Björk

Björk Guðmundsdóttir (/bjɜːrk/; Icelandic: [ˈpjœr̥k] (listen); born 21 November 1965) is an Icelandic singer, songwriter, composer, actress, record producer, and DJ. Over her four-decade career, she has developed an eclectic musical style that draws on a range of influences and genres spanning electronic, pop, experimental, classical, trip hop, IDM, and avant-garde music.

Born and raised in Reykjavík, she began her music career at age 11 and first gained international recognition as the lead singer of the alternative rock band the Sugarcubes, whose 1987 single "Birthday" was a hit on US and UK indie stations and a favourite among music critics.[1] After the band's breakup, Björk embarked on a solo career in 1993, coming to prominence as a solo artist with albums such as Debut (1993), Post (1995), and Homogenic (1997), while collaborating with a range of artists and exploring a variety of multimedia projects.

Several of Björk's albums have reached the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart, the most recent being Vulnicura (2015). Björk has had 31 singles reach the top 40 on pop charts around the world, with 22 top 40 hits in the UK, including the top 10 hits "It's Oh So Quiet", "Army of Me", and "Hyperballad".[2][3] She is reported to have sold between 20 and 40 million records worldwide as of 2015.[4][5] She has won the 2010 Polar Music Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in recognition of her "deeply personal music and lyrics, her precise arrangements and her unique voice."[6] Björk was included in Time's 2015 list of the 100 most influential people in the world.[7][8] She was ranked both sixtieth and eighty-first in Rolling Stone's 100 greatest singers and songwriters lists respectively. Björk also won five BRIT Awards, and has been nominated for 15 Grammy Awards.

Outside her music career, Björk starred in the 2000 Lars von Trier film Dancer in the Dark, for which she won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival,[9] and was nominated for Academy Award for Best Original Song for "I've Seen It All". Her 2011 album Biophilia was marketed as an interactive app album with its own education program. Björk has also been an advocate for environmental causes in her home country Iceland. A full-scale retrospective exhibition dedicated to Björk was held at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2015.[10]

Björk
Björk by deep schismic at Big Day Out 2008, Melbourne Flemington Racecourse
Björk performing in 2008
Born
Björk Guðmundsdóttir

21 November 1965 (age 53)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Occupation
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
  • record producer
  • DJ
Spouse(s)
Þór Eldon
(m. 1986; div. 1987)
Children2
RelativesGuðmundur Gunnarsson (father)
Musical career
Genres
Years active1975–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitebjork.com
Signature
Björk's signature

Life and career

1965–1986: Early life and career beginnings

Björk was born on 21 November 1965 in Reykjavík,[11] where she grew up. Her mother is activist Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, who protested against the development of Iceland's Kárahnjúkar Hydropower Plant.[12] Her father is Guðmundur Gunnarsson, a union leader and electrician. They divorced when Björk was born and she moved with her mother to a commune.[13][14] Her stepfather is Sævar Árnason, a former guitarist in a band called Pops.[14] At six, Björk enrolled at Reykjavík school Barnamúsíkskóli, where she studied classical piano and flute.[11] After a school recital in which Björk sang Tina Charles' 1976 hit "I Love to Love", her teachers sent a recording of her singing the song to the RÚV radio station, which was then Iceland's only radio station. The recording was nationally broadcast and, after hearing it, a representative of the Fálkinn record label offered Björk a recording contract. Her self-titled début, Björk, was recorded when she was 11 years old and was released in Iceland in December 1977.[15]

During her teens, after the diffusion of punk rock music in Iceland, she formed the all-girl punk band Spit and Snot. A year later, in 1980, she formed a jazz fusion group called Exodus and collaborated in another group called JAM80. During the same year she also graduated from music school.[11] In 1982, she and bassist Jakob Magnússon formed another group, Tappi Tíkarrass ("Cork the Bitch's Ass [sic]" in Icelandic), and released EP Bitið fast í vitið ("Bite Hard Into Hell" in Icelandic), in August 1982. Their album Miranda was released in December 1983. The group was featured in the documentary Rokk í Reykjavík, with Björk being featured on the cover of the VHS release.[11][16] Around this time, Björk met guitarist Þór Eldon and surrealist group Medusa, which also included poet Sjón, with whom she started a lifelong collaboration and formed a small group called Rokka Rokka Drum.[17] Björk appeared as a featured artist on "Afi", a track from the Björgvin Gíslason 1983 record Örugglega.[14]

Due to the imminent discontinuance of radio show Áfangar, two radio personalities, Ásmundur Jónsson and Guðni Rúnar, called out to musicians to play on a last live radio show. Björk joined with Einar Melax (from the group Fan Houtens Kókó), Einar Örn Benediktsson (from Purrkur Pillnikk), Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson and Sigtryggur Baldursson (from Þeyr), and Birgir Mogensen (from Spilafífl) to perform on the concert.[18] The group developed a gothic rock sound. During this experience, Björk began to develop her vocalisation – punctuated by howls and shrieks.[11] The project performed as Gott kvöld during the concert but later decided to keep playing together as a group and they used the name Kukl ("Sorcery" in Icelandic).[18] Björk's acquaintance gave the group their studio to record in and released their first single in 1983.[18] Their first big performance was at a festival in Iceland which was headlined by English anarchist punk band Crass, whose record label, Crass Records offered the band a record deal. The Eye was released in 1984 and was followed by a two-month tour in Europe, which also included a performance at Roskilde Festival in Denmark, making Kukl the first Icelandic band to play at the festival.[13][18] During this period Björk published a hand-coloured book of poems. Um Úrnat frá Björk was distributed in 1984.[11] In 1985, Björk discovered she was expecting a child from Eldon, but continued touring with Kukl.[11] Their second album, called Holidays in Europe (The Naughty Nought), came out in 1986. The band split up due to personal conflict, with Björk keeping a collaboration with Óttarsson, which was named The Elgar Sisters. Some of the songs they recorded ended up as B-sides to Björk solo singles.[11][19]

1986–1992: The Sugarcubes

Early Björk
Björk performing in Japan with The Sugarcubes

In 1986, Björk wed Þór Eldon. On 8 June the same year, she gave birth to their son, Sindri Eldon Þórsson.[20] Soon after Sindri was born, Björk performed in her first acting role on The Juniper Tree, a tale of witchcraft based on the Brothers Grimm story, directed by Nietzchka Keene. Björk played the role of Margit, a girl whose mother has been killed for practising witchcraft.[11] That summer, former band member Einar Örn and Eldon formed the arts collective Smekkleysa ("Bad Taste" in Icelandic), created with the intention of being both a record label and book publishing company.[11][19] Various friends, namely Melax and Sigtryggur from Kukl, along with Bragi Ólafsson and Friðrik Erlingson from Purrkur Pillnikk, joined the group and a band coalesced in the collective solely to make money.[19] They were initially called Þukl, but they were advertised as Kukl (the name of the previous band). At a later concert supporting Icelandic band Stuðmenn, they referred to themselves as Sykurmolarnir ("The Sugarcubes" in Icelandic). Their first double A-side single "Einn mol'á mann", which contained the songs "Ammæli" ("Birthday") and "Köttur" ("Cat"), was released on 21 November 1986, Björk's 21st birthday.[19] At the end of that year, the band was signed by One Little Indian.[19] Their first English single, "Birthday", was released in the United Kingdom on 17 August 1987; a week later, it was declared single of the week by Melody Maker.[19] The Sugarcubes also signed a distribution deal with Elektra Records in the United States and recorded their first album, Life's Too Good, which was released in 1988.[21] After the release of the album, Eldon and Björk had divorced soon after the birth of their child despite being in the same group.[20] The album went on to sell more than one million copies worldwide.[21] Björk contributed as a background vocalist on 1987 album Loftmynd by Megas, for whom she provided background vocals also on his subsequent album Höfuðlausnir (1988) and Hættuleg hljómsveit & glæpakvendið Stella (1990).[14]

In the last quarter of 1988, The Sugarcubes toured North America to positive reception.[21] On 15 October, the band appeared on Saturday Night Live. Björk alone contributed a rendition of the Christmas song "Jólakötturinn" ("The Christmas Cat") on the compilation Hvít Er Borg Og Bær.[14] The band went on hiatus following the lack of reception of Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! (1989) and a lengthy international tour.[20] During this time, Björk started working on her solo projects. In 1990 she provided background vocals on Gums, an album by a band called Bless.[14] In the same year, she recorded Gling-Gló, a collection of popular jazz and original work, with the jazz group Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar, which as of 2011 was still her best-selling album in her home country.[11][21] Björk also contributed vocals to 808 State's album ex:el, with whom she cultivated her interest in house music. She contributed vocals on the songs "Qmart" and on "Ooops", which was released as a single in the UK in 1991.[14] She also contributed vocals to the song "Falling", on the album Island by Current 93 and Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson.[14] In the same year she met harpist Corky Hale, with whom she had a recording session that ended up as a track on her future album Debut.[11]

