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A visionary artist who effortlessly blends avant-garde and pop elements, Björk makes music that is as innovative as it is emotional. When the Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist launched her solo career, she traded the arty guitar rock of her former group the Sugarcubes for dance music and worked with some of the genre's biggest names, including Nellee Hooper, Underworld, and Tricky. She established her new artistic direction with 1993's Debut, an international, multi-platinum hit that she followed with two equally groundbreaking albums: 1995's Post, another wildly successful work that reflected her style at its poppiest even as it fused jazz, industrial, and different flavors of electronic music, and 1997's Homogenic, an uncompromising fusion of strings and fractured beats that foreshadowed her increasingly experimental direction in the years to come. She swung from the daring softness of 2001's Vespertine to the primal vocal textures of 2004's Medúlla, and found new ways to connect humanity, technology, and music on 2011's Biophilia. Later in the 2010s and into the next decade, Björk delivered powerful expressions of loss and renewal with albums including 2015's Vulnicura and 2022's Fossora, both of which reaffirmed her as one of the most influential and distinctively creative talents of her times. Born in Reykjavik in 1965 to activist Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir, Björk spent her early years living in a commune with her mother and stepfather Sævar Árnason, who was a guitarist in the band Pops. She studied piano and flute at the Reykjavik school Barnamúsíkskóli; when she sang Tina Charles' "I Love to Love" at a recital, her teachers sent a recording to Iceland's Radio One that was then broadcast across the nation. A contract with the Fálkinn record label followed, and Björk recorded her self-titled debut album when she was 11. Released in Iceland in December 1977, Björk became a hit within Iceland and contained covers of several pop songs, including the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill." As the '70s came to a close, the punk revolution changed Björk's musical tastes. She formed the post-punk group Exodus in 1979 and sang in Jam 80 the following year. In 1981, Björk and Exodus bassist Jakob Magnusson formed Tappi Tikarrass, which released an EP, Bitid Fast I Vitid, on Spor later that year; it was followed by the full-length Miranda in 1983. Following Tappi Tikarrass, she formed the goth-tinged post-punk group KUKL with Einar Orn Benediktsson. KUKL released two albums, The Eye (1984) and Holidays in Europe (1986), on Crass Records. During this time, Björk published a book of poetry, 1984's Um Úrnat frá Björk and appeared in her first film, The Juniper Tree (which was released in 1990). When Kukl dissolved in mid-1986, Björk, Benediktsson, and other former members founded the Smekkleysa ("Bad Taste") arts collective, which included the Sugarcubes among its projects. The Sugarcubes quickly became stars within their homeland and were also one of the rare Icelandic bands to achieve international success when their debut album, Life's Too Good, became a British and American hit in 1988. While the band was on hiatus following the Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! tour, Björk pursued other projects, including Gling-Gló, a 1990 set of jazz standards and originals with an Icelandic bebop group called Trio Gudmundar Ingolfssonar, and a collaboration with Current 93. She also wrote her own songs and appeared on two songs on 808 State's 1991 album ex:el, an experience that sparked her love of house music. After recording and touring in support of the Sugarcubes' final album, 1992's Stick Around for Joy, Björk moved to London and embarked on her solo career. Working with Massive Attack's Nellee Hooper as her co-producer, she combined new compositions with songs she had written as a teenager and drew from influences such as Bollywood, exotica, and jazz as well as electronic music. Featuring contributions from Talvin Singh, jazz harpist Corky Hale and reedist Oliver Lake, Debut -- so named by Björk to underscore its musical fresh start -- appeared in June 1993. It quickly became her most successful project to date: the album earned widespread critical acclaim and reached number two on the charts in Iceland and number three on the U.K. Album Charts. Debut went double platinum in the U.K. and platinum in four other countries, including the U.S., and was certified gold in five other countries. Boosted by an eye-catching Michel Gondry video, the single "Human Behaviour" became a Top 40 hit in the U.K., followed by "Venus as a Boy," "Big Time Sensuality," and "Violently Happy." At the end of the year, NME magazine named Debut the album of the year, while she won International Female Solo Artist and