Music / Björk
Björk wearing her infamous swan dress at the Oscars

"You shouldn't let poets lie to you."
Björk, on her television.

Björk is what happens when you dress a cat in Alexander McQueen, teach it how to type, and use the results for lyrics. OK, not really. But kinda. She is also wonderful.

Björk Guðmundsdóttir (born 21 November 1965) is a woman from Iceland who's famous for several things: Her voice, her weird (but awesome) music, her strange outfits, her unique music videos, her acting in the Tear Jerker Dancer in the Dark, her cool accent, and her habit of beating up paparazzi. From 1986 to 1992, she was in the alternative rock band called The Sugarcubes, who were the first Icelandic musical act to ever gain any sort of success outside of Iceland (mostly in the UK and American alternative radio), mostly from the endorsement of beloved Radio 1 DJ/indie tastemaker John Peel. After they broke up, Björk went on to have a more successful, arguably better solo career.

Her music cannot be shoehorned into one category. She's not just an electronic artist; she has dabbled in many genres, including: a cappella, jazz, pop, alternative rock, classical, orchestral, folk, and avant-garde.

This report by Ethan Hein shows how unique she is: "Björk seems to be one of the only high-profile white musicians who understands that rock and roll is over. There's almost no guitar in any of her work. There's a sample of distorted electric guitar on "Human Behaviour," nylon-string guitar on "So Broken," pedal steel on live versions of "Possibly Maybe" — I think that's about it. Her stringed instrument accompaniment of choice is the harp." That's just one of the things that makes her one-of-a-kind.

Studio albums and soundtracks Björk has released:

  • Björk (1977)
    • This was recorded when she was 12 and only released in Iceland. It's been out of print for decades and obscenely rare.
  • Gling-Gló (1990, with Guðmundur Ingólfsson's trio)
  • Debut (1993)
  • Post (1995)
  • Telegram (1996; remix album)
  • Homogenic (1997)
  • Selmasongs (2000, the soundtrack to Dancer in the Dark)
  • Vespertine (2001)
  • Medúlla (2004)
  • Drawing Restraint 9 (2005, the soundtrack to the movie of the same name)
  • Volta (2007)
  • Biophilia (2011)
  • Bastards (2012; remix album)
  • Vulnicura (2015)

Her work provides examples of:

