Isobel (song)

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"Isobel"
Single by Björk
from the album Post
B-side "Charlene"
"I Go Humble"
"Sweet Intuition"
Released August 14, 1995
Format CD, 12", cassette
Genre Trip hop[1]
Length 5:47
Label One Little Indian
Writer(s) Björk, Mark Bell, Nellee Hooper, Marius de Vries, Sjón
Producer(s) Björk, Nellee Hooper
Björk singles chronology
"Army of Me"
(1995)
"Isobel"
(1995)
"It's Oh So Quiet"
(1995)
Post track listing

"Isobel" is a song by Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk. It was produced by Björk and Nellee Hooper for her third studio album, Post (1995). Written by frequent collaborator Sjón,[2] the song's lyrics have been described as a fairy tale.[3][4] Björk had written a book with ideas for "Isobel", but couldn't write lyrics that worked, so she reached Sjón to write them.[5] Along with "Human Behaviour" and "Bachelorette", it tells the story of Isobel, a girl who is born from a spark in a forest and transitions into womanhood while the pebbles of the forest grow into skycrapers and overtake the area.[6] After a bad experience with love in the city, she decides to isolate herself again.[6] Björk has said the character's name is Isobel instead of Isabel as a reference to "isolation".[6]

Its music includes string arrangements and a small orchestra.[7] Writer Ian Gittins wrote: "In terms of music, it is one of the glorious moments of the album: Björk, who weaves and unravels the thread of the narrative making the best use of her vocals; Maurice Murphy, who with his trumpet opens the piece with a pattern of bewitching beauty, and Eumir Deodato, who once again offers an impressive arrangement of stringed instruments."[8]

"Isobel" forms a trilogy with "Human Behaviour" from Debut (1993), and "Bachelorette" from Homogenic (1997), representing the song's story of the title character moving from nature to the city and back again[9][10] The song's accompanying music video was her second directed by Michel Gondry, having started a series of avant-garde collaborations with Björk with the music video for "Human Behaviour" in 1993.[10]

The song was well received by contemporary music critics, who described it as "elegant"[7] and "epic".[3] "Isobel" was also included in the album Greatest Hits, which features tracks selected by fans through a survey. The song was the third song with most votes, and the second song with most votes from Post after "Possibly Maybe". Commercially, it charted in the United Kingdom, Finland and New Zealand.

Background[edit]

Björk has stated that a track on Homogenic, "Bachelorette", is a continuation of "Isobel". In an interview with Paper in September 1997, Björk explains, "So Isobel decides to return to the city and to take a train, like in the 30's, in South America somewhere. She decides to confront love with love and confronts the cowards that don't have the guts to fall in love with love. So you see - it's like Isobel has returned."

The lyrics to both "Isobel" and "Bachelorette" were penned by long-time collaborator, Icelandic poet Sjón. The repeating phrase "moth delivers her message/unexplained on your collar" in the chorus is a reference to when Björk found a moth on her favourite shirt. She wore the shirt all day, and even removed it to go swimming, but the moth remained.

"I Go Humble"[edit]

The B-side "I Go Humble" is an exact replica of an electronic composition by the British techno band LFO albeit with vocals by Björk being sung over it. The original track can be found on the LFO album Advance, and is titled "Shove Piggy Shove".

Music video[edit]

Björk harvests planes from the lamps she has seeded in the Isobel music video.

The surreal music video was shot in black and white, near Dolgellau, by director Michel Gondry. It features a number of dream-like images. Björk plays a piano that is full of pipes that fill it with water. Children play in the water, and wear masks. Björk is later shown lying beside a river wearing a dress with lights in it. She pulls some light bulbs off her dress and plants them in the ground. The light bulbs grow and act as incubators or cocoons for toy airplanes inside them. When the airplanes grow big enough, they break out of the bulbs and fly away. At the same time, numerous skyscrapers grow out of the ground and eventually are covered in cockroaches. Björk is also shown walking through the countryside, up a mountain, and beside a river.