At this point, Björk had decided to leave the band to pursue her solo career, but their contract included the making of one last album, Stick Around for Joy (1992), with a subsequent promotional tour, which she agreed to do.[21] Björk was featured on two tracks of the soundtrack for the 1992 film Remote Control (known as Sódóma Reykjavík in Iceland).[14] The Sugarcubes split up after they played one last show in Reykjavík.[21] Rolling Stone has called them "the biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland."[22]

1992–1996: Debut and Post

Björk moved to London to pursue a solo career; she began working with producer Nellee Hooper (who had produced Massive Attack, among others). Their partnership produced Björk's first international solo hit, "Human Behaviour", a clattering dance track based on a guitar rhythm sampled from Antônio Carlos Jobim. In most countries, the song was not widely played on radio, but its music video gained strong airtime on MTV. It was directed by Michel Gondry, who became a frequent collaborator for Björk.[23] Her first adult solo album, Debut, was released in June 1993 to positive reviews; it was named album of the year by NME and eventually went platinum in the United States.[24] Debut was the leap Björk made from being in numerous bands during her teens and early twenties to her solo career. She named the album Debut to signify a start of something new. Debut had a mix of songs Björk had been writing since she was a teenager, as well as more recent lyrical collaborations with Hooper. The dance-oriented album varied in instrumentation. One single from the album, "Venus as a Boy", featured a Bollywood-influenced string arrangement. Björk covered the jazz standard "Like Someone in Love" to the accompaniment of a harp, and the final track, "The Anchor Song", was sung with only a saxophone ensemble for accompaniment.

At the 1994 Brit Awards, Björk won the awards for Best International Female and Best International Newcomer.[25] The success of Debut enabled her to collaborate with British and other artists on one-off tracks. She worked with David Arnold on "Play Dead", the theme to the 1993 film The Young Americans (which appeared as a bonus track on a re-release of Debut), collaborated on two songs for Tricky's Nearly God project, appeared on the track "Lilith" for the album Not for Threes by Plaid, and co-wrote the song "Bedtime Story" for Madonna's 1994 album Bedtime Stories. Björk also had an uncredited role as a runway model in the 1994 film Prêt-à-Porter.

Post was Björk's second solo studio album. Released in June 1995, the album was produced in conjunction with Nellee Hooper, Tricky, Graham Massey of 808 State, and electronica producer Howie B. Building on the success of Debut, Björk continued to pursue different sounds, taking particular interest in dance and techno. Production by Tricky and Howie B also provided trip hop/electronica-like sounds on tracks like "Possibly Maybe" and "Enjoy". It was these producers' influence along with older friend Graham Massey that inspired Björk to create material like the storming industrial beats of "Army of Me". The album was ranked number 7 in Spin's "Top 90 Albums of the '90s" list and number 75 in its "100 Greatest Albums, 1985–2005" list.[26][27] Post and Homogenic were placed back to back on Pitchfork Media's "Top Albums of the '90s" list at numbers 21 and 20, respectively.[28][29] In 2003, the album was ranked number 373 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[30]

Although Björk continued to receive more mainstream attention for her videos than her singles, Post included several UK pop hits and was eventually certified platinum in the US.[24] Björk also contributed to the 1995 Hector Zazou collaborative album Chansons des mers froides, singing the traditional Icelandic song "Vísur Vatnsenda-Rósu". During this period, Björk complained of being hounded by paparazzi. In 1996, Björk arrived at Bangkok International Airport with her son Sindri after a long haul flight; reporters were present, despite Björk's early request that the press leave her and her son alone until a press conference.[31] While Björk was walking away from the reporters, Julie Kaufman, a female reporter, began to ask Sindri questions; Björk lunged at her and knocked her to the ground.[31] Björk's record company said that the reporter had been pestering Björk for four days. Björk later apologized to Kaufman, who declined to involve the police.[31]

1996–2000: Homogenic and Dancer in the Dark

Björk ruisrockissa 1998
Björk performing at Ruisrock, Turku, Finland (1998)

Björk left London for Spain where she recorded the album Homogenic,[32] released in 1997. It marked a dramatic shift from her earlier "pixie" image, cultivated on the Debut and Post albums. Björk worked with producers Mark Bell of LFO and Howie B on the album, as well as Eumir Deodato; numerous remixes followed. Homogenic was her first conceptually self-contained album and is regarded as one of Björk's most experimental and extroverted works to date, with enormous beats that reflect the landscape of Iceland, most notably in the song "Jóga", which fuses lush strings with rocky electronic crunches. The album was certified gold in the US in 2001.[24] The emotionally charged album contains a string of music videos, several of which received airplay on MTV. The video for "Bachelorette" was directed by frequent collaborator Michel Gondry, while "All Is Full of Love" was directed by Chris Cunningham. The single "All is Full of Love" was also the first DVD single to ever be released in the US, which paved the way for other artists to include DVD video and other multimedia features with their singles. Björk began to write more personally, saying "It wasn't just the letter bomb, [...] I realised that I'd come to the end of the extrovert thing. I had to go home and search for myself again."[32]

In 1999, Björk was asked to write and produce the musical score for the film Dancer in the Dark, a musical drama about an immigrant named Selma who is struggling to pay for an operation to prevent her son from going blind. Director Lars von Trier eventually asked her to consider playing the role of Selma, convincing her that the only true way to capture the character of Selma was to have the composer of the music play the character.[33] Eventually, she accepted. Filming began in early 1999, and the film debuted in 2000 at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival. The film received the Palme d'Or, and Björk received the Best Actress Award for her role.[9] It was reported that the shoot was so physically and emotionally tiring that she vowed never to act again.[34] Björk later stated that she always wanted to do one musical in her life, and Dancer in the Dark was the one.[35] The soundtrack Björk created for the film was released with the title Selmasongs. The album features a duet with Thom Yorke of Radiohead titled "I've Seen It All", which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song and was performed at the 2001 Oscars (without Yorke), while Björk was wearing her celebrated swan dress.[36]

2001–2003: Vespertine and Greatest Hits

Björk and the Swan Dress
Björk at the 2001 Academy Awards, wearing her swan dress

In 2001, Björk released the album Vespertine. It featured chamber orchestras, choirs, hushed vocals, microbeats made from household sounds, and personal, vulnerable themes. For the album, she collaborated with experimental musicians such as Matmos, Denmark-based DJ Thomas Knak, and harpist Zeena Parkins. Lyrical sources included the works of American poet E. E. Cummings, the American independent filmmaker Harmony Korine, and English playwright Sarah Kane's penultimate play, Crave. To coincide with the album's release, an eponymous coffee table book of loose prose and photographs was published.[37] Björk embarked on the Vespertine World Tour. The shows were held in theatres and opera houses in order to have "the best acoustics possible." She was accompanied by Matmos, Parkins and an Inuit choir, whom she had held auditions for on a trip to Greenland prior to the tour.[38] At the time, Vespertine was Björk's fastest selling album to date, having sold two million copies by the end of 2001.[39]

Vespertine spawned three singles: "Hidden Place", "Pagan Poetry", and "Cocoon". MTV2 played the album's first video, "Hidden Place", which was subsequently released as a DVD single. The next video, for "Pagan Poetry", brought Björk to an even higher level of controversy with the channel. The video features graphic piercings, Björk's exposed nipples, and simulated fellatio.[40] As a result, the clip was banned from MTV. In 2002, it was aired unedited as part of a late night special on MTV2 titled, "Most Controversial Music Videos". The video for "Cocoon" also featured a seemingly naked Björk (actually wearing a close fitting bodysuit), this time with her nipples secreting a red thread that eventually enveloped her in a cocoon. The video was directed by Japanese artist Eiko Ishioka and was not aired by MTV.[41] She was invited to record "Gollum's Song" for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers but declined the invitation, as she was then pregnant; the song was instead recorded by another Icelander, Emilíana Torrini.

