Cocoon (Björk song)
|Single by Björk|
|from the album Vespertine|
|Released||11 March 2002|
|Recorded||January 2001; Olympic Studios, London, England|
|Length||4:30 (album version)
3:34 (radio edit)
|Label||One Little Indian|
|Björk singles chronology|
"Cocoon" is a song recorded by Icelandic singer Björk for her 2001 studio album Vespertine. It was written and produced by Björk and Thomas Knak, and released as the album's third single on 11 March 2002, by One Little Indian Records. Inspired by her relationship with artist Matthew Barney, Björk set to make a record with a domestic mood. Working with Knak, she wrote "Cocoon", a glitch song which is lyrically a song about a woman who describes making love with her lover during their post-coital hibernation, and includes frank sexual narrative related both explicitly and through over-sharing and metaphor.
The single peaked at number 35 on the UK Singles Chart.
In 2000, Björk starred on her acting debut Dancer in the Dark. While she worked on the film, she also began producing her next album, writing new music and teaming with new collaborators; she has said "Selmasongs was the day job and Vespertine was the hobby". Her new relationship with artist Matthew Barney and the tension while filming Dancer in the Dark have been referred to as the two major forces that shaped what would become Vespertine. Björk set to make a record with a domestic mood featuring "everyday moods and everyday noises translating into melodies and beats". She commented about when she first heard about the producer she would work on the album, produced by Thomas Knak: "I had to go to Denmark for a year. There was nothing going on. I was literally lying on the beach, looking at the ocean, with a ghetto blaster listening to Thomas Knak/Opiate's album. I realised he was from Copenhagen. I just called him up."
"Cocoon", produced by Knak, was one of the last songs to be written for the album; its melody came to Björk in a sudden rush and she contacted him. She made a long-distance, late-night phone call to Knak in Denmark, waking him up. "I didn't have any track of time so she didn't really know that I was asleep. She was explaining that she had this melody in her head and maybe, if I had the time, she would still have two or three weeks to decide if this track could be worked on", said the producer. Knak took it as a chance to make a more minimal track, similar to his own releases. He liked the idea of having two songs on the album, and immediately after he put down the phone, he started working. His original treatment of "Cocoon", made with an Ensoniq ASR-10, appeared relatively intact in the final version. Knak elaborated: "She had two changes: one for one semitone up and another for I think about 20BPM slower or something. I don't really make music so I'm not really used to thinking could the singer really sing in a tempo. From there she started working on the lyrics and one more melody for the vocal".
They met up in January 2001 in London to record the song at Olympic Studios. He went into the studio with only three tracks for the mix, and was impressed that there were many technicians and programmers that probably had been using a hundred. However, the singer was protecting the idea of the raw version, and said: 'This is how we wanted to be'. They added two changes to the song and then spent the rest of the day recording the vocals. They wanted to have only one take that really worked so that they did not have to edit different takes. They recorded 20 takes, and used the fifth or sixth, and because of that, the producer thought that "this track is very intimate and personal because of the way the vocals were recorded". The way the song was recorded was "kind of rough"; "It's also very close to the mic; all these things that you wouldn't normally keep. In that sense, it is very kind of, almost naked. In the structure and in the feeling because of the lyrics".
"Cocoon" is a glitch song based around a bassline and beats that "sound like fingertips on skin". Discussing the glitch sound of the song, Björk said: "when you take technology and use the areas where it breaks, where it’s faulty, you’re entering a mystery zone where you can’t control it." Lyrically, for Michael Cragg from The Guardian newspaper, "it feels almost intrusive, like reading someone's diary as they write about a new love", as Björk had just started a relationship with Barney. Its lyrics are set between metaphor, with the singer singing "who would have known that a boy like him would have entered me lightly, restoring my blisses" and over-sharing, while Björk states in the song "He slides inside, half awake, half asleep … gorgeousness, he's still inside me". Björk's whispered vocals in "Cocoon" were described as "near-cracking falsetto and a breathy ecstasy".