Newcomer at the BRIT Awards; at the 1994 Grammy Awards, Gondry's video was nominated for Best Short Form Music Video. Björk followed Debut's success with a number of collaborations. "Play Dead," a collaboration with David Arnold recorded for the film The Young Americans, appeared shortly after the album's release and was included as a bonus track on a rerelease. In 1994, she lent her vocals to Plaid's album Not for Threes, co-wrote Madonna's "Bedtime Stories," and appeared in an uncredited role in Robert Altman's film Prêt-à-Porter. She also worked on her second album with Hooper, Tricky, 808 State's Graham Massey, and Howie B of Mo' Wax Records; as her co-producers; her other collaborators included Talvin Singh and Brazilian composer and conductor Eumir Deodato. Recorded in Nassau and London, June 1995's Post further broadened Björk's musical horizons, incorporating industrial, ambient, IDM, trip-hop, and jazz into its bustling portrait of her life after moving to London. Hailed for its fusion of pop and experimental music, the album was another critical success as well as on the charts. Post was a Top Ten hit in over 20 countries (including the U.K., where it reached number two) and peaked at number 32 in the U.S. It was certified platinum in four countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., and was certified gold in four more. Post yielded the singles "Army of Me," "Isobel," "Hyperballad" and "It's Oh So Quiet," the latter of which topped the Icelandic charts and was a Top Ten hit in four other countries. The album's accolades included the Icelandic Music Award for Album of the Year and the Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, while Björk won the Icelandic Music Awards for Artist of the Year, Female Singer of the Year, and Composer of the Year, and won her second Brit Award for Best International Female Solo artist. Additionally, Spike Jonze's vivid music video for "It's Oh So Quiet," which took inspiration from vintage Hollywood musicals, was nominated for the Best Music Video Grammy award. To support the album, Björk embarked on her first official tour of North America with Aphex Twin, and chronicled the European leg of the tour as well as the making of the album in the book Post. November 1996 saw the release of Telegram, a collection of remixes featuring contributions from LFO, Massey, Deodato, Dillinja, and percussionist Evelyn Glennie. The album reached number 66 on the U.S. charts and peaked at 59 in the U.K. After the lengthy Post tour and an attempt on her life by an obsessed fan, Björk decamped to Málaga, Spain to work on her next album. Seeking a more cohesive approach inspired by Iceland's landscapes, she combined crunchy beats with sweeping strings and worked with co-producers Mark Bell, Guy Sigsworth, Howie B, and Markus Dravs, the Icelandic String Octet, and Deodato, who contributed additional string arrangements. Arriving in September 1997, the moody, forceful Homogenic was another triumph: Reaching the Top Ten in 15 countries, it was also certified gold in six countries, including the U.S. Along with earning Björk her third Brit Award for International Female Solo Artist, Homogenic was nominated for the Best Alternative Music Performance Grammy Award, while Gondry's video for the single "Bachelorette" and Chris Cunningham's video for "All Is Full of Love" were nominated for the Best Short Form Music Video Grammy Award in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Early in 1999, Björk started work on Lars von Trier's film Dancer in the Dark, in which she played the main character Selma and wrote and produced the score. At the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, Dancer in the Dark won the Palme d'Or, while Björk was named Best Actress. Later that year, her score for the film appeared as Selmasongs, which included contributions from Homogenic collaborator Bell and "I've Seen It All," a duet with Radiohead's Thom Yorke that earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. During the challenging Dancer in the Dark shoot, Björk composed quiet, intricate songs that provided a respite as well as a way to celebrate her relationship with artist Matthew Barney. Written and recorded in Spain, Denmark, Iceland, and New York, Vespertine appeared in August 2001 and included contributions from Barney, Jake Davies, Marius de Vries, Thomas Knak, Matmos, and harpist Zeena Parkins. Winning critical acclaim for its delicate sonics and sensual, vulnerable songwriting, the album topped the charts in five countries including Iceland and was certified gold in six countries; in the U.S., it reached number one on the Top Electronic Albums chart. Vespertine was nominated for the Best Alternative Album Grammy Award and the Icelandic Music Award for Album of the Year, while Björk was nominated for the Best International Female Solo Artist Brit Award. She brought