Björk - Hurricane Festival
Björk at the Hurricane Festival on 21 June 2003

In 2002 the CD box set Family Tree was issued. It comprised selected rarities as well as previously unreleased versions of her compositions, including her work with the Brodsky Quartet. Also released alongside Family Tree was the album Greatest Hits, a retrospective of the previous 10 years of her solo career as deemed by the public. The songs on the album were chosen by Björk's fans through a poll on her website. A DVD edition of the CD was also released. It contained all of Björk's solo music videos up to that point. The new single from the set, "It's in Our Hands" charted in the UK at number 37.[2] The video, directed by Spike Jonze, features a heavily pregnant Björk. She gave birth to daughter Isadora Bjarkardottir Barney on 3 October 2002.[42] Björk and the Brodsky Quartet recorded a composition written, especially for her, by composer John Tavener called "Prayer of the Heart" in 2001, and it was played then for a slide show presentation in 2003 for the American photographer, Nan Goldin. In 2003, Björk released a box set called Live Box, consisting of four CDs containing live recordings of her previous albums and a DVD featuring a video of one track from each CD. Each of the four CDs was later released separately at a reduced price.

2004–2006: Medúlla and Drawing Restraint 9

In August 2004, Björk released Medúlla. During production, Björk decided the album would work best as an entirely vocal-based album. This initial plan was modified, as the majority of the sounds on the album are indeed created by vocalists but several feature prominent basic electronic programming, as well as the occasional musical instrument. Björk used the vocal skills of throat singer Tanya Tagaq, hip hop beatboxer Rahzel, Japanese beatboxer Dokaka, avant-rocker Mike Patton, Soft Machine drummer/singer Robert Wyatt, and several choirs. She again appropriated text from E. E. Cummings for the song "Sonnets/Unrealities XI". At the time, Medúlla became her highest charting album in the US, debuting at number 14.[43]

In August 2004, Björk performed the song "Oceania" at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. As she sang, her dress slowly unfurled to reveal a 10,000 square foot (900 m²) map of the world, which she let flow over all of the Olympic athletes. The song "Oceania" was written especially for the occasion and features the talents of Shlomo, a Leeds-based beatboxer, and a London choir. An alternative version of the song began circulating on the Internet with additional vocals by Kelis. It originally appeared on the promotional "Oceania" single released to radio stations and later became available to the public as a B-side of the "Who Is It" single, which charted at number 26 in the UK.[44] This was followed in early 2005 by "Triumph of a Heart", charting at number 31.[45] A video for the potential next single, "Where Is the Line", was filmed in collaboration with the Icelandic artist Gabríela Friðriksdóttir in late 2004. This was initially a sequence from an art installation movie of the artists but was released exclusively on the Medúlla Videos DVD as an official promo for the track.

In 2005, Björk collaborated with partner Matthew Barney on the experimental art film Drawing Restraint 9, a dialogueless exploration of Japanese culture. Björk and Barney both appear in the film, playing two occidental guests on a Japanese factory whaling vessel who ultimately transform into two whales. She is also responsible for the film's soundtrack, her second after Selmasongs. Björk also appeared in the 2005 documentary Screaming Masterpiece, which delves into the Icelandic music scene. The movie features archive footage of the Sugarcubes and Tappi Tíkarrass and an ongoing conversation with Björk herself. During this era, Björk earned another BRIT Awards nomination for Best International Female Solo Artist.[46] She was also awarded the Inspiration Award at the Annual Q Magazine Awards in October 2005, accepting the prize from Robert Wyatt, with whom she collaborated on Medúlla.[47] In 2006, Björk remastered her first three solo studio albums (Debut, Post, Homogenic) and her two soundtrack albums (Selmasongs and Drawing Restraint 9) in 5.1 surround sound for a re-issue in a new box-set titled Surrounded, released on 27 June. Vespertine and Medúlla were already available in 5.1 as either DVD-A or SACD but are also included in the box set in repackaged format. The DualDiscs were also released separately.[48] Björk's former band, the Sugarcubes, reunited for a one-night-only concert in Reykjavík on 17 November 2006. Profits from the concert were donated to the Sugarcubes' former label, Smekkleysa, who according to Björk's press statement, "continue to work on a non-profit basis for the future betterment of Icelandic music".[49]

2007–2011: Volta

Björk contributed a cover of Joni Mitchell's song "The Boho Dance" to the album A Tribute to Joni Mitchell (2007).[50] Director and previous collaborator Michel Gondry asked Björk to star in his film The Science of Sleep, but she declined. The role was played by Charlotte Gainsbourg instead.[51] Björk starred in Gunar Karlsson's 2007 animated film Anna and the Moods, along with Terry Jones and Damon Albarn.

Björk's sixth full-length studio album, Volta, was released on 7 May 2007. It features 10 tracks. It features input from hip hop producer Timbaland, singer Antony Hegarty, poet Sjón, electronic beat programmer Mark Bell, kora master Toumani Diabaté, Congolese thumb piano band Konono No 1, pipa player Min Xiaofen, and, on several songs, an all-female ensemble from Iceland performing brass compositions. It also uses the Reactable, a novel "tangible-interface" synthesizer from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, which on Volta is played by Damian Taylor. The first single from the album, "Earth Intruders", was released digitally on 9 April 2007 and became her second-ever Billboard Hot 100 entry in the United States. Volta debuted at number nine on the Billboard 200 albums chart, becoming her first top 10 album in the US, netting week-one sales of 43,000. The album also reached number three on the French albums chart with sales of 20,600 albums sold in its first week, and number seven in the UK Albums Chart with 20,456 units sold. The second single from the album, "Innocence", was digitally released on 23 July 2007, with an accompanying music video chosen from a contest conducted through her official website. "Declare Independence" was released on 1 January 2008 in a super deluxe package including two 12" vinyls, a CD, and a DVD featuring Gondry's "Declare Independence" video.[52] "Wanderlust" was subsequently released in a similar format, featuring Encyclopedia Pictura's short film directed for the track, shot in stereoscopic 3D. The fifth single released from the album was "The Dull Flame of Desire", featuring vocals by Antony Hegarty.

Bjork Amsterdam 2007 (cropped)
Björk performing in Amsterdam (2007)

Björk then completed the 18-month Volta Tour, having performed at many festivals and returning to Latin America after nine years, playing in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Curitiba, Guadalajara, Bogotá, Lima, Santiago de Chile, and Buenos Aires, as part of different events. She also returned to Australia and New Zealand for the first time in 12 years in January 2008, touring the nations with the Big Day Out Festival. She played a one-off show at the Sydney Opera House as part of the Sydney Festival. On 13 January 2008, Björk attacked a photographer who had photographed her arrival at Auckland International Airport in New Zealand for her scheduled performance at the Big Day Out festival.[53] Björk allegedly tore the photographer's shirt down the back, and in the process she fell to the ground.[54] Neither the photographer nor his employer, The New Zealand Herald, lodged a formal complaint, and Auckland police did not investigate further.[55] Her music was featured in the 2008 documentary Horizons: The Art of Steinunn Þórarinsdóttir directed by Frank Cantor.[56]

Announced via an eBay auction, a new Björk track was revealed under the title "Náttúra". Björk commented the song was intended "to encourage active support for a more environmental approach to Iceland's natural resources."
The song was initially labelled as a new single by Björk, with backing vocals from Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke. Björk's official website later stated that the single would be released on 27 October 2008 through iTunes,[57] but the track was eventually made available at nattura.grapewire.net, exclusively.[58] In a statement released by bjork.com, a limited edition box set titled Voltaïc from One Little Indian Records was announced, with a release date in North America of 20 April 2009 (later delayed to mid-June). The release consists of various live recordings of performances in Paris and Reykjavík. The live set was also recorded at the Olympic Studio in London. The first disc is audio of songs from the Volta Tour performed live at Olympic Studios; the second disc contains video of the Volta Tour live in Paris and live in Reykjavik; the third disc contains "The Volta Videos" and the video competition, while the fourth is The Volta Mixes CD.[59]

In May 2010, the Royal Swedish Academy of Music announced that Björk was to receive the Polar Music Prize alongside Ennio Morricone.[60] A month later, Björk, along with Dirty Projectors, announced that they would be collaborating on a joint EP, titled Mount Wittenberg Orca, which was released on 30 June, to raise money for marine conservation.[61] In September 2010, Björk released "The Comet Song" as part of the soundtrack for the movie Moomins and the Comet Chase. Also in 2010, she dueted with fellow Icelander (and One Little Indian labelmate) Ólöf Arnalds on a track called "Surrender" from Arnalds's new album, Innundir skinni,[62] and performed a duet with Antony and the Johnsons on the album Swanlights. The song is titled "Flétta".[63] On 20 September 2010, Björk performed her version of "Gloomy Sunday" at designer Alexander McQueen's memorial in St. Paul's cathedral in London. On 7 December 2010, a previously unreleased song, called "Trance", was released by Björk as the backing track of a short film made by Nick Knight, titled "To Lee, with Love", as a tribute to McQueen, with whom Björk collaborated on multiple occasions.