While asked about its sexually explicit nature, the singer responded: "Erm, yeah. I guess a part of me wanted to be truthful about what it is that really drives me, and maybe give back to the place that is nourishing me... I don't know what to say. When I read books or see films or listen to albums I want certain things. I want a heart—I'm very old school like that, I'm very emotional [...] I just didn't want anybody to know. I wanted it for myself. The lyric to 'Cocoon' was a whole diary, then I had to edit 90 per cent of it out. It's very hard to explain, but when I read it and the other person it's about reads it, we don't feel abused or anything. I think there's songs where I've been more... scruffy about what I’m expressing. I have a problem with music that's too indulgent. It's like 'Keep your own dirty laundry, please'".
AllMusic's Heather Phares called the song "seductively alien". Seth Stevenson from Slate magazine gave a positive review to the song, commenting that because of the song, Björk is "actually at her best either barely murmuring or full-out yelling, and she may be the most stylized vocalist in music today". Michael Cragg from The Guardian commented that "Vespertine is littered with defining moments. While the first single Hidden Place, the choir-assisted Undo and the Matmos collaboration Aurora are among the highlights, it's Cocoon that best represents the album's sense of heavy-lidded, post-coital hibernation". David Fricke from Rolling Stone commented that "the flurry of rhythm" at the start of the song felt like "the gravity of a spider scurrying across linoleum". Ian Gittins, author of Björk: Human Behaviour - the Stories Behind Every Song, referred to "Cocoon" as the eyes of many of the most significant moments of Vespertine, as well as the most complete display and literal philosophy that the singer has taken for the album. British magazine NME's Joe Logic was positive saying, "Soft organs and Rice Krispies (Eh? - Cereal Ed) feature heavily on a very minimalist 'Cocoon', a beautiful love song featuring Bjork whispering sexual lyrics over a track that To Rococo Rot would be proud of". Stephen Dalton from the same publication was less positive, and stated: "Then there is the uncomfortably intimate, tremble-whisper Björk voice of 'Cocoon' where she relates the joy of shutting herself away with her lover with a broken music box and some mouldy old string".
The accompanying music video for "Cocoon" was directed by Eiko Ishioka and was shot in April 2001 in New York City. It was premiered at Raindance Film Festival on 24 October 2001, and it was made available online through the singer's official website on 12 February 2002. One of Björk's most avant-garde music videos, it "plays with minimalist white for both costume and bleached eyebrows, treating Björk as a geisha whose makeup extends over her entire nude body." Red threads emerge from her nipples and circulate between her breasts and nose, finally enveloping her in a cocoon. Björk actually wore a very close-fitting body suit. At one point there are many nude Björks singing. Although not as controversial as the "Pagan Poetry" music video, it was polemic and banned from prime-time MTV. The music video for "Cocoon" was included in the DVDs Volumen Plus (2002) and Greatest Hits - Volumen 1993–2003 (2002).
Björk performed "Cocoon" on the 2001 Vespertine World Tour. It was later included on the DVD titled Live at Royal Opera House, released in 2002. It was also performed by the singer on the American talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Jeremy Allen from NME magazine included it on his list of "10 Greatest Musical Moments" on the show, commenting, "with her fingers tinted like icicles and the background sonics just a sparse and glitchy soundscape with tinkles of warm xylophone like the inside of some ethereal cave, the singer takes a little bit of Iceland to the USA - via heaven - with her voice as commanding as it ever was". She also performed it across Europe following its release as a single, including The Jonathan Ross Show, Die Harald Schmidt Show, Johnny Vaughan Tonight, Top of the Pops, and Music Planet 2Nite.
- "Cocoon" – 4:30
- "Pagan Poetry" (Music Box) – 3:00
- "Sun in My Mouth" (Recomposed by Ensemble) – 3:10
- "Cocoon" (radio edit) – 3:34
- "Aurora" (Music Box) – 1:08
- "Amphibian" – 4:35
- "Pagan Poetry" (Music Box)
- "Sun in My Mouth" (Recomposed by Ensemble)
|UK Singles (Official Charts Company)||35|
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