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A eulogy to one’s own mother is one of the most intimate and emotional works of literary art. Björk’s “Sorrowful Soil” encapsulates that raw emotion through both song and visuals in her new video. This captivating film was shot in front of the actively erupting Fagradalsfjall volcano. Along with the release of her music video, Björk shared her feelings and motivations for this piece in a press release. According to Björk, this song was written before her mother passed, and she wanted to capture that feeling of knowing that your loved one is going to die but having to accept it as there is nothing else to be done. In an interview with ELLE Magazine, Björk commented that “the song is sad in tone, and it’s typical of what people feel before an ailing parent passes away–that whole beginning of the last part of their life.” Shot through an oval frame, we are given a look at Björk's emotional acknowledgment of her mother's mortality. This song is Björk's nod to what she calls the “last chapter” in her mother's life.

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On Björk's new album Fossora, both “Sorrowful Soil” and her other song “Ancestress” were written for her mother. “Ancestress” was her “take on funeral music, but ‘Sorrowful Soil’ [was] written two years before and mirrors more that last chapter” according to Björk. The concept of the “last chapter” came about from lyrical improvisations. Björk did not intend to write “Sorrowful Soil” the way it is now. She shared on Fossora that it came to her as she “thought [she] was writing another song but then when [she] edited it [she] threw away most of the stuff and this is what stood there staring at [her].” The result of this became what Björk calls an “attempt at a eulogy.”

Screen Shot 2022 12 05 at 8.52.45 AM 8f354PHOTO: VIDAR LOGI

Our roots are dug/Into sorrowful soil

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In an interview with Pitchfork Björk mentioned how she chose to highlight the power of the erupting volcano throughout the video because she felt it effectively portrayed her mother's energy. Yet another reference to her late maternal figure was the way in which Björk focused the lyrics of her song. By using nature metaphors, Björk is able to elicit feelings of hopelessness and loss. When singing “Our roots are dug/into Sorrowful soil” she alludes to the fact that these emotions are inescapable. Björk stated in the press release that “the lyric is an attempt for a eulogy and instead of the dry fact-checking.” Rather than simply recounting the specific details of her mother's life Björk wanted to “celebrate the biological data.” Her lyrics “In a woman's lifetime/She gets four hundred eggs/But only two or three nests” attempt to do just that. This was a very intentional choice made by Björk. She shared with ELLE that “normally epitaphs are patriarchal in nature in that they only list the facts about a person” she wanted to combat this by honoring her mother's life with a matriarchal focus.

Björk also shares about when she visited her late grandfather at the hospital and how she remembers receiving a pamphlet that described the best way to comfort loved ones before death. She shared that the pamphlets instructed loved ones to “give [their loved ones] to-do lists (dry-cleaning and such) but also ask if they did well.” Björk chose to end her song with a reference to this as an ode to comfort both her mother and grandfather when singing “You did well/You did your best/You did well.”

Screen Shot 2022 12 05 at 9.02.15 AM 989efPHOTO: VIDAR LOGI; STYLING: EDDA GUDMUNDSDÓTTIR

Top Photo By Vidar Logi; Styled By: Edda Gudmundsdóttir

Meera Becker is a recent graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a major in Sociology and a minor in Applied Psychology. Post-college she is still living in California and exploring different passions and interests such as writing for BUST!