Björk appeared on Átta Raddir, one of Jónas Sen's TV shows. The episode aired on 27 February 2011.[64] The shows are produced by the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.[65] In the show Björk performed eight songs, including "Sun in My Mouth", which had not previously been performed live.

2011–2014: Biophilia

Björk performing at Cirque en Chantier 1 edit
Björk performing at the Cirque en Chantier in Paris, France, on 27 February 2013.

Biophilia was released in 2011. The album project combined music with technological innovation and themes of science and nature, including an "app album", educational collaborations with children and specialized live performance, debuting in Manchester, United Kingdom at the Manchester International Festival on 30 June. This was the first part of the Biophilia Tour, that toured the world for two years.

In June 2011, the first single from Biophilia, "Crystalline", was released.[66] The song was composed using one of the several instruments custom built for the project, the "gameleste", a celesta modified with elements of gamelan. A central part of Biophilia was a series of interactive iPad apps made by programmers and designers, one app for each of the 10 songs on the new album. The second single, "Cosmogony", which served as the "mother app" for all the others, was released on 19 July 2011, followed by "Virus" and "Moon". Biophilia was the first ever album to be released, in October 2011, as a series of interactive apps.[67] Also in part of the project was Björk's Biophilia education program, which consisted of workshops for school-children aged 10–12, that explore the intersection of music and science. The Reykjavik City Board of Education brought the program to all schools in the city over the next three years.[68]

She released the 2012 remix album Bastards. It featured remixes by Death Grips and Syrian musician Omar Souleyman.[69][70] In 2013, Björk featured in a Channel 4 documentary along with Sir David Attenborough called When Björk Met Attenborough, as part of their Mad4Music season of programmes. Björk and Attenborough discussed the human relationship with music, focusing around Biophilia, and also featuring scientist Oliver Sacks.[71] In 2014, the apps were the first ever to be inducted into the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.[67] In June, Björk recorded original vocal samples for Death Grips, which they used on all 8 songs of Niggas on the Moon, the first part of their double LP, The Powers That B.[72] In late 2014, a concert film, Björk: Biophilia Live, was released worldwide, including in more than 400 cinemas.[73]

2015–2017: Vulnicura

Björk worked with producers Arca and the Haxan Cloak on her ninth studio album, titled Vulnicura.[74] On 18 January 2015, just days after being publicly announced, and two months ahead of its scheduled release, a supposed full version of the album leaked online.[75][76] In an effort to salvage potential losses in sales due to the leak and to allow fans to hear the album in superior quality, it was made available worldwide on 20 January 2015 on iTunes.[77] Vulnicura is a portrayal of her breakup with former partner, Matthew Barney with lyrics that are emotionally raw in comparison to the abstract concerns of her previous album.[78] Its surprise release was positively compared to recent album releases from Madonna and Beyoncé, the former of whom also released her album to iTunes after being leaked, and the latter of whom wanted to revolutionize how albums were released and consumed.[79] Björk began her world tour in March 2015 at Carnegie Hall performing "Black Lake" and other tracks from Vulnicura as well as several from her back catalog with accompaniment from the ensemble Alarm Will Sound, Arca on electronics (on festival dates The Haxan Cloak took over) and percussionist Manu Delago.[80] After completing its New York residency, the tour traveled to Europe before ending in August 2015.

Björk @ New York City Center
Björk on stage at New York City Center, on April 1, 2015.

New York's MoMA hosted a retrospective exhibition from 8 March – 7 June 2015 that chronicled Björk's career from Debut to Biophilia; however, aspects of Vulnicura were included as well but not previously announced.[81] The retrospective consisted of 4 parts: the Biophilia instruments (Tesla coil, MIDI controlled organ, the newly created Gameleste, and gravity harp) were on display in the lobby of the museum and played automatically throughout the day, the MoMA commissioned video installation, "Black Lake", which consisted of 2 complementary edits of the "Black Lake" video screened in a small room with 49 speakers hidden in the walls and ceiling, a Cinema room showcasing most of Björk's music videos, newly transferred in high definition, and the Songlines walking exhibit which showcased Björk's notebooks, costumes and props from throughout her career. A book entitled Björk: Archives, documenting the content of the exhibition, was published in March.[82] In addition to the "Black Lake" video, videos for "Lionsong" (which played in the Cinema room of the MoMA exhibit), "Stonemilker" (a 360 degree VR video) "Family", and "Mouth Mantra" were also produced for the album, as well as a three part remix series available digitally and on limited edition vinyls. No traditional singles were released for Vulnicura. In December, the "Stonemilker VR App" was released for iOS devices, featuring an exclusive strings mix of the song.[83] It is the same version on display at MoMA earlier that year.

On 2 October 2015, Vulnicura Strings was announced. The album serves as a purely acoustic companion to Vulnicura, and features additional string arrangements plus the viola organista, a unique string instrument played on a keyboard designed by Leonardo da Vinci. It was released on 6 November 2015 on CD and digital and 4 December 2015 on vinyl.[84] A week later, Vulnicura Live was announced on double CD / double LP sets sold exclusively through Rough Trade record shops. The set sold out online five days after being announced but limited quantities were made available in store in London and Brooklyn. Each format is limited to 1000 copies each, making it one of the rarest physical releases of Björk's recent career. The CD was released on 13 November 2015 with the picture disc vinyls released a week later.[85] On 7 December 2015, Vulnicura was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.[86] On 15 July 2016, a standard "commercial" edition of Vulnicura Live was released, featuring the same performances but newly mixed and with different artwork. A luxury version of Vulnicura Live was released on 23 September.

Björk launched Björk Digital in June 2016, a virtual reality exhibit showcasing all the VR videos completed for Vulnicura thus far, including the world premiere of "Notget", directed by Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones, at Carriageworks for Vivid Sydney 2016 in Sydney, Australia. She DJ'd the opening night party[87] and did the same when the show traveled to Tokyo, Japan on 29 June,[88] showing at Miraikan. During the Miraikan residency, Björk made history by featuring in the world's first ever virtual reality live stream broadcast on YouTube. She gave a live performance of Vulnicura's final song "Quicksand", and the footage was incorporated into the "Quicksand" VR experience. Björk Digital has traveled the world with stops in London, Montreal, Houston, Los Angeles and Barcelona.

2017–present: Utopia

Bjork APEVicPark270518-97 (42563937282)
Björk performing in Victoria Park, London (2018)

In April 2017, a special box set of 7" records was announced entitled 7-inches for Planned Parenthood.[89] It is in support of the women's health organization Planned Parenthood and features a wide range of musicians, visual artists, comedians, and authors, all of whom have contributed new, previously unreleased, or rare material. Björk contributed a live version of her 1993 song "Come to Me", the same performance found on the 2016 Vulnicura Live album. The collection was released digitally in October.[90]

Utopia was issued in November.[91] She described it as her "Tinder album" and stated that "it's about that search (for utopia) – and about being in love. Spending time with a person you enjoy is when the dream becomes real."[92][93] Björk added that her previous album was "hell" – it was like divorce!", stating, "So we [were] doing paradise [...] We have done hell, we have earned some points."[94][95] She produced the album with Arca, whom she collaborated with on Vulnicura. Björk has described her collaborative journey with Arca as "the strongest musical relationship [she's] had", likening it to that of Joni Mitchell and Jaco Pastorius during the albums Hejira and Don Juan's Reckless Daughter ("It's that synergy when two people lose their ego"), which have both been praised by Björk.[96] The lead single of her upcoming album, "The Gate", was released at midnight on 15 September, three days earlier than the originally announced release date.[97][98] Its accompanying video was directed by visual artist Andrew Thomas Huang.[96] Three additional music videos were released in 2017: "Blissing Me", "Utopia" and "Arisen My Senses" with the former and latter also receiving limited edition remix EPs.

