Active: 1977 - present
Bjork Gudmundsdottir (born November 21, 1965 in Reykjavik, Iceland) is a Brit Award-winning Icelandic singer/songwriter and composer (formerly the lead singer of alternative rock band The Sugarcubes), as well as an occasional actress. She is best known for her expressive range and an interest in many kinds of music including pop, alternative rock, jazz, ambient music, electronica, folk, and classical music. Her record label, One Little Indian, reported in 2003 that she has sold over 15 million albums worldwide.
Bjork\'s musical career began when she was 11, studying classical piano in elementary school. One of her instructors sent a recording of Bjork singing Tina Charles\' song \"I Love to Love\" to RUV, then the only radio station in Iceland. The recording was broadcasted on radio nationally; after hearing it, a representative of the record label Falkinn contacted Bjork with a record contract offer. She recorded her eponymous debut in 1977, with the help of her stepfather, who played guitar. This album featured several Icelandic children\'s songs and covers of popular songs such as the Beatles\' \"The Fool on the Hill\", sung in Icelandic. The album went platinum in Iceland, and is now a highly sought-after collectors item.
Bjork was influenced by punk rock in her teens; at 14, she formed the all-girl punk band Spit and Snot, shortly followed by a jazz fusion group called Exodus in 1979. In 1980 she graduated from music school. In 1981, she and bassist Jakob Magnusson formed another band called Jam-80, which became Tappi Tikarrass (which means \"Cork Bitch Ass\" in Icelandic), and released an extended single, \"Bitid Fast i Vitid\" in the same year. Their album Miranda was released in 1983.
Bjork next collaborated with Einar Orn Benediktsson and Einar Melax from Purrkur Pillnikk, and Gudlaugur Ottarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson and Birgir Mogensen from deyr. After writing songs and rehearsing for two weeks, they (under the name KUKL which means \"sorcery\" in Icelandic) found they worked well together, and decided to continue, developing a sound that some have described as resembling Gothic rock. Bjork began to show indications of what would become her trademark singing style, punctuated with howls and shrieks.
MAINSTREAM SUCCESS THE SUGARCUBES
The Sugarcubes\' first single, \"Ammaeli\" (or \"Birthday\" in English), became a surprise hit in the UK after Melody Maker declared it single of the week. The Sugarcubes were immediately signed up by One Little Indian, the new bedroom label set up by Derek Birkett, the former bass player of Flux of Pink Indians. They gained a significant cult following in the US and UK, and calls from larger record companies began coming in. They rejected all these offers, choosing complete creative control over vast sums of money and sticking with their friend Birkett. Even today, Bjork remains on the label. The Sugarcubes also signed a distribution deal with Elektra Records in the United States, and recorded their first album, Life\'s Too Good, in 1988. The album propelled them into international stardom - the first Icelandic rock band to achieve such popularity. While with the Sugarcubes, Bjork participated in a number of side projects. She recorded Gling-Glo, a collection of popular jazz and original work, with the jazz group Trio Gudmundar Ingolfssonar (an octogenarian jazz group), released in Iceland. Bjork also contributed vocals to 808 State\'s album Ex:el, a collaboration which cultivated her interest in house music. The song \"Ooops\" was released as a single in the UK and was later included on 808 State\'s best of, \"808:88:98\".
In 1992 The Sugarcubes dissolved as different members of the band had realised they all had different ambitions; Instead of risking their friendship, the band went on an indefinite hiatus. They remain friends to this day and are all still involved in the management of Smekkleysa/Bad Taste. Bjork moved to London and began thinking about a solo career; to this end, she began working with producer Nellee Hooper, who had produced for Massive Attack, among others. Their partnership produced Bjork\'s first international solo hit, \"Human Behaviour\". Her solo debut 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. At the 1994 Brit Awards Bjork won the awards for Best International Female and Best International newcomer. Debut was a mix of songs Bj?rk had written since she was a teenager as well as newer lyrical collaborations with Hooper.
The success of Debut enabled her to collaborate with 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 a track on the 1997 album Not For Threes by Plaid, which was released on the cult Warp Records label, and wrote the song \"Bedtime Story\" for Madonna\'s 1994 album Bedtime Stories.
Bjork returned to the studio during 1994 to work on her next solo album with Nellee Hooper, Tricky, Graham Massey of 808 State, and electronic music producer Howie B. The album, Post, contained songs based on Bj?rk\'s relationships and songs about love (one of her favorite subjects), as well as some angry and confrontational material. Like \"Debut\", it was a collection partly made up of songs she had written in past years.
