Dancer in the Dark
"Gling-Gló (1990) was a bigger seller in Iceland than Debut (1993) and all the Sugarcubes' albums put together! That tells you a lot about Iceland." Bjork
Icelandic musician Bjork first gained popularity as the lead singer of the Icelandic rock-pop band Sugarcubes (1988 to 1992). She later launched a solo career with her first solo album, Debut (1993), which spawned the dance single hits "Human Behavior," "Violently Happy" and "Big Time Sensuality." Other albums include Post (1995, spawned the nightclub hits "Hyper-Ballad" and "I Miss You"), Homogenic (1997, spawned the dance single hit "All is Full of Love"), Vespertine (2001) and Medulla (2004).
The singer-songwriter also branched out to acting, gathering critical acclaim for starring as immigrant dancer Selma Yeskova in the musical Dancer in the Dark (2000, Bjork won Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress). She also sang the film's soundtrack "I've Seen It All" and earned an Academy Award Best Song nomination.
"I find it very difficult to draw a line between what's sex and what isn't. It can be very, very sexy to drive a car, and completely unsexy to flirt with someone at a bar." Bjork
5' 4" tall Bjork, whose trademarks are her hair, accent and unusual sense of fashion, was one of VH1's "100 Greatest Women of Rock N Roll." Her private life has been linked to artists Tricky (one of the originators of the musical genre Trip-Hop; born on January 27, 1968) and Goldie (born on December 28, 1965), as well as photographer Stephane Sednaoui (directed some of her music videos and live performances). The mother of two children, Bjork was once married to Sugarcubes' guitarist Þór Eldon and is currently the wife of contemporary media artist Matthew Barney.
A good friend of artists Madonna, P.J. Harvey and Tori Amos, Bjork co-wrote the Madonna song "Bedtime Stories." The eccentric artist, who drew attention while wearing the "swan dress" (reportedly will be auctioned off for charity in September of 2005) at the 73rd Annual Academy Awards, recently mentioned that she would never make another movie due to the difficulties she experienced while making Dancer in The Dark (2000). She headlined the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Olympic games in Athens and recently released a double album of remixes to raise money for charity.
Childhood and Family:
"People are always asking me about Eskimos, but there are no Eskimos in Iceland." Bjork
In Reykjavik, Iceland, Björk Gudmundsdóttir (Björk means "a birch tree" and Gudmundsdóttir means "Gudmund's daughter" in Icelandic) was born on November 21, 1965. Her parents, Gudmundur Gunnarsson (was an electrician) and Hildur Hauksdóttir (went on three-week political hunger strike in 2002) divorced before she reached two years old.
Bjork subsequently spent her childhood in a hippie community with her mother and her six siblings (three sisters and three brothers). She also has a stepfather, Sævar Árnason, a former member of a rock band in Iceland.
"When I was growing up, I always had the feeling I was dropped from somewhere else. That's how I was treated at school in Iceland where the kids used to call me "china girl" and everybody thought I was unusual because I looked Chinese." Bjork
Bjork attended Reykjaviks music school and married Sugarcubes guitarist Þór Eldon. After their divorce, Bjork married (2000) contemporary media artist Matthew Barney and has one daughter with him, Isadora (born on October 3, 2002). Bjork also has a son with Þór Eldon named Sindri Eldon Þórson (born on June 8, 1986). In recognition of her contribution to promoting Iceland overseas, the government presented her the island of Ellidaey, off the coast of Iceland.
Celebration of Oxygen
"All people have their own way of dealing with everyday problems. Some go for walks, others get drunk and some get laid. I write songs." Bjork
5-year-old Bjork began studying classical piano at age 5 and had been a professional child vocalist. A path toward success opened up when her teachers delivered a record of her singing Tina Charles' "I Love to Love" to Iceland's Radio One. A representative of a record label listened to Bjork's voice on air and subsequently signed her to a record deal.
In 1977, when she was 11 years old, Bjork released her self-titled debut album consisting of traditional Icelandic folk songs and international hits translated to Icelandic. It also consisted of several popular song covers, including the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" and a tribute to Iceland's greatest landscape artist, Johannes S. Kjarval. The album became a hit.
Punk music began influencing the music scene in the late 1970s.