On 22 May 2018, Björk appeared as the headlining musical guest on Later with Jools Holland, her first time on the BBC show since 2011.[99] She sang a set of four songs including a flute rendition of "Anchor Song" from Debut before embarking on a brief Utopia Tour in several European music festivals for the summer.[100][101][102] On 12 November 2018, Björk announced a new concert production, Cornucopia, "where the acoustic and digital will shake hands".[103][104] On 25 November, the Black Rock Studios in Santorini confirmed that Björk was recording in their studios.[105][106] On 7 December 2018, Utopia was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, making Björk's fifteenth nomination at the Grammys.[107] Cornucopia opened in May 2019 at The Shed and it is Björk's "most elaborate staged concert to date."[108]

Artistry

Style

Over her three-decade solo career, Björk has developed an eclectic and avant-garde[109][110] musical style that incorporates aspects of electronic,[109][111][112][113] dance,[113][114] alternative dance,[115] trip hop,[116] experimental,[117][118][119] glitch,[110] jazz,[110][120] alternative rock,[121][122] instrumental,[109] and contemporary classical music.[112][119] Her music has since been subject to critical analysis and scrutiny, as she consistently defies categorization in a musical genre.[123] Although she often calls herself a pop artist,[117] she is considered a "restlessly experimental creative force."[124][125] According to The New Yorker's Taylor Ho Bynum, "no contemporary artist so gracefully bridges the divide [between music experimentalist and pop celebrity] as Björk."[126] Her album Debut, which incorporated electronic, house, jazz, and trip hop, has been credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop.[127][128] Her work has been described as "frequently explor[ing] the relationship between nature and technology."[129] Broadly summarizing her wide-ranging integration of art and popular music, Joshua Ostroff suggested that "there is no better descriptor for what Björk does than artpop."[115] The NME also called her output a "consistently progressive pop agenda."[130]

Björk's work is idiosyncratically collaborative, having worked with various producers, photographers, fashion designers and music video directors. This, however, has sometimes led to the lack of acknowledgment of auteurship in her music, something Björk attributes to being a woman.[131] In a 2015 The Pitchfork Review interview, she said that although she had done "80 percent of the beats" on Vespertine, when Matmos provided production assistance, "they [were] credited everywhere as having done the whole album."[131] She further stated that she spends "80 percent of the writing process of my albums on my own", and when "20 percent [goes to] extras, that's documented more."[131]

Evolution

During her career beginnings, Björk performed in bands from various musical genres: punk rock in Spit and Snot, jazz fusion in Exodus, post-punk in Tappi Tíkarrass and gothic rock in Kukl.[11] When working with Tappi Tíkarrass, she was heavily influenced by British new wave bands such as Siouxsie and the Banshees,[132] Wire, The Passions, The Slits, Joy Division,[133] and Killing Joke.[134] The studio album Gling-Gló (1990) was recorded with Tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar and featured jazz and popular standards sung "very much in the classic Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan mould."[135] The Sugarcubes' style has been described as avant-pop[111] and alternative rock.[136]

Debut has been credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop.[137][138] Being a fan of dance music since the early days of acid house, Björk used dance music as the framework for her songs in Debut, stating in 1993 that it was "the only pop music that is truly modern" and "house is the only music where anything creative is happening today."[139] However, in a Rolling Stone interview she also stated that "[she] was more influenced by ambient music than what you'd call dance music, and by things that were happening way back in Chicago and Detroit that were sensual and daring and groundbreaking in their time."[140] The music of Debut "reflects the contemporary musical environment of London, where [Björk] lived in the early 1990s, especially the burgeoning trip-hop scene of bands like Portishead and Massive Attack.[141] Michael Cragg of The Guardian has described it as an "indefinable conflation of electronic pop, trip-hop, world music and otherworldly lyrics";[142] while The Face's Mandi James said it was "a delightful fusion of thrash metal, jazz, funk and opera, with the odd dash of exotica thrown in for good measure."[143]

The 1995 album Post, known for its eclecticism,[144] is considered to be the "quintessential Björk" release, due to its protean form – more than any of her albums — and its "wide emotional palette".[145] The entirety of the album was written after Björk's move to England, and intended to reflect the faster pace of her new urban life.[146] The Guardian wrote that "Post tapped into the vortex of multicultural energy that was mid-90s London, where she had relocated and where strange hybrids such as jungle and trip-hop were bubbling."[147] Post built on the dance-pop blueprint of Debut, but pushed its production and beats to the fore, "adding influence from all over the world."[148] While the "distant echoes" of IDM and trip-hop were present in Debut, Post is characterized by Björk's fuller incorporation of these styles.[138] Referred to as a "genre roulette" by the San Francisco Chronicle,[149] it touches on various musical styles, including industrial music,[150] big-band jazz, trip-hop, chillout,[150] and experimental music.[151] The balance between synthetic and organic elements in the album – generated through the combination of electronic and "real" instruments – is a recurring characteristic in Björk's output.[152][153]

Mark Bell (LFO) on stage in Moscow
Mark Bell contributed to much of Björk's material, including his co-production of Homogenic, until his death in 2014.

With her 1997 album Homogenic, Björk intended to make a "simple record with 'only one flavour'", in contrast with her previous releases.[154] Conceptually focused on her native Iceland,[154] the album is a "fusion of chilly strings (courtesy of the Icelandic String Octet), stuttering, abstract beats, and unique touches like accordion and glass harmonica".[155][156] Björk incorporated a traditional singing method used by Icelandic choir men, a combination of speaking and singing as illustrated in the song "Unravel".[157] While Homogenic still showed Björk "steeping in the cutting edge of electronic dance-music culture, her embrace of techno futurism, her time spent pulling all-nighters in London clubs", Neva Chonin of Rolling Stone stated the album was "certain to be rough going for fans looking for the sweet melodies and peppy dance collages of her earlier releases."[158]

On the 2001 album Vespertine, Björk continued with her idiosyncratic general meshing of organic and synthetic textures, once again via the combination of electronic sounds and string arrangements.[159] However, Vespertine differed from Homogenic in its greater interest in intimacy and sexuality (the result of her new relationship with artist Matthew Barney),[117][160][161] and "its desire for stark melodies and minimalist production."[159][162] Vespertine is also characterized by "the obsession with sonic traces of analog technology – that is, the pervasive use of loops, static and white noise— despite the obviously digital orientation of twenty-first-century electronics";[163] thus, elements of glitch music have been identified.[164][165] Unlike previous albums like Debut and Post, "electronic sounds are the norm, and the acoustic sounds become the interjections."[163] Björk also stepped away from her signature shrieking singing style; her vocals often appear to be recorded close to the microphone and with little treatment, and sung in a sometimes "unstable whisper", conveying a sense of close proximity and reduced space suitable for the intimate lyrics.[166]

Björk's 2004 studio album, Medúlla, is almost entirely constructed with human vocals.[117] musicOMH's review stated that: "Despite its voice-only premise, Medúlla shows off a mile-wide scope of influences"; noting elements of folk and medieval music.[167] Wondering Sound wrote that despite "its comparative starkness, [Medúlla is] every bit as sensual as [Vespertine]."[159] The publication also added: "The electronic treatments range from industrial distortion to percussive glitches and dreamy layering, rarely descending into novelty."[159] The album combines beatboxing, classical choirs that suggest composers like Penderecki or Arvo Pärt, and "mews, moans, counterpoint and guttural grunts" provided by Björk and guests like Mike Patton, Robert Wyatt and Tanya Tagaq.[168] Medúlla includes "vocal fantasias" that lean toward chamber music, alongside tracks that "are obviously but distantly connected to hip-hop."[168] Glimpses of Bulgarian women's choirs, the polyphony of central African pygmies, and the "primal vocalisms" of Meredith Monk were also noted.[168]

Volta, released in 2007, received coverage after the inclusion of R&B producer Timbaland; however, NME wrote that "this is not Björk 'going hip-hop' or having a late-breaking pop reinvention."[169] It has been said that the album: "finds the perfect balance between the vibrancy of her poppier work in the '90s and her experiments in the 2000s."[170] Björk wanted the album's beats to be "effortless, primitive, lo-fi style", in contrast with Vespertine.[171] It combines a large brass ensemble with live and programmed drums and "ethnic instruments" like likembé, pipa and kora.[171] Volta alternates between potent, joyful songs, and moodier, more contemplative tracks, "all of which are tied together by found-sound and brass-driven interludes that give the impression that the album was recorded in a harbor".[170]

Biophilia, of 2011, showcases Björk's more avant-garde tendencies, drawing comparisons to Stockhausen and Nico's 1969 album, The Marble Index.[109][172]

The music in Vulnicura is centered on Björk's voice, orchestral strings and electronic beats.[117][173] This combination was already present in Homogenic, certainly the consequence of the common topics treated by both albums: "heartbreak and perseverance".[117]

