Björk



Björk Guðmundsdóttir (born November 21, 1965 in Reykjavík, Iceland) is an Icelandic singer/songwriter and composer (formerly the lead singer of alternative rock band The Sugarcubes), with a great expressive range and an interest in many kinds of music including pop, trip hop, alternative rock, jazz, ambient music, electronica, folk, and classical music.

Björk's musical career began at the age of eleven, when she began studying classical piano in elementary school. One of her instructors submitted a recording of Björk singing Tina Charles' song "I Love to Love" to RÚV, then the only radio station in Iceland. The recording was aired nationally; upon hearing it, a representative of the record label Fálkinn contacted Björk with a record contract offer. With the help of her stepfather, who played guitar, she recorded her eponymous debut in 1977. 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 sold enough copies to go platinum in Iceland.

Punk rock began to have an influence on Björk; at the age of fourteen, 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 at the age of fifteen, and in 1981, she and bassist Jakob Magnússon formed another band called Jam-80, and then they turned into Tappi Tíkarrass (which means "Cork the Bitch's Ass" in Icelandic), and released an extended single, "Bítið Fast í Vítið" in the same year. Their album Miranda was released in 1983.

Björk next collaborated with Einar Örn Benediktsson and Einar Melax from Purrkur Pillnikk, and Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson and Birgir Mogensen from Þeyr. 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. Björk began to show indications of what would become her trademark singing style, punctuated with howls and shrieks.

KUKL toured Iceland with anarchist UK punk band Crass, and later visited the UK in a series of performances with Flux of Pink Indians. The band produced two albums as a result of these collaborations: The Eye in 1984, and Holidays in Europe in 1986, both on Crass Records. In the summer of 1986, several members of KUKL went on to form a band called Pukl but soon changed the name to The Sugarcubes.

The Sugarcubes' first single, "Ammæli" (or "Birthday" in English), became a huge hit in the UK. They gained a significant cult following in the US and UK, and calls from record companies began coming in. Eventually the band signed with One Little Indian in the UK and 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, Björk participated in a number of side projects. She recorded Gling-Gló, a collection of popular jazz and original work, with the jazz group Trio Guðmundar Ingólfssonar (an octogenarian jazz group), released in Iceland. Björk 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".

Tensions steadily mounted between Björk and Einar Örn, however, and by 1992 the Sugarcubes dissolved. Björk 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 Björk's first international solo hit, "Human Behaviour". Her solo debut album, simply titled Debut, was released in June of 1993 to positive reviews; it was named album of the year by NME, and eventually went platinum in the United States. Debut was a mix of songs Björk 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.

Björk 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 Björk'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 wrote the song "Bedtime Story" for Madonna's 1994 album Bedtime Stories (parts of which Björk reused in her own song "Sweet Intuition", released as a b-side on the 'Army Of Me' single) and 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. January of 1997 saw the release of Telegram, an album of uncharacteristic remixes of songs from Post and one new song titled "My Spine".

Later that year, the chaotic, electronic album Homogenic was released and marked a dramatic shift from her earlier "pixie" image cultivated on the Debut and Post albums. Björk 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 Björk's most experimental and extroverted works to date, with enormous beats that reflect the landscape of Iceland, most notably in the song "Jóga", 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 American 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. In 2000 Björk played the role of Selma, a blind factory worker in in Lars Von Trier's latest movie she subsequently recorded the entire album, simply named "Selmasongs".

In 2001 the album Vespertine was released. This album saw Björk 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, a DJ from Denmark Thomas Knak, and the experimental harpist Zeena Parkins for the album. Lyrical sources included the American poet E. E. Cummings and the American independent filmmaker Harmony Korine.