During that time, Bjork set up the brief-lived all-girl punk band called Spit and Snot, in which she was the drummer. Shortly after, she joined jazz-fusion band Exodus and appeared on Icelandic television. After graduating music school, Bjork and Exodus bassist Jakob Magnússon established another band called Tappi Tíkarrass in 1981. They released an extended single, " Bitið fast í vitið," that same year, featuring songs of Icelandic New Wave music and launched an album titled Miranda in 1983.
In 1984, Bjork joined Einar Örn Benediktsson and Einar Melax (from the band Purrkur Pillnikk) and Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson and Birgir Mogensen (from the band Þeyr) in the Goth music band KUKL (Icelandic for "witch"). Under Crass Records, the band produced two albums, The Eye (1984) and Holidays in Europe (1986).
They also toured Iceland with UK anarchist band Crass and performed in the UK with Flux of Pink Indians.
Additionally, Bjork made her acting debut starring as one of the witch's daughters in an Icelandic tale of witchcraft and mysticism, adopted from a Brothers Grimm story, the independent film The Juniper Tree (filmed in 1986, screened at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival).
She also played a troubled teen in the Icelandic TV-movie "Glerbrot" in 1987.
Bjork, her husband Þór Eldon, and some of her KUKL band mates formed a rock-pop band called Pukl in the summer of 1986, but soon changed the name to Sugarcubes. After releasing their first single "Birthday" (1987), Sugarcubes launched their debut album, the US and Europe hit Life's Too Good (1988, spawned the hit single "Motorcrash") and later, Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week (1989, produced the hit song "Regina"), Stick Around for Joy (1992, with the modern rock smash hit "Hit") and It's-It (1992), all under USA's Elektra Records. The band later performed on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in October of 1988.
Bjork and the group Trio Guðmundar Ingólfssonar recorded a collection of popular jazz and original work titled Gling-Gló (1990, nationally released). She also featured 808 State's "Ooops."
Following the split of Sugarcubes in 1992, Bjork moved to London to begin her solo career. Along with producer Nellee Hooper (produced Massive Attack and others), in June of 1993, Bjork released her first international solo album titled Debut. The album, which was influenced by the British dance scene, climbed the UK album charts to No 3 and was a huge commercial hit. It spawned the US dance single hits "Human Behaviour" (1993, charted at No. 2), "Violently Happy" (1993, poled at No. 4) and "Big Time Sensuality" (1994, topped at No. 1). Other singles include "Venus as a Boy" (1993, went to No. 29 on UK charts) and "Play Dead" (1993, with David Arnold, spotted at No. 12 on UK charts). Debut became New Musical Express' album of the year and finally received platinum status in the United States.
Bjork also wrote Madonna's single "Bedtime Story" (1995) for the 1994 album Bedtime Stories. Bjork also appeared on the silver screen with a cameo role in Robert Altman's star-studded acclaimed comedy Prêt-à-Porter (1994, a.k.a. Ready to Wear), alongside Sophia Loren, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Marcello Mastroianni and Kim Basinger.
With the assistance of Nellee Hooper, Tricky, Graham Massey of 808 State, and electronic music producer Howie B, Bjork recorded her sophomore album Post in 1994. It was released in June of 1995 and spawned the US No. 1 hit singles "Hyperballad" (1996) and "I Miss You" (1997). It also produced such popular songs as 1995's "Army of Me," "Isobel" and "It's Oh So Quiet." Post hit the UK album charts at No. 2 and eventually went platinum in the US.
In January of 1997, the third album, Telegram, was released. It consisted of several atypical remixes of songs from Post. In October that year, Bjork performed on the widely seen show "Saturday Night Live."
Bjork then flew to Spain to record her next album, Homogenic, which was released in late 1997. Collaborating with producers Mark Bell of LFO and Howie B, Bjork's album produced the hit "All is Full of Love" (1999). The album also created the memorable songs "Jóga," "Bachelorette" (both in 1997), "Hunter" and "Alarm Call" (both in 1998). Homogenic eventually certified gold in the States in 2001.
