|Single by Björk|
|from the album Homogenic|
|Released||15 September 1997|
3:22 (video version)|
4:03 (radio edit)
5:01 (album version)
|Label||One Little Indian|
|Björk singles chronology|
"Jóga" is a song by Björk, released as the first single from her album of 1997, Homogenic. An electronic song, "Jóga" fuses these elements with baroque and classical styles. The track's sound was partially inspired by Icelandic music, containing what have been described as "volcanic beats". Lyrically, the piece is an ode to Björk's native land and her best friend, while containing subtexts relating to emergency.
"Jóga" has been critically acclaimed ever since its release, with reviewers praising her powerful vocal performance, as well as the track's composition and overall production. Commercially, the song was a moderate success, charting in several international markets.
Background and composition
|With this song, I really had a sort of National Anthem in mind. Not the National Anthem but certain classic Icelandic songs - very romantic, very proud.|
—Björk interviewed by David Hemingway
"Jóga" is dedicated to —and named after— Björk's best friend, Jóga Johannsdóttir, who is usually thanked in her album credits. Like the rest of the album, it was produced at El Cortijo in Málaga, Spain. She wrote the song while walking and admiring the landscape, a common way for her to write songs since childhood.
Björk explained "an overall picture" of it to engineer Markus Dravs, who then came out with a rhythm that she felt was "too abstract". Mark Bell, the producer of the track, then came and "took 99 percent of what [he] did and came up with some noises", giving Dravs new ideas. The singer wrote the string arrangements, which were provided late in the production process by the Icelandic String Octet.
The song is also a dedication to her native Iceland, an example of Björk's desire to have a conceptual focus on the country for Homogenic. Referring to this concept, she told OOR: "The electronic beats are the rhythm, the heartbeat. The violins create the old fashioned atmosphere, the colouring."
"Jóga" has been described as "the real conceptual heart of the record" and "a sonic picture of the geographical beauty of her homeland". The track showcases these hybrid elements of strings and electronic backing beats through the album, thus being described as "baroque electronica" by Slant Magazine's Sal Cinquemani.
The strong beats —referred to as "volcanic"— reflect Iceland's primal and chaotic nature. Due to its harsh beats and halfway drop, some modern critics have described the track as "proto dubstep".
"Jóga" is a love song; its lyrics were written by poet Sjón, a friend and frequent collaborator of the singer. Björk explained her inability to write the song's lyrics in an interview with MuchMusic: "I tried to write that tune but, I mean, I just wanted mainly to write lyrics. It was just pathetic. I was like "her... her..." it was like "love... love..." I couldn't even put it into words. So, you know, it's -- yeah, it's probably the—I think it's the fiercest love song I have written, I think." She sings about the beauty of being in a "state of emergency", and thanks someone for pushing her into it.
"Jóga" has received acclaim from music critics ever since its release. Heather Phares of Allmusic wrote that "Björk lets a little light shine through "Jóga"" and described it as a "moving song", listing it as one of the album highlights. Furthermore, Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine labelled the track "adrenaline".
David Browne of Entertainment Weekly also commented on "Jóga", writing that it was more "somber" than another album track, "Bachelorette", and Björk sings the lyrics with "the strings swelling luxuriantly". Robert Christgau, in his review for the album, placed it as one of the recommended tracks alongside "Bachelorette".
In Slant Magazine's list of the Best Singles of the 1990s, "Jóga" was placed 35th; alongside the ranking, the track was praised, said to contain "one of the Icelandic singer-songwriter's fiercest vocal performances to date", as well as that the "sweeping string arrangement is its true star".
The music video was directed by Michel Gondry and filmed in Iceland.
The video for "Jóga" is a departure from her other videos as it focuses primarily on different Icelandic terrains and landscapes with Björk's presence only in the beginning and towards the end. With the aid of computer animation, earthquakes begin to separate and shift the chunks of land along fault lines. The video ends with a computerized image of an island floating inside Björk's chest.
Covers and samples
American jazz pianist Jason Moran covered "Jóga" on his 2000 album Facing Left. Moran also played on Greg Osby's cover of Bjork's "All Neon Like" off of Osby's Inner Circle album. The Italian jazz pianist Eric Legnini recorded a cover version of "Jóga" in his first solo album Miss Soul, released in April 2006. Scala Choir have also recorded a cover version of "Jóga" which is featured on their album One-winged Angel.
German band Gregorian covered the song in their 2007 Masters of Chant Chapter VI. Benjamin Gibbard (of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) and Ben Barnett (of Kind of Like Spitting and The Thermals) covered this song for Hush Records's compilation Read: Interpreting Björk.
Floridian rock band New Found Glory have also covered "Jóga" for a Björk tribute record organized by guitarist Chad Gilbert that was never released. The song was subsequently included on the Japanese version of the band's Tip of the Iceberg EP as a bonus track. The PS22 chorus recorded a version of "Jóga" and posted it on YouTube. Video on YouTube
Canadian pop singer Lights covered the song in a video posted to YouTube in 2011. Swedish singer and Eurovision winner Loreen covered the song for the 2012 UNICEF benefit concert 'Humorgalan' in Berns Salonger, Stockholm. In April 1998, roughly half a year after the single's release, the string section (best heard in the beginning of the song) was sampled in a remix for Missy Elliott's hit single "Hit Em wit da Hee" whose parent album Supa Dupa Fly was actually released months before Homogenic. It can be heard at the end of the remix (approximately the last minute), which was also used for the song's music video.
In 2012, the aforementioned strings were also sampled in the second half of Danny!'s "Evil". A version of the song by Georgi Kay was used on the soundtrack to episode five of the television mini series Top of the Lake. The song was also covered by the American opera singer Renée Fleming in her 2017 album Distant Light.
|Belgian Singles Chart (Flanders)||13|
|Finnish Singles Chart||16|
|Iceland (Íslenski Listinn Topp 40)||1|
|Netherlands (Single Top 100)||95|
|New Zealand Singles Chart||43|
|Swedish Singles Chart||37|
|Swiss Singles Chart||49|
|UK Singles Chart||191|
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The swooping strings of "Joga" buttress Björk's frank declaration of a "state of emergency" before ceding, halfway through, to a muted passage that's essentially proto-dubstep.
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When she sings about the beauty of being in a "state of emergency" on the disc's first single...
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