Speaking on Eurotrash she explained the song this way: "It's the story of Isobel. She was born in a forest, by a spark, and as she grew she realised that the pebbles on the forest floor were skyscrapers, and by the time she was a grown up woman and the skyscrapers had taken over the forest she found herself in a city and she didn't like all the people there so much because they were a bit too clever for her. She decided to send to the world all these moths that she trained to go and fly all over the world, to go inside windows of people's houses, the ones that are too clever, and they sit on their shoulders and remind them to stop being clever and start to function by their instincts. And they do that by singing 'Na, na na, na na na, na na..' to them. And they say 'Oh, sorry, I was being all clever there', and they start functioning on instinct." She told the programme that she worked well with Gondry: "I guess I've got a soft spot for scientists. When I was in school I used to fall for the boys with the thick glasses who sat at the back of the class and had insect collections round their house, and I guess, in a certain way, Michel fits on to that."

Track listing[edit]

UK CD1

(172TP7CD; Released: August, 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:48
  2. "Charlene" – 4:45
  3. "I Go Humble" – 4:46
  4. "Venus as a Boy" (Harpsichord) – 2:13
UK CD2

(172TP7CDL; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:48
  2. "Isobel" (Deodato Mix) – 6:11
  3. "Isobel" (Siggtriplet Blunt Mix) – 4:50
  4. "Isobel's Lonely Heart" (Goldie Remix) – 8:09
UK CD promo

(172TP7CDR; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" (radio edit) – 3:38
  2. "Isobel" (Radio, Radio Edit) – 3:08
UK 12" vinyl

(193TP12GH; Released: 1997)

Side A

  1. "Isobel's Lonely Heart" (Goldie Remix)

Side B

  1. "Hyperballad" (Robin Hood Riding Through the Glen Mix)
EUR CD

(579850-2; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:47
  2. "Charlene" – 4:44
EUR CD

(579851-2; Released: August, 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:47
  2. "Isobel" (Deodato Mix) – 6:09
  3. "Isobel" (Siggtruplet Blunt Mix) – 4:49
  4. "Isobel Lonely Heart" (Goldie Mix) – 8:09
DEU CD promo

(NO 1; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" (radio edit) – 3:38
  2. "Isobel" (Radio, Radio Edit) – 3:08
FRA CD

(577 703-2; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:46
  2. "Isobel" (Deodato Mix) – 6:09
  3. "I Go Humble" – 4:44
  4. "Sweet Intuition" – 4:42
FRA CD promo

(3185; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" (radio edit) – 3:35
  2. "Isobel" (Radio, Radio Edit) – 3:08
FRA CD promo

(3219; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" (Deodato Mix Edit) – 4:10
  2. "Isobel" (radio edit) – 3:35
FRA 12" vinyl

(2580; Released: 1995)

Side A

  1. "Isobel" (Dim's Enchanted Forest) – 9:31

Side B

  1. "Isobel" (Transfunk Mix) – 8:40
  2. "Isobel" (LN's Remix) – 6:40

Side C

  1. "Isobel" (Dim's Ol' School Instrumental) – 7:35

Side D

  1. "Isobel" (Dim's Hi Contact French Touch) – 7:24
US CD promo

(PRCD 9236-2; Released: 1995)

  1. "Isobel" – 5:49

Remixes[edit]

  • Deodato mix
  • Dim's Enchanted Forest
  • Dim's Hi Compact French Touch
  • Dim's Old School Dubstramental
  • Isobel's Lonely Heart (Goldie remix)
  • Ln's remix
  • Radio mix
  • Siggtriplet Blunt mix
  • The Carcass mix
  • Transfunk mix (Remixed by Motorbass - Philippe Zdar (later of Cassius) and Étienne de Crécy)
  • Xiu Xiu

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Finnish Singles Chart 18
UK Singles Chart 23
New Zealand Singles Chart 47

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Icon: Björk". Wondering Sound. eMusic.com. September 9, 2010. Retrieved June 22, 2014. 
  2. ^ Malawey, Victoria (2007). Temporal Process, Repetition, and Voice in Bjork's "Medúlla". ProQuest. p. 12. Retrieved November 21, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Post album review". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  4. ^ McDonnell, Evelyn (2001). Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Bjork. Random House LLC. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 
  5. ^ "Isobel". bjork.fr. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Undovitch, Mim (July 13, 1995). "Thoroughly Modern". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b Ali, Lorraine (February 2, 1998). "Post album review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Gittins, Ian (2004). Björk (in Italian). Giunti Editore. Retrieved November 22, 2013. 
  9. ^ Dibben, Nicola (2009). Björk. Indiana University Press. p. 57. 
  10. ^ a b Beebe, Roger; Middleton, Jason (2007). Medium Cool: Music Videos from Soundies to Cellphones. Duke University Press. p. 105. Retrieved 21 November 2013. 

External links[edit]