Venus as a Boy
"Venus as a Boy" is a song by Icelandic musician Björk. It was released as the second single from her 1993 album Debut. The song was written by Björk and was produced by Nellee Hooper, who produced the majority of her debut album. The single was released in August 1993, a month after the release of the album. The song was inspired by a boy who saw everything from a "beauty point of view".
|"Venus as a Boy"|
|Single by Björk|
|from the album Debut|
|Released||23 August 1993|
|Studio||Olympic Studios (London), Beats Studio (Mumbai)|
|Label||One Little Indian|
|Björk singles chronology|
"Venus as a Boy" features a musical ensemble made up of Indian instruments like tablas. The song received mixed reviews from critics, who discussed Björk's musical shift. Despite becoming a chart-topping hit in Björk's native Iceland, the song did not chart well internationally apart from managing to enter the UK Singles Chart top 30.
The accompanying music video was directed by the British music video director Sophie Muller. The clip shows Björk in a kitchen cooking eggs, and was inspired by the singer's favorite book Story of the Eye. Björk performed the song on different TV appearances, including Top of the Pops, and sang it during the course of her Debut Tour.
The song was later chosen by fans to be included in her greatest hits album, Greatest Hits, and also appeared in her Family Tree Box Set which contained a "greatest hits" disc on which the songs were chosen by Björk. In 2003, Q Magazine ranked "Venus as a Boy" at number 610 in their list of the "1001 Best Songs Ever".
There have been more than 30 cover versions of "Venus as a Boy" by other artists.
Background and inspirationEdit
The song was written by Björk and was produced by Nellee Hooper. It was one of the last tracks to be recorded for the album. The song was inspired by a "specific person" but Björk never revealed who it was. Although, it is supposed that this specific person is Dominic Thrupp (also known as Dom T.) with whom Björk had a relationship at the time of writing. Moreover, the song talks about a boy who saw everything from a "beauty point of view, and not superficial beauty but the beauty of brushing your teeth and the beauty of waking up in the morning in the right beat and the beauty of having a conversation with a person." as revealed by the singer.
The B-sides were "Stígðu Mig" ("Step Me"), a song originally recorded by The Elgar Sisters; a group formed in the early eighties by guitarist Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson and Björk, written by Björk, Guðlaugur and Thór Eldon. The other B-side is "I Remember You", a cover of the classic love song written by Victor Schertzinger and Johnny Mercer, that was recorded together with "Like Someone in Love", but didn't make the last cut as the latter. In both songs Corky Hale plays the Harp.
Björk described the composition of the song in an interview with David Hemingway:
"I think I wrote it in my living room in Iceland and sang it into my dictaphone. Later, by accident, we were going through sounds and I found this broken bottle sound. It wasn't intentional but it sounded great. It was one of the last songs recorded for Debut - the album was ready to go. Sometimes the more unpredictable side of me does several headstands and flicks-flacks once the album has been delivered and the best song come out."
Björk played keyboards in the song: "I don't use samplers much. I will usually gather soundbanks for each album and will then play them in on keyboards. This applies for simpler beats in songs like Venus as a Boy". She is also responsible for the bassline, in an interview where she described her collaboration with Timbaland she said: "He was a big fan of Venus as a Boy, the Bollywood strings and I remember him coming up to me at a party and saying he loved the bassline in that song and I felt pretty chuffed because I wrote that!"
The song is influenced by different genres, like chillout, avant-garde and jazz. Since Björk wanted the album to sound like an Indian soundtrack, many tracks including "One Day", "Come to Me" and the same "Venus as a Boy" features Indian instruments. The strings were recorded by Talvin Singh in Bombay. The track heavily uses a vibraphone.
The track received mixed reviews from music critics. Heather Phares of AllMusic complimented the song and its lyrics, stating that "the album's romantic moments may be its most striking; "Venus as a Boy" fairly swoons with twinkly vibes and lush strings, and Björk's vocals and lyrics -- "His wicked sense of humor/Suggests exciting sex"—are sweet and just the slightest bit naughty". Larry Flick from Billboard described it as a "hip-hop-splashed tune—easily the most accessible cut from her adventurous solo debut." Johnny Dee from NME said the "wonderful" song "creates an Arabic mantra." Gavin Reeve from Smash Hits called it a "gorgeous and uplifting song". He added, "Just one of the brilliant swirling dance tracks on her album Debut, this is surely the sort of music that God plays on his/her stereo." A less flattering review came from Rolling Stone reviewer Tom Graves, who discussed the singer's shift from rock to alternative music, commenting that the Indian orchestra in "Come to Me" and "Venus as a Boy" "[is] more intrusive than galvanizing". On a similar note, Kate Narburgh of The Chronicle, citing the "Mellow vibes accent "Venus as a Boy"", hoped that "Björk won't waste her vocal talent on such talentless music".
The song was nominated in the "Song of the Year" category at the inaugural Icelandic Music Awards in 1993.
Usage in mediaEdit
The movie Léon features the song in a wordless series of scenes between the two main characters.