Film director Lars von Trier spotted Bjork in her music video "It's Oh So Quiet." The Danish filmmaker offered Bjork the lead role, and chance to compose the music, for his new musical drama Dancer in the Dark (2000). Bjork eventually took the starring role of Selma, a Czechoslovakian immigrant and a single mother, and shared the screen with Catherine Deneuve and David Morse. Her acting performance garnered critical reviews and won her a Cannes Film Festival award for Best Actress. Bjork also composed "I've Seen it All" (later released in her 2000 album titled Selmasongs), for the soundtrack, which earned a nomination for Best Song at the Academy Awards.
"I knew when I said yes that this would be not only my first role but also my last one. I'm very happy that it's to be this one."
Asked whether she might one day reconsider, Bjork responded: "I have to do records now. I only have 50 years left and I've got a lot of records to make." Bjork (after winning the Best Actress award at Cannes).
Following the release of her average-success 2000 album Selmasongs, Bjork launched her next album, Vespertine, in 2001. With the help of experimental sound manipulators Matmos, a DJ from Denmark named Thomas Knak, and the experimental harpist Zeena Parkins, Vespertine featured chamber orchestras, Icelandic choirs, soft vocals, and personal, susceptible themes. It spawned the 2001 songs "Hidden Place" and "Pagan Poetry" as well as 2002's "Cocoon." Vespertine spotted the US album charts at No. 19 and reached No. 8 on the UK charts.
"The album's very much about being alone in your house, in a very quiet sort of introverted mood and you whisper, you sort of improvise.
Which is between me and myself." Bjork (on album Vespertine) In 2002, Bjork launched the CD box set Family Tree and the album Greatest Hits, which produced the new single "It's in Our Hands" (charted the UK at No. 37). The following year saw Bjork releasing a series of low-cost DVDs and CD box sets titled Live Box.
"After doing the research with all the vocals on Medúlla (2004), I was very curious to take that further to a place that was not narrative. Then, when Matthew explained that the film happens on the ocean, I was curious to make vocal patterns that were sort of oceanic.
My music is very much about structure, whereas Matthew is much more abstract. I have to have a map and a compass to see the nal point before I start the journey, and then I can meet 10 lions or whatever."
Bjork Medúlla, Bjork's next album, hit the music stores in August of 2004.
In the album she used the vocal skills of Hip Hop Beatboxer Rahzel, avant-rocker Mike Patton, Soft Machine drummer/singer Robert Wyatt and several choirs. She also applied text from poet E. E. Cummings for the song "Sonnets/Unrealities XI." Medúlla spawned four singles, the 2004 "Oceania" and "Who is It" (charted UK at No. 26) as well as 2005's "Triumph of a Heart" (charted the UK at No.31) and "Where is the Line" (was filmed in collaboration with the Icelandic artist Gabríela Fridriksdóttir in late 2004).
As for "Oceania," Bjork composed the song and performed it at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
"I am incredibly honored to have been asked to write a song and sing it at the Olympics. The song is written from the point of view of the ocean that surrounds all the land and watches over the humans to see how they are doing after millions of years of evolution. It sees no borders, different races or religion, which has always been at the core of these games." Bjork
Army of Me-Xes, the covering and remixing of the 1995 hit "Army of Me," was released in April in the UK and in late May 2005 in the US.
It topped at No.14 on the dance album charts in the UK. The project was geared toward raising money for tsunami victims in Asia.
"Trying to even start to explain the film is kind of challenging, but with my little alcohol-pickled brain, it's really tough. I guess that's the point with the way Matthew sets it up, because there is no story. You just have to sit there and enjoy it, a bit like nature.
The film has a narrative, but a really abstract one. It's not your average Hollywood movie, let's put it that way." Bjork (about Drawing Restraint 9, 2005).
Drawing Restraint 9, an album consisting of a soundtrack for husband Matthew Barney's new movie of the same title, was released on July 25, 2005, in the UK and on August 23 in the US.
Bjork reportedly is working on her newest album and will soon embark on an extensive tour.
"Singing is like a celebration of oxygen." Bjork
- Bodil Awards: Best Actress, Dancer in The Dark, 2001
- Golden Satellite Awards: Best Original Song for "I've Seen It All" in Dancer in The Dark, 2001
- Robert Festival: Best Original Score, Dancer in The Dark, 2001
- Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, Dancer in The Dark, 2000