  • Animated Music Video: "I Miss You."
    • Also, "Pagan Poetry" which was banned by MTV for its sexual content even though it was rotoscoped and not all that explicit (and if it were, it's nigh-incomprehensible.)
  • Base on Wheels: The music video for "Army of Me" features a tractor trailer so large that the wheels themselves are taller than most people.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Although she seems sweet and innocent, Björk has attacked 2 journalists, one in 1996 and one in 2008.
  • Bi the Way: Like a lot of musicians. It seems that Björk prefers men, though.
    "I think everyone's bisexual to some degree or another; it's just a question of whether or not you choose to recognize it and embrace it. Personally, I think choosing between men and women is like choosing between cake and ice cream. You'd be daft not to try both when there are so many different flavours."
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: If she's the Only Sane Woman...
  • Breakup Album: Vulnicura was recorded during her separation from longtime partner Matthew Barney; notes in the album booklet detail when the songs were completed in regards to their breakup (i.e. "3 months before," "2 months after.")
  • Breakup Breakout: Honestly, has anyone else from The Sugarcubes achieved as much success as Björk?
  • Broken Record:
    • "I love him, I love him, I love him, I love him" and "She loves him, she loves him, she loves him, she loves him" from "Pagan Poetry."
    • The ending of "The Modern Things" has a looped phrase that's probably Icelandic. It's hard to make out exactly what it is, though.
  • Canon Discontinuity / Old Shame: She doesn't acknowledge her 1977 album. Not to mention that she named her 1993 album Debut!
  • Catch Phrase: "Alt sem hann sér" (and variations thereof,) which means "everything he sees" in Icelandic.
  • Careful with That Axe: She screams a lot in "It's Oh So Quiet."
    • Some versions of "Army Of Me" — particularly her version with music provided by Skunk Anansie, where, nearly three minutes in, she flips the fuck out and screams the chorus at the top of her lungs, drowning out the band.
  • Changed for the Video:
    • The video for "All is Full Of Love" uses the "Radio String Mix" instead of the album version.
    • Also "Big Time Sensuality", which uses "Fluke Minimix" instead of one in the album, "Alarm Call," which uses faster, censored "Radio Mix," and "Who is It" which switches a capella version with "Bell Choir" version for the video.
      • It also should be noted that in her Greatest Hits, the video version of "All is Full Of Love" and "Big Time Sensuality" are in the compilation instead of the official ones.
    • The earlier "Stonemilker" video uses the string mix of the song.
  • Child Popstar: Her first album was released when she was twelve.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: The swan dress in the page image is one of the least weird things she's done.
  • Concept Video / Notable Music Videos / Surreal Music Video: Virtually all of her music videos fall under this trope. When she's not a lesbian robot, she's turning an audience into plants, leaving her cat husband to go out partying and then coming back hung over, secreting red thread out of her nipples, travelling on a buffalo in a river with a backpack demon, dressing up as a pinecone and then being attacked by blob thingies, blowing up a museum, or squirting mucus out of her nose and eating it. Specifically for Vulnicura, she also made a VR music video ("Stonemilker"), and another one that brought us inside her mouth ("Mouth Mantra").
  • Cover Version:
    • "It's Oh So Quiet" was first performed in 1951 by comedienne/singer Betty Hutton.
    • Björk has also recorded a cover of "The Boho Dance" for A Tribute to Joni Mitchell.
  • Deranged Animation: The video for "I Miss You."
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: While in China for a tour, she performed "Declare Independence," and screamed, "Tibet! Tibet!" multiple times... Naturally, she's not welcome back into the country.
  • Dream Team: Björk tends to collaborate with really awesome musicians.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: As of Biophilia, her stage setup includes a giant tesla coil. As a percussion instrument.
  • Fading into the Next Song:
    • She seems to have started doing this since Post, with the aggressive beats of "Army of Me" fading into the tranquil strings of "Hyperballad," as well as "Cover Me" also neatly transitioning into "Headphones."
    • Also "Unravel" into "Bachelorette" on Homogenic, interestingly since the two songs have a very different tone. "Pluto" and "All is Full of Love" as well.
    • "Frosti" —> "Aurora," on Vespertine.
    • Medúlla has "Öll Birtan" which fade into "Who is It," in the midst of a cappella, just like that!
    • This trend seems to stop at Volta, which uses a lot of ambient as a transition point. The prominent example are "Earth Intruders" into "Wanderlust," then, "Innocence" into "I See Who You Are" into "Vertebræ by Vertebræ" into "Pneumonia" into "Hope" into "Declare Independence!"
  • Fly Away Shot: The closing shot of the "It's Oh So Quiet" music video has her fly away together with the camera.
  • Genre Roulette: Debut and Post jump between dance-pop, trip-hop, jazz and other stuff. She's the only primarily electronic artist whose most famous song is a big-band cover.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Some of her songs have lines in Icelandic, and a couple are even sung entirely in it. Several tracks on ''Medúlla" have Icelandic titles, too.
  • Hidden Depths: She has dived into Icelandic politics.
    • Bono finds her intellect scary. This is a man that can intimidate world leaders with his extensive knowledge of facts and figures, and Björk puts him in awe.
  • Hidden Track: "Play Dead" on Debut. There's about 30 seconds of silence after the song before it, so it would be understandable to think it's the end of the album.
  • Iconic Outfit: Her swan dress.
  • Instrumentals: "Frosti" and "Batabid."
    • And, in a cappella sense, "Öll Birtan" and "Miðvikudags" from Medúlla, also "Komið" from the Japanese edition.
  • It Is Pronounced Tro PAY: Her name is supposed to rhyme with "jerk" (as opposed to "York", as most English speakers say) when the umlaut is taken into account, and Icelandic speakers don't voice the "B" as loudly as English speakers do. Therefore, a more "accurate" way of pronunciation would be something like "Pyerk".