Parkins, Matmos, and a choir of Inuit women with her on the Vespertine tour, chronicling its smaller-scale performances with the 2002 DVD Live at Royal Opera House and the following year's Miniscule. During this time, she also released Family Tree, a box set gathering rarities and previously unreleased material; Greatest Hits, which collected songs chosen by Björk's fans on her website; and Live Box, a set of live recordings and videos from each of her albums. For her next album, Björk moved away from Vespertine's detailed electronics to focus on the primal power of the human voice. Collaborating with Robert Wyatt, Mike Patton, Rahzel, Japanese beatboxer Dokaka, Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq (who also performed on the Vespertine tour) the Icelandic and London Choirs, Nico Muhly and Matmos among many others, she released Medúlla in August 2004. With a title based on the Latin word for "marrow," the largely acapella album earned praise for its experimental approach to the essential qualities of music and vocals. Its global success included placing in the Top Ten of the charts in 19 countries; gold certifications in France and Russia, and silver certification in the U.K.; hitting number one on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S.; and an Icelandic Music Award nomination for Pop Album of the Year. Björk also received Grammy nominations for Best Alternative Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the track "Oceania," which she performed at the opening ceremony for the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The following year, she worked with Barney on his film Drawing Restraint 9, acting in it as well as composing its soundtrack. She also appeared in Screaming Masterpiece, a 2005 documentary about Iceland's musical community. Late in 2006, she and the rest of the Sugarcubes reunited for a performance benefitting the band's former label Smekkleysa. In 2007, Björk's cover of Joni Mitchell's "The Boho Dance," which appeared on A Tribute to Joni Mitchell, preceded the May release of her sixth album Volta. A percussive, playful work, its contributors included Timbaland, Toumani Diabaté, Antony Hegarty, Konono No. 1, and an all-female Icelandic brass section. Reaching the Top Ten in 18 countries (including the U.S., making it her highest-placing album there), it was certified silver in the U.K. Like its predecessor, the album was nominated for Grammy and Icelandic Music Awards. Björk toured in support of Volta for a year and a half, with the 2009 set Voltaic, which was released in sets ranging from a CD/DVD to limited multi-disc and vinyl editions, capturing select performances. During the Volta tour, Björk continued to work on music, releasing the single "Náttúra" in October 2008. In 2010, she worked with Dirty Projectors on the Mount Wittenberg Orca EP, appeared on albums by Ólöf Arnalds and Anohni, and paid tribute to her late collaborator and friend Alexander McQueen by performing at the designer's funeral and contributing the previously unreleased song "Trance" to the short film To Lee, With Love. That year, she also received the Polar Music Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Music along with Ennio Morricone. Björk's next project, Biophilia, was one of her most ambitious. An interactive exploration of humanity's relationships to sound and the universe that educated its audience about music theory and science, it took shape with the help of engineers, scientists, custom-built instruments, and video game designers. Released as a suite of apps for the iPad and iPhone and on CD, Biophilia arrived in October 2011. A Top Ten hit in six countries, the album once again topped the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in the U.S. and was nominated for the Best Alternative Album Grammy Award and several Icelandic Music Awards. Bastards, a collection of Biophilia remixes featuring Death Grips and Omar Souleyman, was released in Europe in late 2012 and in the U.S. in early 2013. The Biophilia apps were translated to Android in July 2013, the same month that When Björk Met Attenborough, a BBC Channel 4 documentary with Sir David Attenborough and scientist Oliver Sacks that related Biophilia to humanity's relationship with music, premiered. In 2014, Björk contributed vocals to Death Grips' album Niggas on the Moon. She also continued the Biophilia project with a live concert film, Biophilia Live. Filmed at London's Alexandra Palace and featuring spectacular visuals, it was released theatrically and in DVD and Blu-ray sets that included the live audio on CD. That year, the Biophilia apps were added to the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection. By late 2014, Björk was putting the finishing touches on her next album. Featuring collaborations with Arca and the Haxan Cloak, Vulnicura was released in January 2015 after it leaked