In an endearing display of democratic goodwill, the Great Pixie herself, Björk, hosted a poll on her formidable website to determine which tracks would be included on Greatest Hits, a new retrospective of songs from her first four solo albums. It might be a stretch to call some of the eccentric artist’s musical oddities “hits,” but don’t tell that to any of the countless fans who logged on to vote.
Not that the fifteen tracks here aren’t superb examples of Björk’s spine-tingling sonic stylings. It’s just that, since the release of 1993’s Debut, Björk’s insatiable appetite for artistic evolution has led her down a path of ever-increasing experimentalism, which hasn’t exactly thrust her onto many Top 40 lists. Her unrivaled mixture of schizophrenic beats, idiosyncratic instrumentation and puzzling lyrics – sung in an inimitable voice that often appears to be sounding the words out phonetically – are a far cry from the standardized mediocrity of mainstream popular music.
The upside to this is that her body of work has been so consistently strong that any of her songs could have justifiably made it onto Greatest Hits. Most of the tracks here come as no surprise: the cacophonous “Human Behavior,” the sumptuous “Isobel,” the playfully adoring “Venus as a Boy.” A few welcome rarities do pop up, however, including “Play Dead,” a hard-to-find collaboration with Dave Arnold from the Young Americans soundtrack, and the previously unreleased “It’s In Our Hands,” long a staple of her live shows. Elsewhere, the dreamy video remixes of “All Is Full Of Love” and “Big Time Sensuality” offer a pleasant alternative to the original album cuts. A no-strings mix of “Hyperballad,” however, will likely grate on the nerves of purists.
But that’s a chance you take when you’re an artist of Björk’s caliber. Ultimately, there’s no denying she has her fans’ best interests at heart, as evidenced by this lovingly packaged gift to them.
(Appeared in Gay City News)