Play Dead (song)

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"Play Dead"
Single by Björk featuring David Arnold
from the album Music from the film The Young Americans & Debut (Re-release edition)
Released 11 October 1993
Format CD, 12", 7", cassette
Recorded 1993; Whitfield Street Recording Studios (London)
Genre Trip hop
Length 3:56
Label Universal Records
One Little Indian
Writer(s) Jah Wobble, Björk, David Arnold
Producer(s) David Arnold, Danny Cannon
Additional Production and Mixing by Tim Simenon
Björk singles chronology
"Venus as a Boy"
(1993)
"Play Dead"
(1993)
"Big Time Sensuality"
(1993)

"Play Dead" is a song by Icelandic singer Björk, and was released as the only single from the soundtrack of the 1993 crime drama The Young Americans. The song wasn't included in the first edition of Debut but was later included as a bonus track, and the album was re-issued in November 1993.[1] The song was written by Jah Wobble, Björk featuring David Arnold, and was produced by Cannon, Arnold, receiving additional production and mixing by Tim Simenon.[2] The song, inspired by the main character of the film, was released in October 1993.

A mainly trip-hop-influenced track, the song charted in the Top 20 in every nation it entered. An accompanying music video was released, featuring images from the film. "Play Dead" was included in Björk's 2003 greatest hits album Greatest Hits.

Background and Composition[edit]

In this part of the song, Björk reaches high notes on a base of lush strings.

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The song was co-written by Jah Wobble, Björk featuring David Arnold. Björk was asked to write the melody and lyrics for the song, while Wobble wrote the bass part and Arnold composed the score, which Björk described as a "greatest hits of what's in the film".[3]

Björk described the writing as "very difficult" because "the character in the film was suffering and going through hardcore tough times and at the time I was at my happiest".[3] To help her in the writing, she asked the film's director, Danny Cannon, to write her a whole page of phrases that represented the emotions of the characters in the film, but she used only one line that Cannon wrote: "Sometimes, it's just like sinking", and still she changed it to "It's sometimes just like sleeping" in the actual lyrics.[3]

The song is underscored by moody strings and its lyrics about acting numb to prevent emotional pain. Björk wrote it from the main character's point of view: "In the film, he had a girlfriend who just wanted him to be happy and in love and he just couldn't get his head around it. It was just me trying to imagine what he would say to her. Things he never actually said to her in the film but things he would have said to her".[3]

Produced by David Arnold and Danny Cannon, the song was originally a non-album track recorded for the film The Young Americans and intended as a single-only release, but eventually it was added as a bonus track to international pressings of Björk's album Debut because Björk's manager Derek Birkett convinced her to add the track. Björk also sings on the tracks "Opening Titles" and "Leaving London" on the soundtrack CD of the film. In both the film and soundtrack, "Leaving London" crescendoes into "Play Dead" as a single arrangement. In both the album and the single version, the song is actually a remix by Tim Simenon. After the addition of "Play Dead" on Debut, about 100 people who already owned the album without the bonus track, called the record company and complained, demanding to be given new records as compensation.[4]

Critical Reception[edit]

Described by Derek Birkett "one of the best things Björk’s ever done",[5] the track was well received by music critics. Mal Pearchey of Vox described the song as "incredibly sophisticated after the eclectic drama of The Sugarcubes".[5] The Tech journalist Fred Choi, while reviewing Greatest Hits stated that the song is "compelling but lesser-known".[6] On a similar note, Alexis Petridis of Blender stated that "Play Dead" "boasts a chorus that’s both original and implausibly epic".[7]

Usage in Media[edit]

A modified version of the song was also used in 1995 on the launch advert for the new Vauxhall Vectra, with the tagline "Designed for the next millennium".[8]

Covers[edit]

A cover of the song appears on the special edition of the album Into by the Finnish band The Rasmus. It is available on many of their singles as well, including "Madness". In 2007, The Swedish band Pain covered the song on the album Psalms of Extinction.

Promotion[edit]

Screenshot from the music video

Music Video[edit]

The music video was directed by Danny Cannon, who also directed The Young Americans. In the video, Björk performs the song in an empty bar that is shown in the film. Her footage is intercut with scenes from the film that range from tenderness to violence.

The video was criticized because of its simplicity, some citing it lacks of the visual appearances usually offered by Björk. The video has been said to follow "the trends of MTV".[9]

Live Performances[edit]

Björk performed the song in selected dates of her Debut Tour, and usually sang it during her Homogenic Tour, accompanied by a larger ensemble of strings. Björk's performance at the Union Chapel with the Brodsky Quartet was met with enthusiasm by The Guardian journalist Maddy Costa, that described the performance as a "Heavenly Experience" and, commenting the song's performance, stated that "reclaiming "Play Dead" from ad-land, the subdued volume and the Brodskys’ bristling tone brought out the fierceness of Björk’s words".[10]

Björk performed the song also during her Vespertine World Tour. The song has not been performed live since then.

Track listing[edit]

  • UK CD
  1. "Play Dead" (Tim Simenon 7" Remix) – 3:57
  2. "Play Dead" (Tim Simenon Orchestral Mix) – 4:01
  3. "Play Dead" (Tim Simenon 12" Remix) – 5:26
  4. "Play Dead" (Tim Simenon Instrumental) – 3:57
  5. "End Titles/Play Dead" (Original Film Mix) – 3:52


For a complete list of official releases : Official Björk's Discography at 77island

Charts[edit]

Chart Peak
position
Swedish Singles Chart 7
Norwegian Singles Chart 10
Dutch Singles Chart 11
UK Singles Chart 12
Irish Singles Chart 16

Versions[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ UK CD (first edition) "Debut". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Debut Liner Notes". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Play Dead". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Björk "Play dead"". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b Pearchey, Mal (1993-12-01). "New Björk, New Björk". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  6. ^ Choi, Fred (2002-11-05). "Reinspiring Awe and Devotion". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  7. ^ Petridis, Alexis (2002-05-11). "Björk : Greatest Hits". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "Original Vectra Advert". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Bjork and Her Music Videos: Visual Poetry". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  10. ^ Costa, Maddy (1999-12-11). "A Heavenly Experience". Retrieved 28 December 2011. 

External links[edit]