Influences

Björk's influences have been described "as diverse as those she inspires".[126] The Big Issue wrote that: "her passion from everything from minimalist techno to free jazz has been well documented."[175] For his biography of her, Björk told Mark Pytlik: "If I were to say who influenced me most, I would say people like Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Mark Bell."[176] Some "confessional singer-songwriters" Björk commends include Abida Parveen, Chaka Khan, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush, the latter being a definitive influence in her career.[131] According to The Big Issue, "the artist that inspired [Björk] to start writing her own songs was Joni Mitchell."[175] She said that Mitchell "created her own [female musical universe]", and found it "very liberating."[175]

Through her mother —who had embraced many aspects of the counterculture of the 1960s—, Björk was exposed to rock music such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Deep Purple during her childhood; a style of music she disliked.[177] Instead, during her formative years at music school, Björk became interested in avant-garde, classical, and minimalistic music;[109][177] also becoming a "jazz freak".[178] Although her music is more consistently tonal and has more crossover appeal, she is considered indebted to avant-garde composers Karlheinz Stockhausen, Meredith Monk, Sun Ra and Philip Glass.[126][179] In a 2008 article for The Guardian, Björk considered Stockhausen as the root of electronic music, writing "he sparked off a sun that is still burning and will glow for a long time."[180] Early in her career, Björk cited Sir David Attenborough as her biggest musical influence, saying "she identified with his thirst for exploring new and wild territories."[181] She also stated that she "[likes] to discover sounds I had never heard before."[182]

Although Björk was in various post-punk and alternative rock bands during the late 1980s, her contact with London's underground club culture helped her find her own musical identity.[183] According to i-D, the music of Debut and Post "couldn't have existed without Aphex Twin, Black Dog, A Guy Called Gerald, LFO and all the other producers who reshaped the language of music since 1988."[184]

Voice

Björk has a soprano vocal range spanning from E3 to D6,[185][186][187][188] which has been described as both "elastic" and "somersaulting" in quality as well as having been praised for her scatting ability, unique vocal stylings and delivery.[189] In a review for her live performance at the 2011 Manchester International Festival, Bernadette McNulty of The Daily Telegraph commented, "the 45-year-old still uses electronic dance beats with a full-blooded raver's passion and the elemental timbre of her voice has grown more powerful with age".[190] Björk has been known to reach notes beyond the seventh and eighth octave through her use of reverse phonation.

In late 2012, it was reported that Björk had undergone surgery for a polyp on her vocal cords. Commenting on the success of the procedure after years of maintaining a strict diet and using vocal exercises to prevent vocal injury, she stated, "I have to say, in my case anyway: surgery rocks! [...] I stayed quiet for three weeks and then started singing and definitely feel like my cords are as good as pre-nodule, it's been very satisfying to sing all them clear notes again."[191] However, in a review for Biophilia, Kitty Empire of The Guardian stated that pre-surgery Björk still sounded strong, commenting that her voice was "spectacular and swooping", particularly on the song "Thunderbolt".[192]

In a similar vein, Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine adds that her voice has been "preserved quite well;" however, he also stipulates that "her once-formidable wail is too hoarse and shouty to be the ace in the hole that it once was," also adding "it's only where her most dramatic vocal pyrotechnics are concerned that there's any question of physical ability".[193] National Public Radio counted Björk among its list of "50 Great Voices" and MTV placed her at number 8 on its countdown "22 Greatest Voices in Music." She has been ranked 60th as one of the 100 greatest singers ever, and 81st as one of the 100 greatest songwriters ever by Rolling Stone, who praised her voice as being unique, fresh and extremely versatile, fitting and being influenced by a wide range of influences and genres.[194][195][196]

Other ventures

Charitable work

After the tsunami which struck Southeast Asia in late 2004, Björk began work on a new project titled Army of Me: Remixes and Covers to help raise money for a relief fund. This project recruited fans and musicians from around the world to either cover or remix the 1995 track, "Army of Me". From over 600 responses Björk and her co-writer Graham Massey picked the best twenty to appear on the album. The album was released in April in the UK and in late May 2005 in the US. By January 2006, the album had raised around £250,000 to help UNICEF's work in the southeast Asian region.[197] Björk visited Banda Aceh in February 2006 to view some of UNICEF's work with the children who were affected by the tsunami.[198]

On 2 July 2005 Björk took part in the Live 8 series of concerts, headlining the Japan show with Do As Infinity, Good Charlotte, and McFly. She performed eight songs with Matmos, a Japanese string octet, and Zeena Parkins.[199][200]

Political activity

Björk's years in Kukl aligned her with the anarchist Crass Collective.[201] While she has since been hesitant to be seen as an overtly political figure, and has said so on her website,[202] she is strongly supportive of numerous liberation movements across the globe, including support for independence for Kosovo.[203]

She dedicated her song "Declare Independence" to Greenland and the Faroe Islands, which caused a minor controversy in the Faroes. When Björk twice dedicated "Declare Independence" to the people of Kosovo during a concert in Japan,[204] a planned performance of hers was cancelled at Serbia's Exit Festival, reportedly due to safety concerns. In 2008, Björk created international controversy after she dedicated "Declare Independence" to the Tibet freedom movement during a Shanghai concert, chanting "Tibet! Tibet!" during the song. China's Culture Ministry issued a denunciation through state news agency Xinhua, stating that Björk "broke Chinese law" and "hurt Chinese people's feelings" and pledged to further tighten control over foreign artists performing in China. A later statement accused Björk of "whipping up ethnic hatred".[205] In 2014, Björk made a Facebook post dedicating the song to the people of Scotland as they neared the referendum on their independence that year.[206] In October 2017, she posted a tweet[207] dedicating the song to Catalonia on account of the Catalan independence referendum.

Björk has also taken an interest in environmental issues in her native country. In 2004, she took part in the "Hætta" concert in Reykjavík, organised in protest against the building of Alcoa aluminium smelters in the country, which would make Iceland the biggest smelter in Europe.[208][209] She founded the organization "Náttúra", which aims to promote Icelandic nature and grassroots industries.[210] In October 2008, Björk wrote an article for the Times discussing the state of the Icelandic economy and her thoughts on the proposed use of natural resources to get the country out of debt.[211] Björk, in collaboration with Audur Capital, set up a venture capital fund titled "BJÖRK" to support the creation of sustainable industries in Iceland. She has written the foreword to the English translation of the Iceland bestseller by Andri Snær Magnason titled "Dreamland".

On 21 May 2010, Björk wrote an open letter in the newspaper The Reykjavík Grapevine, calling on the Icelandic government to "do everything in its power to revoke the contracts with Magma Energy", the Canadian company which now has complete ownership of Icelandic geothermal company HS Orka.[212][213]

In 2014, Björk helped to organize Stopp, Let's Protect the Park, an event that aimed to raise money and awareness towards the preservation of Icelandic nature. The event included a show at Harpa Concert Hall at which Björk herself also performed three songs. The concert initially raised $310,000[214] and the project went on to raise £3 million overall, with plans to use the money to establish a national park.[215]

Protégés

Over her extensive career, Björk has frequently used her position and influence to help launch new acts or mentor them as they establish themselves as recording artists.

The first example of this was most evident with Iranian-born electronica producer Leila Arab. Leila was initially recruited to play keyboards and provide backing vocals on Björk's first international solo tour in 1993 in support of Debut. In 1995, Björk recalled Leila to be part of her second touring band for her next tour in support of Post. This time Leila was given the opportunity to experiment with the live output mixing from the stage, rather than playing keyboards. This was to be Leila's first encounter with live mixing and would later form the basis of her own solo music career where she has integrated live mixing into her own compositions and live shows. Leila has gone on to release three international solo albums throughout the 1990s and appears on the influential electronica labels Rephlex Records, XL Recordings, and Warp Records.[216]

In 1998, Björk established her own short-lived record label, Ear Records, which operated under the One Little Indian Records umbrella. Her only signee that received a release was her long-time friend, Magga Stína. Magga Stína recorded her debut solo album under the production of Björk's longtime collaborator, Graham Massey (of the British electronica act 808 State.) The album was simply titled An Album and featured just one single release, "Naturally". In 1998, Björk invited Magga Stína to perform as her support act on the Homogenic Tour, and in 2004 Magga Stína contributed to the production of Medúlla. Magga Stína is presently still performing and recording in Iceland.

In 2001, Björk became aware of Canadian Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and invited her to perform on several dates of Björk's Vespertine World Tour as a special guest. In 2004, Tagaq was invited to collaborate on the a cappella album, Medúlla, in which the duet "Ancestors" was recorded. "Ancestors" was later featured on Tagaq's first solo album, Sinaa, in 2005.

