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Music / Bj÷rk

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"If you ever get close to a human
And human behaviour
Be ready, be ready to get confused"
— "Human Behaviour"

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.

Björk Guðmundsdóttir (born 21 November 1965) is a woman from Iceland who's famous for several things: her distinct voice, her experimental (but awesome) music, her unique fashion taste, her surreal music videos, her acting in the film Dancer in the Dark, her accent, and that one time she beat 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 vastly more successful 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.

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    Studio albums and soundtracks: 
  • Björk (1977) note 
  • Gling-Gló (1990) note 
  • Debut (1993)
  • Post (1995)
  • Telegram (1996) note 
  • Homogenic (1997)
  • Selmasongs (2000) note 
  • Vespertine (2001)
  • Med˙lla (2004)
  • Drawing Restraint 9 (2005) note 
  • Volta (2007)
  • Biophilia (2011)
  • Bastards (2012) note 
  • Vulnicura (2015)
  • Utopia (2017)
  • Fossora (2022)


Her work provides examples of:

  • Animated Music Video:
    • "I Miss You" had one, animated by Spümco.
    • 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.)
    • And again in "Family", the last third of "Black Lake", and "The Gate". It could be said that her most of collaboration with Andrew Thomas Huang falls under this.
  • 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 Silly Ones: Despite her sweet and innocent Cloudcuckoolander reputation, Björk has attacked two journalists, one in 1996 and one in 2008.
  • 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.")
  • 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!
  • Catchphrase: "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: To put it lightly, the swan dress in the page image is one of the least weird things she's done.
  • Concept Video / 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:
  • Deranged Animation: The video for "I Miss You." But that's what you get when you hire the Ren and Stimpy guy to make a music video for 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.
  • Everything Is an Instrument: As of Biophilia, her stage setup includes a giant tesla coil. As a percussion instrument.
  • Eaten Alive: Human Behaviour's music video ends with her being Swallowed Whole by a bear, and the last shot is her trapped in its stomach.
  • 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.
    • Med˙lla 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!"
    • Back at it in Utopia, where "Blissing Me" ends with the same flute melody that begins "The Gate", then a string of seamless transitions (but only with the CD track order): "Body Memory" into "Features Creatures" into "Courtship" into "Losss".
  • Fly Away Shot: The closing shot of the "It's Oh So Quiet" music video has her fly away together with the camera.
  • Genre Mashup: 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.
  • 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:
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Downplayed, but every main album's name except Debut has a Greek or Latin root and illustrates a scientific or philosophical concept.
  • Instrumentals:
    • "Frosti" and "Batabid" from Vespertine, "Paradisa" from Utopia.
    • And, in a cappella sense, "Öll Birtan" and "Miðvikudags" from Medúlla, as well as "Komið" from the Japanese edition.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Since Vulnicura, she has struck one with Arca, 24 years her junior. It paved the way for both Utopia and Arca's self-titled third album.
  • 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....
  • Lighter and Softer: After the brooding Vulnicura comes Utopia, album about finding love again. It features lighter beats, harp, woodwinds and sweeter lyrics.
  • 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 its subject matter.
  • Mama Bear:
    • Björk is very protective over her children.
    • 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.
    • Following the media sensation around Ricardo Lopez, a Loony Fan of Björk, she stated that she was most fearful for the safety of her son, going as far as hiring security to escort him to school.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Med˙lla 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). There are also more Hip-Hop influences, since about half of it is produced or co-produced by Timbaland.
    • 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.
    • Utopia retains the production of Vulnicura, albeit substituting the strings with real and synthesized woodwinds in order to create a naturalistic, uplifting feel that sounds at times like birdsong. Some Volta-esque beats go in hand with the political themes present.
    • Fossora fuses harsher beats taken from gabber music and bass clarinets. Lyrically, it concludes the conceptual trilogy of Vulnicura and Utopia by focusing on themes of human connection, family, loss, and inheritance.
  • 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: She looked a lot like a teenager until she hit her 40s, and even then she still looked good for her age.
  • One-Woman Song: "Isobel", "Jóga".
  • Only Sane Woman: If what she says is true, her family is even weirder than her.
  • Perfectly Cromulent Word: Fossora is the ungrammatical feminine form of the Latin word "fossor" ("digger").
  • Pimped-Out Dress:
    • Everything she wears on stage and in the videos, from swans to bells to jellyfish and harps, with the utmost disregard towards functionality.
    • Brought further when she sang "Oceania" at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. She wore a voluminous light blue dress that slowly unfurled, in order to become an enormous sheet that covered all athletes standing in the middle of the stadium.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • If "Alarm Call" is anything to go by, 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".
    • And twice in notably lighter album Utopia, in "Body Memory" and "Sue Me".
  • 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").
  • Remix Album: Has several:
    • The Best Mixes from the Album Debut for All the People Who Don't Buy White Labels, as the title says, is collection of remixes from Debut.
    • Telegram collects remixes from Post.
    • Army of Me: Remixes and Cover collects 17 different remixes of the song "Army of Me".
    • Bastards collects remixes from Biophilia.
  • Scenery Porn: The video for "Jóga".
  • Serial Escalation: Björk's gonna top everything she has done with a series of concerts that'll promote Biophilia.
  • Short Title: Long, Elaborate Subtitle:
    • "Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)."
    • "Vulnicura Strings (Vulnicura: The Acoustic Version ľ Strings, Voice and Viola Organista Only)", her acoustic mix of Vunicura.
  • Signing-Off Catchphrase: Enjoys ending letters with "Warmthness, Björk".
  • 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".
  • Textless Album Cover:
    • Almost all of Björk's albums have this, with rare exceptions being her pre-Debut releases, as well as some non-studio live albums, remix albums, box sets, Vespertine, and Med˙lla.
    • 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 hype 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.
  • Thematic Series: After the relatively impersonal Volta and Biophilia, the albums Vulnicura, Utopia and Fossora form a conceptual trilogy reflecting the singer's own personal life and state of mind. Vulnicura chronicles the heartbreak after her separation from Matthew Barney and the immediate aftercare, Utopia is about finding love again and dreaming of a better future, and Fossora is "coming down to Earth" and reconnecting with family and the land. On the musical side, all three albums feature contributions by Arca on production duty.
  • Title Track: Notably averted. 2017-release Utopia finally plays this trope straight as does 2022's Fossora.
  • Tranquil Fury: One could say that every song in Vulnicura is this. Its central track, "Black Lake", plays this trope very well.
  • Trrrilling Rrrs: She notably uses it as a default when talking and singing, not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Unlimited Wardrobe: Her Pimped-Out Dresses are an integral part of her eccentric personality.
  • 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.
  • Working with the Ex: After her breakup with Stephane Sednaoui, she asked him to direct her video for "Possibly Maybe", a song about him.
  • You Got Murder: Averted. An acid mailbomb sent by a mad stalker was intercepted by the post. The tape detailing it, however...