ahead of its scheduled March release date. Tracing the aftermath of Björk's relationship with Barney and harking back to the string and beat-heavy sounds of Vespertine and Homogenic, the album earned rave reviews for its powerful emotional impact. Topping the Icelandic charts and reaching number 11 in the U.K., Vulnicura also charted throughout Europe and was a Top 20 hit in the U.S. It won Best Album at the Icelandic Music Awards, and Björk won the awards for Best Female Artist, Best Songwriter, and Best Producer. At that year's Brit Awards, she was named International Female Solo Artist (marking her fifth Brit Award), and Vulnicura was nominated for the Best Alternative Music Grammy Award, her seventh nomination in that category. In March 2015, the Museum of Modern Art launched a multimedia exhibit documenting Björk's career from Debut through Vulnicura. It presented her notebooks, costumes, the instruments created for Biophilia, and videos, including a film for the Vulnicura song "Black Lake" by director Andrew Thomas Huang commissioned by the museum. The book Björk: Archives chronicled the exhibition. That March, Björk also embarked on the Vulnicura world tour, backed by Alarm Will Sound and percussionist Manu Delago, with Arca joining on theater dates and the Haxan Cloak on festival shows. A series of Vulnicura remixes kicked off in July, with Lotic, Katie Gately, Mica Levi, Rabit, Juliana Huxtable, and Björk herself among the artists reworking the album's tracks. One Little Indian gathered all 12 remixes in a limited edition vinyl set that December, the same month that "Stonemilker" was released as a VR app including a 360-degree video and a string-based mix of the song. An acoustic version of Vulnicura, Vulnicura Strings, arrived at the end of 2015 and featured the viola organista, a keyboard-driven string instrument designed by Leonardo da Vinci. Vulnicura Live, which featured Björk's favorite performances of the album's songs as well as some chosen from her other albums, was given a limited release; wider distribution followed in 2016. That June saw the premiere of Björk Digital, a touring exhibit collecting the VR videos created for Vulnicura (one of the videos, "Notget VR," won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix Award for Real Time Virtual Reality Experience). At the exhibit's Tokyo date, Björk performed "Quicksand" during YouTube's first ever virtual reality live stream broadcast. Starting in September, she performed a small acoustic tour with stops including London's Royal Albert Hall and Los Angeles' Walt Disney Concert Hall. In 2017, Björk reunited with Arca for the follow-up to Vulnicura. The lighter but still complex Utopia, which featured Icelandic and Venezuelan birdsong, an all-female flute section, and lyrics inspired by science fiction and folklore, arrived in November 2017. Charting globally, the album reached number 25 on the U.K. Albums Chart and number 75 on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. Utopia was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards, becoming her eighth consecutive nomination in that category and her 15th nomination overall. The album spawned several singles and EPs: 2017's Blissing Me EP featured a collaboration with serpentwithfeet; 2018's Arisen My Senses EP included remixes by Lanark Artefax, Jlin, and Kelly Lee Owens; and the following year's Country Creatures EP collected remixes of "Creatures Features" by Fever Ray and the Knife along with Björk's remix of the Fever Ray song "This Country." Following the initial run of dates in support of the album, in 2019 Björk launched the Cornucopia tour, an ambitious live experience that combined imagery and projections by director Tobias Gremmler and the choir that performed on the album with other musical and visual artists. That year, Björk also shared the stage with Arca, performing "Afterwards," a song that appeared on Arca's 2020 album KiCk 1. She then appeared in Robert Eggers' 2022 film The Northman, marking her first film appearance since Drawing Restraint 9. That September saw the release of her tenth album Fossora. Named for a Latin word meaning "digging" and informed by the 2018 death of her mother, the album combined clarinets, flutes, and strings with choral vocals as well as performances by serpentwithfeet and Emilie Nicolas. The album reached number four on the Icelandic charts and number 11 in the U.K.; in the U.S., it peaked at 100 on the 200 Albums chart and number two on the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart. Another nominee for the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy Award, Fossora took home the Alternative Album of the Year and Recording Direction of the Year prizes at the Icelandic Music Awards.
© Heather Phares & Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo


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