In 2004, Leila discovered the work of Finnish multimedia artist Heidi Kilpeläinen, who had taken her combination of lo-fi, homemade electro pop with her own self-produced music videos and combined them under the alter ego character, HK119. Leila soon referred HK119's work to Björk, who started mentioning HK119 in various press and interviews. In 2004, Björk announced HK119 as her favourite act of 2004 and cited her as "The Perfect Blonde Woman".[217] HK119 was soon signed to Björk's parent label One Little Indian Records, which released her debut album in 2006. HK119 and Björk appeared in a joint interview in Dazed & Confused magazine in 2006, where Björk stated about HK119's work, "It's unique. Even if I gave you $3 million, you couldn't improve on it... [Its] simplicity is [its] strength."[218] HK119 later released her albums, Fast, Cheap and Out of Control in 2008 and Imaginature in 2013, both on One Little Indian Records.

In 2009, Björk used her website and various radio interviews throughout the year to promote two more new acts. The first was fellow Icelandic musician, Ólöf Arnalds, who is also a member of Icelandic folktronica band múm. In 2006, Arnalds released her debut solo album Við Og Við in Iceland, which Björk citied as one of her favourite recent new acts of the last few years during a radio interview, and encouraged One Little Indian Records to reissue the album in the UK and Europe in 2009. On the same radio show for the American NPR channel, Björk also praised the works of emerging English artist Micachu and the more obscure, Omar Souleyman. Björk later used her official website to host the premier of Micachu's debut video on the Rough Trade Records, "Turn Me Well".[219]

Stalker incident

On 12 September 1996, obsessed fan Ricardo López became angry over Björk’s relationship with musician Goldie and attempted to kill her. He mailed a letter bomb, intended to spray the recipient with acid, to Björk's London home.[220] The package was intercepted by the Metropolitan Police Service before the plot could be carried out.[220][221][222] López wrote a diary and recorded 22 hours of videotape of himself that described his obsession with Björk, his learning of Björk's romantic relationship with Goldie, his manufacture of the acid bomb, and ended with López committing suicide by shooting himself live on camera while Björk played in the background. He commited suicide after mailing the bomb, hoping that, in the event that the bomb killed Björk, the two would be united in Heaven.[223]

In her few public comments on this event, Björk said she was "very distressed" by the incident[224] and "I make music, but in other terms, you know, people shouldn't take me too literally and get involved in my personal life."[225] She sent a card and flowers to López's family. López's videotapes, including his suicide, were confiscated by the FBI and released to journalists.[226]

Discography

Filmography

Tours

Bibliography

See also

References

Citations

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  13. ^ a b "How it all started..." Archived from the original on 25 February 2005. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
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  16. ^ "Rokk í Reykjavík!". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
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  18. ^ a b c d "The Rise And Fall Of Kukl". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Archived from the original on 5 March 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
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Book sources

Further reading

  • Björk – The Illustrated Story, by Paul Lester. Hamlyn (1996).
  • Björk – An Illustrated Biography, by Mick St. Michael. Omnibus Press (1996).
  • Björk Björkgraphy, by Martin Aston. Simon & Schuster (1996).
  • Björk, Colección Imágenes de Rock, N°82, by Jordi Bianciotto. Editorial La Máscara (1997).
  • Dancer in the Dark, by Lars von Trier. Film Four (2000).
  • Lobster or Fame, by Ólafur Jóhann Engilbertsson. Bad Taste (2000).
  • Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Björk, by Evelyn McDonnell. Random House (2001).
  • Human Behaviour, by Ian Gittins. Carlton (2002).
  • Björk: There's More to Life Than This: The Stories Behind Every Song, by Ian Gittins. Imprint (2002).
  • Björk, by Nicola Dibben. Equinox (2009).

External links

Biophilia (album)

Biophilia is the seventh studio album by Icelandic singer Björk. It was released on 5 October 2011, by One Little Indian Records and distributed by Nonesuch Records in North America and by Universal Music Group in the rest of the world. Björk composed it as a concept album during the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis, exploring the links between nature, music and technology. Billed as the first "app album", Biophilia is a multimedia project released alongside a series of apps linking the album's themes to musicology concepts. It was followed by a series of educational workshops in four continents.

Four singles were issued before the album's release in 2011. "Crystalline", co-produced with English dubstep duo 16bit, was released as the lead single on 28 June 2011, accompanied by a music video directed by longtime collaborator Michel Gondry. It was followed by the singles "Cosmogony", "Virus" and "Moon". Björk promoted the album with the Biophilia Tour, which began at the Manchester International Festival in June 2011 and ended in September 2013. A bonus track on the deluxe edition of Biophilia, "Náttúra", was released as a digital single in 2008 around the time the Biophilia project began. "Náttúra" was added as part of a series of bonus tracks after an early online leak of the album weeks before its release date.

Biophilia received critical acclaim and was named one of the best albums of 2011 by several publications; it was nominated for two awards at the 55th Grammy Awards in 2013, winning Best Recording Package. It debuted in the top 40 of every chart it entered worldwide, topping the Taiwan chart and peaking in the top 5 in Iceland, France and Denmark. In 2014, Biophilia became the first app included in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Biophilia was followed by two remix series in 2011 and 2012, collected in the remix album Bastards (2012), and music videos for the songs "Moon", "Crystalline", "Hollow" and "Mutual Core". The recording of the album was documented in the 2013 film When Björk Met Attenborough and the tour by the 2014 concert film Biophilia Live.

Dancer in the Dark

Dancer in the Dark (Danish: Danser i mørket) is a 2000 musical melodrama film directed by Lars von Trier. It stars Icelandic musician Björk as a daydreaming immigrant factory worker who suffers from a degenerative eye condition and is saving up to pay for an operation to prevent her young son from suffering the same fate. Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Cara Seymour, Peter Stormare, Siobhan Fallon Hogan and Joel Grey also star.

The soundtrack for the film, released as the album Selmasongs, was written mainly by Björk, but a number of songs featured contributions from Mark Bell and the lyrics were by von Trier and Sjón. Three songs from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music were also used in the film.

This is the third film in von Trier's "Golden Heart Trilogy"; the other two films are Breaking the Waves (1996) and The Idiots (1998). The film was an international co-production among companies based in thirteen countries and regions: Denmark, Argentina, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was shot with a handheld camera, and was somewhat inspired by a Dogme 95 look.

Dancer in the Dark premiered at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival to standing ovations and controversy, but was nonetheless awarded the Palme d'Or, along with the Best Actress award for Björk. The song "I've Seen It All", with Thom Yorke, was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song but lost to "Things Have Changed" by Bob Dylan from Wonder Boys. The film continues to polarize critics, being seen by some as melodramatic and by others as one of the greatest films of all time.

Debut (Björk album)

Debut is considered the debut studio album by Icelandic recording artist Björk as an international singer, released in July 1993 by One Little Indian and Elektra Records. It was produced by Björk and Nellee Hooper. It was Björk's first recording following the dissolution of her previous band, the Sugarcubes. The album departed from the rock style of her previous work and drew from an eclectic variety of styles, including electronic pop, house music, jazz and trip hop.

Debut received critical acclaim from British music critics, though United States reviews were mixed. It exceeded sales expectations, charting at number two in Iceland, three in the United Kingdom, and 61 in the US. It was certified gold in Canada and platinum in the US, where it remains Björk's bestselling album.Five singles were released from Debut: "Human Behaviour", "Venus as a Boy", "Play Dead", "Big Time Sensuality" and "Violently Happy". All charted in the UK, with only "Human Behaviour", "Violently Happy" and "Big Time Sensuality" charting on dance and modern rock charts in the US.

Homogenic

Homogenic is the third studio album by Icelandic recording artist Björk. It was released on 22 September 1997 in the United Kingdom by One Little Indian Records and in the United States by Elektra Records. Produced by Björk, Mark Bell, Guy Sigsworth, Howie B, and Markus Dravs, the album marked the beginning of a new style for the singer, focusing on similar-sounding music combining electronic beats and string instruments with songs in tribute to her native country Iceland. Homogenic was originally to be produced in her home in London, but was later recorded in Spain. It marked the first of several production collaborations between Björk and Mark Bell, whom she would cite as a major influence on her musical career.

Homogenic topped Iceland's official albums chart, and peaked at number 28 on the US Billboard 200 and number 4 on the UK Albums Chart. It was highly acclaimed on its initial release and continues to be praised by critics, with Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine stating that "if not the greatest electronic album of all time, it's certainly the greatest of its decade". Five singles were released from Homogenic: "Jóga", "Bachelorette", "Hunter", "Alarm Call", and "All Is Full of Love".