  • Kryptonite Factor: Not so much her, but her music: as mentioned above, nearly all of Björk's music is guitarless. One must think her music sheets fear the guitar....
  • Long Title: "Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)." Also, the remix compilation The Best Mixes from the Album Debut For All the People Who Don't Buy White Labels.
    • "Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version – Strings, Voice and Viola Organista Only)", her acoustic mix of Vunicura.
  • Loony Fan: She was almost the victim of one around 1996 named Ricardo López. He began his obsession with her in 1993, becoming infuriated with her relationship with English DJ Goldie, and over nine months he made a video diary musing about her while making a letterbomb rigged with sulfuric acid to send to her with intentions of killing or maiming her. On September 12 of that year, he mailed the package to her home before filming his suicide at home. After his body and the evidence of his deeds were found, the package was successfully intercepted. However, López's tapes are still easily accessible on the Internet.
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Hyperballad" is about throwing things off a cliff, and imagining what it would be like to jump off too.
    • "Submarine" is dark and intense, but actually a motivational song Björk wrote for herself.
    • "Virus", which with a distinctly stalkerish vibe details a parasitic relationship just about to kill the host, to the sounds of cutesy plinks and twinkles...
    • "Lionsong" is quite upbeat and you could dance to it, despite the subject matter.
  • Mama Bear: The reason why Björk attacked a reporter in 1996 was because the reporter stuck a mic in her son's face and started asking him embarrassing questions. Lesson of the story: Don't get near Björk's children.
  • Magical Mystery Doors: Happens once in the museum scene of her clip for Army of Me.
  • Music Box Intervals: Much of Vespertine, including "Frosti", which is entirely a music box interval.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Vespertine effectively marries classical music with IDM/Glitch and Medúlla is essentially a capella electronica. Its most notable track is "Triumph of a Heart", an a capella dance song. And it is awesome.
  • New Sound Album: Björk started out as a unique dance-pop artist. Her albums after Debut... Well...
    • Debut was a departure from her work with The Sugarcubes with its electronica-based sound.
    • Post explored new sounds, like the Industrial-ish "Army of Me" and "Enjoy", the big band/jazz "It's Oh So Quiet", and the tribal "Isobel".
    • Homogenic is a fusion of strings, crunchy electronic beats, and misc. things (accordion, glass harmonica etc.)
    • Vespertine brought back the strings. Also featured are the harp, a choir, music boxes, and chilly electronic sounds that make a wintry album.
    • Medúlla is virtually all A Cappella. It mixes a capella versions of familiar genres (pop, electronica), voice techniques (a choir, throat singing, beatboxing...), and Björk's ever-present avant-garde style.
    • Volta features brass sounds and loud percussive beats. It may be her most aggressive album overall (it certainly is her most in the '00s).
    • Biophilia is her becoming more abstract and minimal with her lyrics and focusing on certain musical elements and using more electronics opposed to natural instruments. Recorded on a iPad.
    • Vulnicura is more direct and personal lyrically whilst fusing the minimalism of of Biophilia with the strings of Homogenic.
  • Non-Appearing Title: A minority of her songs, including "Jóga", "Bachelorette", "Pluto", "Heirloom", "You've Been Flirting Again", "Hyperballad", "Pneumonia", "Domestica", "Frosti", "Batabid", "Ancestors", "Dark Matter", "Moon", "Cosmogony", "Stonemilker", "Mouth Mantra" and "Lionsong".
  • Nonindicative Name: Debut isn't actually her debut...
  • Older Than They Look: It took her decades to stop looking like a teenager, and she still looks pretty youthful for someone pushing 50.
  • One Woman Song: "Isobel".
  • Only Sane Woman: If what she says is true, her family is even weirder than her.
  • Orwellian Editor: She named her sophomore album and first primetime album Debut presumably because of a want to invoke Sequel Displacement for her actual first album which she is presumably not very proud of.
  • Precision F-Strike: Despite not being a fucking Buddhist, she can recognize enlightenment.
    • She recently experienced a vivid compressed version of "every single fuck" she had together with her lover in "History of Touches".
  • The Power of Friendship: "Headphones", "Jóga" and "Who Is It".
  • Reality-Writing Book: The music video for "Bachelorette" revolves around this theme.
  • Recycled Lyrics: Björk wrote a song called "Bedtime Story" for Madonna, which used the lyrics "and inside / we're all still wet / longing and yearning" and "and all that you've ever learned / try to forget." Björk reused these lyrics for her own song "Sweet Intuition" (with a variation of the latter lyric — it became "all that you've learned / try to forget it").
  • Serial Escalation: Björk's gonna top everything she has done with a series of concerts that'll promote Biophilia.
  • Singing Simlish: She sometimes sings in a mixture of Icelandic and gibberish or just plain Simlish.
  • The Something Song: "The Anchor Song" and "The Comet Song".
  • Summon Backup Dancers: The video for "It's Oh So Quiet".
  • Surreal Music Video: Really, any video of hers.
  • Textless Album Cover: Most of her albums fall under this trope.
    • Vespertine takes it a little further than that, because the spine of the album, which would normally have the artist name and album title on it, is textless and pure white. There's a sticker on the back with that information plus a list of the songs and copyright info, but if you chose to remove that, the back cover would similarly be blank and white.
  • Tranquil Fury: One would say the whole Vulnicura. Its central track, "Black Lake" plays this tropes very well.
  • Weird Icelandic Thing: Hell, she's probably the first thing that comes to mind when Iceland is mentioned...
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Pagan Poetry".
    • Also, "Sun in My Mouth" from the same album.
    • You could actually say most of her songs apply to this trope.
  • You Got Murder: Averted. An acid mailbomb sent by a mad stalker was intercepted by the post. The tape detailing it, however...

Alternative Title(s): Bjork