The song was covered by Nils Landgren (musician) - 5000 Miles (1999); Sneaker Pimps (2004); Corinne Bailey Rae (2007) and as an instrumental by Australian jazz pianist Barney McAll, on his album Mother of Dreams and Secrets (2005), as well as American jazz pianist Geoff Keezer on his albums Zero One (2000) and Wildcrafted: Live at the Dakota (2005). A version in Japanese was recorded by Zoey (2003) and released as a single with accompanying music video. It was also covered by The Mike Flowers Pops (1996). On Andy McKee's album Gates of Gnomeria (2007), there is an instrumental version of the song, titled "Venus as a Girl". The other artists who covered Venus as a Boy on their releases include Ásgerður Júníusdóttir, Serena Fortebraccio, Wildlife, E-Clypse, The Da Capo Players, Björkestra, Don Swanson, The Kate Peters Septet, The Violet Jive, Howl, Iris Ornig, Joo Kraus, Lars Duppler, Las Damas Y La Orquesta Invisible, Coparck, Workshy, Squid Inc., Realistic Orchestra, Sole Giménez, Sharon Sable, 2nd Backyard Junk and Camila Meza.
The music video was directed by Sophie Muller and features Björk in a kitchen, fondling and cooking eggs. The usage of eggs was inspired by the singer's favorite book, Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille, a novella which deals with the bizarre sexual perversions of a pair of teenagers. At one point in the book, a girl, Simone, uses boiled eggs for sexual stimulation.
The story of the egg comes as Björk explains:
She [Sophie Muller] kept going on about it being fried. I was saying, 'No way is that book about a fried egg! I'm sorry. Poached? Okay. Boiled? Okay. Raw? Okay. But not fried.' [And a fried egg is unsuitable because......?] Because it's too hard. It's rough and it's greasy. It should be about being sort of liquidy and wet and soft and open...
She gave Muller a copy of Story of the Eye a couple of days before they filmed but didn't insist that she read it. Muller didn't have the time. After recording the video and then reading the book, Muller admitted to Björk that "Fried was the wrong egg!"
Much of the cutlery featured in the music video came from Björk's house.
The video opens with Björk, in an orange tee, in a kitchen, seemingly thoughtful. She leans on a table and while she's admiring an egg, she starts to sing. She turns on the fire and starts to fry some butter. As the second verse begins, the butter starts to burn so she takes it under the stream of the sink. She pours some oil in a pan and appears thoughtful again, after which she adds the eggs to the pan.
Various frames of the frying eggs and Björk playing with a spatula are shown; at one point the eggs appears burned, causing Björk's concern, but then they return unspoiled. During the gibberish part of the song, Björk grabs and gently caresses a bearded dragon. While she passes a hand on her forehead to wipe her sweat, she seems to perspire sparkles from her forehead, and then starts to emanate them from all over her body. The video ends as Björk takes her dish and goes away from the kitchen.
The video was praised for its sensuality. Joe Clark, comparing the video with that of "Big Time Sensuality", stated that the video offers "bigger-time sensuality ("His wicked sense of humour suggests exciting sex"), though it’s symbolized by the eggs and butter Björk uses to fix herself breakfast".
On August 13, 1993, Björk performed the song on the UK show The Beat, in one of her first TV appearances. She performed the song on Top of the Pops, on 120 Minutes along with "Come To Me" and on 3 From 1 with "Violently Happy".
Björk appeared on the fifth season of the British television show Later... with Jools Holland, singing "Hyperballad", "Possibly Maybe" and a version of the song accompanied by Guy Sigsworth on the Harpsichord. The performance was released on Björk's DVD Later with Jools Holland; this version was also included on Live Box. The song was part of her MTV Unplugged setlist.
The singer performed the song during all of her tours (excluding her Greatest Hits Tour). During the Debut Tour, she performed the song with Indian instruments. During the Post Tour, the song's performance was enhanced with an Accordion. Most recently, during her Volta Tour and Biophilia Tour, she performed the song with harpsichord accompaniment by Jónas Sen.
|1.||"Venus as a Boy" (Edit)||4:05|
|2.||"Venus as a Boy" (Mykaell Riley Mix)||4:51|
|3.||"There's More to Life Than This" (Non-Toilet Mix)||3:47|
|4.||"Violently Happy" (Domestic Mix)||5:17|
|1.||"Venus as a Boy" (7" Dream Mix)||4:02|
|2.||"Stígðu Mig" (Björk, Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson, Thór Eldon)||1:53|
|3.||"Anchor Song" (Black Dog Mix)||4:48|
|4.||"I Remember You" (Victor Schertzinger, Johnny Mercer)||4:13|
|1.||"Venus as a Boy" (edited LP version)||4:03|
|2.||"Stígðu Mig" (Björk, Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson, Thór Eldon)||1:53|
|3.||"Human Behaviour" (The Underworld Remix)||12:05|
|4.||"There's More to Life than This" (Non-Toilet Mix)||3:45|
|5.||"Venus as a Boy" (Anglo American Extension)||5:03|
|6.||"I Remember You" (Victor Schertzinger, Johnny Mercer)||4:13|
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