List of awards and nominations received by Björk

Björk is a singer-songwriter from Reykjavík, Iceland. Her debut album, Björk, considered juvenilia, was released in 1977 by the Fálkinn record label. Her subsequent nine studio albums were released by One Little Indian Records: Debut (1993), Post (1995), Homogenic (1997), Vespertine (2001), Medúlla (2004), Volta (2007), Biophilia (2011), Vulnicura (2015), and Utopia (2017). Six of her albums have entered the top 10 in the UK Albums Chart, while Volta, is her only album to reach the top 10 in the Billboard 200. Björk's record label, One Little Indian Records, reported that she has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide.Björk has received five awards from the BRIT Awards, from eleven nominations, and four from the MTV Video Music Awards, from twelve nominations. Björk has also received 15 nominations from the Grammy Awards but has not received an award, becoming the female artist with the most nominations without a win. The film industry has also recognized Björk by nominating the 2000 song, "I've Seen It All", for Best Original Song in a Motion Picture at the Academy Awards. In 2010, she has received the prestigious Polar Music Prize by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music, an award considered the "Nobel Prize of Music" in Sweden. Overall, Björk has received more than 130 awards from more than 250 nominations.

Medúlla

Medúlla is the fifth studio album by Icelandic recording artist Björk. It was released on 30 August 2004 in the United Kingdom by One Little Indian Records and in the United States by Elektra Records. After her electronic–influenced previous album Vespertine (2001), Björk intended to make an album almost entirely a cappella constructed with human vocals. For the project, she collaborated with vocal artists such as Mike Patton of rock band Faith No More, beatboxers Rahzel and Dokaka, as well as Inuit throat singer Tanya Gillis. The album's title derives from the Latin word for "marrow".

Medúlla received generally positive reviews from critics, with many calling it "unique", although others deemed it "confusing". The album was also commercially successful, reaching number one in Belgium's Wallonia, Europe, and France, while also peaking within the top ten in the United Kingdom. Medúlla is estimated to have sold more than a million copies worldwide, and received two Grammy Award nominations at the 47th Grammy Awards.

Two singles were released from Medúlla: "Who Is It" and "Triumph of a Heart", both charting inside the top forty in the United Kingdom and the top ten in Spain. Björk further promoted the album by performing at the 2004 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, along with Friday Night with Jonathan Ross and other television and radio shows. Other than these few performances, no concerts or tours were arranged to promote Medúlla, as Björk thought it would be too difficult to play the songs live. In 2015, the album was adapted into an opera at the Brussels opera house La Monnaie by Sjaron Minailo and Anat Spiegel.

Post (Björk album)

Post is the second studio album by Icelandic recording artist Björk, released on 13 June 1995 in the United Kingdom by One Little Indian and in the United States by Elektra Records. Whereas Björk's previous album Debut (1993) was produced almost entirely by Nellee Hooper, Björk produced Post with collaborators including Hooper, 808 State's Graham Massey, and former Massive Attack member Tricky.

Continuing the style developed on Debut, Post is considered an important exponent of art pop. It features an eclectic mixture of electronic and dance styles such as techno, trip hop, IDM, and house, but also ambient, jazz, industrial, and experimental music. Björk wrote most of the songs after moving to London, and intended Post to convey the city's pace, urban culture, and underground club culture.

Post was named one of the greatest albums of 1995 by numerous publications, and has since been named one of the greatest albums of all time by publications including Entertainment Weekly and Rolling Stone. It reached number one in Iceland, number two in the United Kingdom and number 32 in the US. It was certified gold in New Zealand and Sweden, and platinum in Australia, Canada, the US, and the UK. Six singles were released: "Army of Me", "Isobel", "It's Oh So Quiet", "Hyperballad", "Possibly Maybe", and "I Miss You", with three reaching the UK top 10. They were accompanied by acclaimed music videos noted for their surrealism, themes of nature and technology, and artistic development of the medium. Telegram, a remix album, was released in 1996.

Media attention and the extensive Post Tour were detrimental to Björk's wellbeing. She survived a murder attempt, and caused controversy by assaulting a reporter. Björk would relocate away from the press in Spain to produce her next album, Homogenic.

Ricardo López (stalker)

Ricardo López (January 14, 1975 – September 12, 1996), also known as the "Björk stalker", was an Uruguayan-American pest control worker who attempted to kill Icelandic musician Björk in September 1996.

López developed an obsession with Björk in 1993, and became angry over her relationship with musician Goldie. Over the course of nearly nine months, López made a video diary musing about Björk and other topics at his apartment in Hollywood, Florida. On September 12, 1996, he mailed a letter bomb rigged with sulfuric acid to her residence in London, then returned home and filmed his suicide. Police found López's body and diaries four days later; they contacted the British police, who intercepted the package. Björk was unharmed.

Swan dress

The swan dress is an iconic dress resembling a white swan worn by the Icelandic artist Björk at the 73rd Academy Awards on 25 March 2001. A Debenhams poll published in The Daily Telegraph in 2008 voted it the ninth-most iconic red-carpet dress of all time. Björk's swan dress was reimagined by Valentino at its Spring 2014 Couture fashion show at Paris Fashion Week, which received praise from fashion blogs and social media.

The Elgar Sisters

The Elgar Sisters was an Icelandic duo formed by singer Björk Guðmundsdóttir and guitarist Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson in 1984. The Elgar Sisters coexisted with KUKL, another group they were part of.

The origin of the duo’s name dates back to the recording sessions when engineer Mel Jefferson named the duo after English composer Edward Elgar.

From 1984 to 1986 the duo recorded 11 songs at Grettisgat studios (which later turned into Sýrland) which are known as The Elgar Sessions.

Eight songs were composed by Guðlaugur and the remaining three were by Björk. Besides Guðlaugur on electric and acoustic guitars and Björk as vocalist, there were other musicians: Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums), Birgir Mogensen (bass), Einar Arnaldur Melax (keyboards), Hilmar Örn Hilmarsson (keyboards, percussion), and Þorsteinn Magnússon (guitars).

Some of the lyrics were taken from Dauðaljóðin (The Death Poems), a poetry book written by guitarist Þór Eldon Jónsson.

With the break-up of KUKL by mid 1986, The Elgar Sisters project was terminated. Although they never released any album, some of their songs have been featured on the solo careers of Björk and Guðlaugur, while others still remain unpublished.

Utopia (Björk album)

Utopia is the ninth studio album by Icelandic singer-musician Björk. It was primarily produced by Björk and Venezuelan electronic record producer Arca, and released on 24 November 2017 through One Little Indian Records.

The album received critical acclaim from music critics for its production, songwriting and Björk’s vocals, and later received a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, becoming Björk’s eighth nomination in the category.

Vespertine

Vespertine is the fourth studio album by Icelandic recording artist Björk. It was released on 27 August 2001 in the United Kingdom by One Little Indian Records and in the United States by Elektra Records. Production on the album began during the filming of Dancer in the Dark, which was characterized by conflict between the singer and director Lars von Trier. Vespertine's sound reflected Björk's newly found interest in the music of artists such as Opiate and Console, who were also enlisted as producers.

Björk wanted to make an album with an intimate, domestic sound, deviating from the sonority of her previous studio album Homogenic (1997). With the rising popularity of Napster and music downloads, she decided to use instruments whose sound would not be compromised when downloaded and played on a computer, including the harp, the celesta, clavichord, strings, and custom music boxes. Assisted by the duo Matmos, Björk created "microbeats" from various household sounds, such as that of shuffling cards and ice being cracked. Lyrically, the album revolves around sex and love — sometimes explicitly — inspired by the singer's new relationship with Matthew Barney; other lyrical sources include a poem by E. E. Cummings, Sarah Kane's play Crave, and dialogues written by Harmony Korine. Björk, a self-titled coffee table book containing photographs of the singer throughout her career, was released simultaneously with the album.

Vespertine peaked at number 19 on the US Billboard 200 and at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart, and was widely acclaimed by critics, with praise centred on its erotic, intimate mood and sonic experimentation. It appeared on several publications' lists of the best albums of 2001 and of the decade, and has often been considered Björk's best album to date. The album was certified gold in Canada, France, and the United Kingdom. Three singles were released from Vespertine: "Hidden Place", "Pagan Poetry", and "Cocoon". In 2001, the singer enlisted Zeena Parkins, Matmos, and a choir of Inuit women to embark on the Vespertine World Tour, which took place at theatres and small venues to favor the acoustics for the concerts.

Björk
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