She performed on MTV Unplugged during this time. By 1995, the new album Post was ready; it was released in June, reaching number two on the UK\'s album charts, and also went platinum in the United States. The album was boosted further by the success of the single \"It\'s Oh So Quiet\", a surprise Christmas hit which sold 400 000 copies in the United Kingdom and spent 15 weeks on the chart. After meeting Classical Director Kent Kagano in early 1996, they performed Schoenberg\'s \" Pierrot Lunaire\" at the Verbier Classical Festival (of the performance, which was bootlegged on MD, only two soundclips surfaced. The full recording was lost by bootlegger during a shifting). January 1997 saw the release of Telegram, an album of previously-released remixes of songs from Post and a non-LP song \"My Spine\".
Later that year, the album Homogenic was released. It marked a dramatic shift from her earlier \"pixie\" image cultivated on the Debut and Post albums. Bjork 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 Bjork\'s most experimental and extroverted works to date, with enormous beats that reflect the landscape of Iceland, most notably in the song \"Joga\", which fuses lush strings with rocky electronic crunches. The emotionally-charged album contains a string of memorable music videos, several of which received airplay on MTV, especially the epic \"Bachelorette\" directed by frequent collaborator Michel Gondry and \"All is Full of Love\", which was directed by Chris Cunningham and became an alt-rock hit in 1999. The album eventually reached gold status in the States in 2001 and platinum in 2006. In 2000 Bjork played the role of Selma, a blind factory worker in Lars Von Trier\'s Dancer in the Dark, and subsequently recorded the soundtrack, simply named \"Selmasongs\".
In 2001 the album Vespertine was released. This album saw Bj?rk creating an introverted, internal, personal world of microbeats and tiny rhythms. The album featured chamber orchestras, choirs, very hushed vocals and personal, vulnerable themes. She collaborated with experimental sound manipulators Matmos, Denmark-based DJ Thomas Knak, and the experimental harpist Zeena Parkins for the album. Lyrical sources included the 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, Bjork released a coffee table book of loose prose and photographs titled \"Bjork\". Bjork embarked on a tour of theatres and opera-houses in Europe and North America in support of the album, accompanied by the musicians Matmos, Zeena Parkins and an Inuit choir, whom she had held auditions for on a trip to Greenland prior to the tour. At the time Vespertine was Bjork\'s quickest selling album ever, having sold 2 million copies by the end of 2001.
Vespertine spawned three singles: \"Hidden Place\", \"Pagan Poetry\", and \"Cocoon.\" America\'s then-more independent and artistic music video channel, MTV2, played the album\'s first video, \"Hidden Place\", pretty heavily, which was subsequently released as a DVD single. However, the next video, for \"Pagan Poetry\", brought Bjork to an even higher level of controversy with the channel. The song\'s video features graphic piercings and Bjork\'s exposed nipples, as well as distorted images of sexual acts, which included vaginal penetration and fellatio. As a result, the clip was initially rarely shown by MTV, and certain parts (for example, Bj?rk\'s breasts) were censored out during the rare occasions when it was played. In 2002, the clip finally enjoyed unedited American airing as part of a late night special on MTV2 entitled Most Controversial Music Videos. The video for \"Cocoon\" also featured a seemingly naked Bjork, (actually wearing a close fitting bodysuit) this time with her nipples secreting a red thread that eventually enveloped the singer herself in a cocoon. The video was directed by Japanese artist Eiko Ishioka, and was not aired by MTV.
FAMILY TREE, GREATEST HITS, LIVE BOX
2002 saw the appearance of the CD box set Family Tree containing a retrospective of Bjork\'s career, comprising many 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 Bjork\'s fans through a poll on her website. Both releases sold poorly. A DVD edition of the CD was also released; it contained all of Bjork\'s solo music videos up to that point. The new single from the set, \"It\'s In Our Hands\", charted in the UK at #37. The video, directed by Spike Jonze, features a heavily pregnant Bj?rk.
In 2003, Bjork 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 were later released separately at a reduced price.
2004 saw the release of Bjork\'s Medulla, in late August. Medulla had been more of an impromptu piece of work after the two concept albums, but in the midst of production Bj?rk decided the album would work best as an entirely vocal-based album. The majority of the sounds on the album are created by vocalists (although these sounds are often electronically distorted). Bj?rk used the vocal skills of throat-singer 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 poet E. E. Cummings for the song \"Sonnets/Unrealities XI.\" Medulla became her highest ever charting album in the US, debuting at number 14.
