Body Memory

Album: Utopia (2017)
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Songfacts®:

  • While Bjork's previous album, Vulnicura, was very much a break-up record following the end of her decade-long relationship with artist and filmmaker Matthew Barney, Utopia finds the Icelandic songstress determined to move on. The record's 10-minute-long centerpiece, "Body Memory" is about how your body can get you through trauma when your mind and emotions are all screwed up. It represents Bjork's determination to enjoy life rather than wallow in her grief. She explained to Pitchfork:

    "'Black Lake' on Vulnicura was the darkest and saddest I've ever gone. 'Body Memory' is a reply to that. It is my manifesto. My subconscious was like, 'OK, I'll let you write the saddest song ever for 10 minutes if you then write something to counter that.' And then this song came out all in one go. Each verse is about big things in life: destiny, love, sex. It's a bit big-headed. It's about, 'OK, how am I going to live the second half of my life?' It's a new territory, a door that's opened."
  • The track was sparked by a day that Bjork spent by herself at her Icelandic cabin, where she was recording Utopia. She was stimulated by listening to an audio book of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, especially the final part. "It's about having people who are experts in dying," the Icelandic songstress told The Observer, "who have physical practice to help you to die. Like yoga exercises. Breathing exercises… Like death doulas. I was so impressed by this."

    Inspired, Bjork wrote this song to remind herself that she is able to get past her grief and survive. She wrote six verses, to herself, each touching on a different component in her life. The Icelandic songstress explained they are about "destiny, love, another about sex, another about motherhood, one verse – and this has been a struggle for me – is urban, another rural nature".

    Bjork added the verses are reminding her not to think too much, "not be neurotic, just do this."

    "It's my version of helping myself, suggesting you have it all in you, you have all the answers," she said. "Without sounding mushy. It's like my manifesto. Let's do this!"
  • The song features the Hamrahlid Choir, which consists mostly of alumni of Hamrahlid College, the Reykjavík secondary school where Bjork' received her education. The choral ensemble was founded in 1982 by Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, who remains its conductor. Bjork said:

    "'Body Memory' was a really strange song for me. I did not know what to do with that song. In the beginning it was 20 minutes long, and I ended up recording a 60-piece choir [the Hamrahlid Choir] on it. They all came to my cabin. It's one of the best choirs ever. We invited [conductor Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir], this incredible Icelandic woman who's in her 70s. She's a legend in Iceland. I sang myself in this choir when I was 16. I've listened to this choir all my life, so to finally write something for it was really scary and courageous. Just sitting in the church when we recorded it was really satisfying. It felt like I'd broken into a new place."

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