white fluid washing over robotic parts and the mechanicals arms assembling them. The Institute for the Unstable Media described what follows: "as the music fades and the pulsating beat becomes more dominant, we are once again drawn in the womb-like dark space, making it clear to us that we sampled a glimpse of a black-boxed kingdom."
The music video was greeted with widespread critical acclaim. Music journalist Mark Pytlik wrote the video "marked an unquestionable creative apex for Björk's visual work, a perfect synthesis of form and content." Time 's Craig Duff called it a milestone in computer animation and stated that "no robot had expressed the sensuality that director Chris Cunningham imbues in a Björk-bot in the video." MusicRadar considered the music video to be "one of the most visually striking promos of Björk's career." NME also praised the "All Is Full of Love" music video as one of Björk's best and particularly commended the wide angle shot of the cyborgs kissing as the chorus kicks in. Eric Henderson of Slant Magazine dubbed it "the perfect pre-millennial precursor to our current gadget-assisted culture of self-love" and also wrote "When it was released, I thought it looked cool and stressed the importance of loving yourself. Now I think it's a terrifying and sealed-off nightmare wherein you find out that you are the only person who will ever love you." Writing for Pitchfork Media, Scott Plagenhoef considered that "the strongest single images from any video of the 1990s come from [the clip]," also calling it "strange and moving." CMJ New Music Monthly's Douglas Wolk called the video "magnificent" and praised it for "[bringing] out the beauty of the song."
Recognition and legacy
The music video has won various awards and accolades. It won the Jury Prize at ArtFutura Festival of 1999, Best Video in the 2000 Fantasporto, Best Video at the 2000 Australian Effects and Animation Festival (AEAF) and Best Art Direction in a Video and Best Special Effects in a Video in the Music Week Awards. Other awards received at festivals include the second place of the Prix PIXEL-INA Best Script in the 2000 Imagina, and the music video award at the London Effects and Animation Festival (LEAF). In the D&AD Awards the video was awarded four prizes, in the categories of Video Direction, Cinematography, Animation and Special Effects. In the MVPA Awards, Cunningham received the award for Best Direction of a Female Artist in a Music Video. Björk won two awards in the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards: Breakthrough Video and Best Special Effects in a Video. The music video also received the Best Special Effects In A Music Video and Best 3D Animation Music Video in the 2000 International Monitor Awards, The video has also received various nominations: Best Video in the 1999 Ericcson Muzik Awards, Best Short Form Music Video in the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards, and Best Alternative Video, Best Cinematography and Best Editing in a Video in the 2000 Music Week Awards.
In 2008, MTV2 placed the album at number one on their list of the Greatest Music Videos Ever. In 2011, "All Is Full of Love" placed on number 14 in MusicRadar's list of the 30 best music videos of all time, and was placed in Time 's list of The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos. The clip was also listed as the fifht greatest of all time by NME and the ninth top music video of the decade by Pitchfork Media.
In addition, "All Is Full of Love" has been included in various art exhibitions and museums, including DEAF04 Exhibition in the V2_Institute for the Unstable Media in Rotterdam, Chris Cunningham in MoMA PS1 in New York City, the 49th Venice Biennale, While Interwoven Echoes Drip into a Hybrid Body – an Exhibition about Sound, Performance and Sculpture in the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich and This Is Not a Love Song in La Virreina Centre de la Imatge in Barcelona. The music video was also on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
In 2004, similarities were noted between the design of the robots in the music video and those in the film I, Robot, raising accusations of plagiarism by fans. E! News contacted Cunningham and 20th Century Fox —the studio behind the film— but neither of them returned calls for comment. Chris Cunningham has served as a model for a character in the novel Pattern Recognition (2003) by William Gibson, in which a fictitious music video director who puts "robot girls in his video" makes a clip characterized by the following words: "No sci-fi kitsch for Damien. Dreamlike things in the dawn half-light, their small breasts gleaming, white plastic shining faints as old marble;" a clear reference to "All Is Full of Love".
Credits and personnel
Credits adapted from Cunningham's page at Director-File.
- Commissioner — Paul McKee at One Little Indian
In 2001, American indie rock band The Microphones covered the song and placed it on their 2001 studio album, Blood. "All Is Full of Love" was covered by Death Cab for Cutie and was released on their 2002 The Stability EP. The Vitamin String Quartet, a musical group widely known for its series of tributes to popular music acts, covered the track as part of their 2005 tribute to the singer, entitled Violently: The String Quartet Tribute To Bjork.
|UK Singles Chart||24|
|US Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales||8|
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