In August 2004 Bjork performed the song \"Oceania\" (from her Medulla album) at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. In typical Bjork style, her performance was one of the more unusual ones of the event. As she sang, her dress slowly unravelled to reveal a 10,000 square foot (900 m?) 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 vocals of Shlomo, a Leeds-based beatboxer, and a London choir. An alternate 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 twenty-six in the UK. This was followed in early 2005 by \"Triumph of a Heart\", charting at number thirty-one. A video for the potential next single, \"Where Is the Line?\", was filmed in collaboration with the Icelandic artist Gabr?ela Fridriksdottir in late 2004, and was released exclusively on the \"Medulla Videos\" DVD.
Other than these few performances, no concerts or tours were arranged to promote Medulla. Bjork said in numerous interviews that this was because she wished to immediately continue writing and recording yet another new album. She spoke to Rolling Stone in June 2004: \"Every album I\'ve done, the minute that it\'s done, I feel really lubricated and, like, \'Wow, now I can write an album in five minutes\'... And I just want to find out if that\'s just a fantasy or if it\'s true.\"
ARMY OF MIXES
After the disastrous tsunami which struck Southeast Asia in late 2004, Bjork began work on a new project, Army of Mixes. 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, Bjork 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 the US. It peaked at number fourteen on the dance albums chart in the UK. By January 2006, the album had raised around ?250,000 to help UNICEF\'s work in the south east Asian region. Bjork visited Banda Aceh in February 2006 to view some of UNICEF\'s work with the children who were affected by the tsunami.
DRAWING RESTRAINT 9
On July 25, 2005 in the UK and on August 23 in the U.S., Bjork released the album Drawing Restraint 9. It is a soundtrack to her boyfriend Matthew Barney\'s movie of the same title; Bj?rk explores traditional Japanese music styles to complement the experimental film, in which two lovers find themselves on a whaling ship and cut off and eat pieces of each other\'s legs, before making love, turning into whales, and swimming away.
On July 2, 2005 Bjork took part in the historic Live 8 series of concerts, headlining the Japan show with Good Charlotte and McFly. She performed eight songs with Matmos, a Japanese string octet and Zeena Parkins.
Released June 27, 2006, Bjork remastered in 5.1 surround sound 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:. Vespertine and Medulla were already available in 5.1 as either DVD-A or SACD but are also included in the box set in repackaged format. The dual discs were also released separately.
During the era, Bjork earned another BRIT Awards nomination for Best International Female Solo Artist. Also, signifying her status as one of pop music\'s true originals and one of the most daring, innovative, and idiosyncratic artists of the last two decades, Bjork was awarded the prestigious Inspiration Award at the Annual Q Magazine Awards in October 2005, accepting the prize from Robert Wyatt, with whom she collaborated on 2004\'s Medulla album.
Bjork has been recording material for her next album for the past few months; Timbaland has stated that the new material is best described as \"hip hop\".
1977 - Bjork
1993 - Debut
1995 - Post
1997 - Telegram
1997 - Homogenic um
2000 - Selmasongs
2001 - Vespertine
2004 - Medulla
2005 - Drawing Restraint
2002 - Greatest Hits
2002 - Family Tree
2003 - Live Box
2006 - surrounded
1993 - \"Human Behaviour\"
1993 - \"Venus as a Boy\"
1993 - \"Play Dead\"
1993 - \"Big Time Sensuality\"
1994 - \"Violently Happy\"
1995 - \"Army of Me\"
1995 - \"Isobel\" 23
1995 - \"It\'s Oh So Quiet\"
1996 - \"Hyper-Ballad\"
1996 - \"Possibly Maybe\"
1997 - \"I Miss You\"
1997 - \"Joga\"
1997 - \"Bachelorette\"
1998 - \"Hunter\"
1998 - \"Alarm Call\"
1999 - \"All is Full of Love\"
2001 - \"Hidden Place\"
2001 - \"Pagan Poetry\"
2002 - \"Cocoon\"
2002 - \"It\'s in Our Hands\"
2004 - \"Oceania\"
2004 - \"Who Is It\"
2005 - \"Triumph of a Heart\"
2005 - \"Where is the Line\"