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, despite its somewhat controversial lyrics and imagery. However, the next video, for "Pagan Poetry," brought Björk to an even higher level of controversy with the channel. The song's video features graphic piercings, blurred sex scenes, and Björk's exposed nipples. As a result, the clip was initially rarely shown by MTV, and certain parts (for example, Björk'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. Previously banned or censored videos were shown in their entirety during the TV-MA-rated special which aired on MTV2 regularly on weekends between 1 and 5 a.m., until the infamous Janet Jackson incident at the 2004 Super Bowl. The video for "Cocoon" also featured a naked Björk, this time with her nipples secreting a red thread that eventually enveloped the singer herself in a cocoon. The video was not aired by MTV.

2002 saw the appearance of the CD box set Family Tree containing a "these-are-my-roots" retrospective of Björk's career, comprising many previously unreleased versions of her compositions, including some very quiet work with a string quartet, the Brodsky Quartet. Also released that year was the album Greatest Hits, a retrospective of the previous ten years of her solo career as deemed by the public: The songs on the album were chosen by Björk's fans through a poll on Björk's website. A DVD edition of the CD was also released; it contained all of Björk's solo music videos up to that point. The new single from the set, "It's In Our Hands", charted in the UK at number thirty-seven.

In 2003 Björk 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 Björk's Medúlla, in late August. Medúlla had been more of an impromptu piece of work after the two concept albums, but in the midst of production Björk 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). Björk 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." Medúlla has a raw, guttural, and ancestral feel.

In August 2004 Björk performed the song "Oceania" (from her Medúlla album) at the Opening Ceremony of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. In typical Björk 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 m²) 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. Though some were confused as to the authenticity of this collaboration, Björk's camp confirmed its legitimacy. 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 Gabríela Fridriksdóttir in late 2004, and was released excuslively on the Medúlla Videos DVD.

Other than these few performances, no concerts or tours were arranged to promote Medúlla. Björk 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."

After the disastrous tsunami which struck Southeast Asia in late 2004, Björk 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, Björk 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.

On July 25, 2005 in the UK and on August 23 in the U.S., Björk released the album Drawing Restraint 9. It is a soundtrack to her boyfriend Matthew Barney's movie of the same title; Björk explores traditional Japanese music styles to complement the experimental film, where 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.

(____surrounded):

Released June 27, 2006, Björk 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 Medúlla were already available in 5.1 as either DVD-A or SACD but are also included in the box set in repackaged format.

During the era, Björk 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, Björk 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 Medúlla album.

Björk is still recording material for her next album, of which nothing has been said of the content or theme. Unlike for previous albums, songs are being mixed straight after recording with each collaborator, instead of mixing all in one go when the whole album is finished.

* Recently Björk has written and recorded tracks with Timbaland.

* Björk has also recorded with Antony and the Johnsons in Jamaica, though Antony has said that it is unknown whether any of the collaborative tracks will appear on Björk's next album.

* Konono N°1 recently overdubbed their 'electrified thumb-pianos' on several new Björk tracks. However, it is not confirmed that these tracks will appear on the new album.

* Björk is also contributing vocals to Valgeir Sigurðsson's new album, titled "Equilibrium Is Restored", which is due in October.

* Meredith Monk and Björk have been working together on a collaborative piece.

Björk is amongst the stars who have chosen tracks to feature on a new compilation to mark the 30th anniversary of Rough Trade. The double CD release, entitled "The Record Shop - 30 Years Of Rough Trade Shops", has been chosen by a host of music and culture icons and customers and will be released on September 25. Björk chose 'Stupid Fambaloo' by Matmos, but is also featured with a song of her own ("Where Is the Line") as requested by Richard Russell.

The Sugarcubes will reunite for a one-night-only concert in Reykjavik on November the 17th 2006. Profit from the concert will be donated to the Sugarcubes former label Smekkleysa SM, who according to Bjork's press statement "continue to work on a non-profit basis for the future betterment of Icelandic music".

Björk's intermittent acting career began in 1990, when she appeared in The Juniper Tree, a tale of witchcraft based on the Brothers Grimm story of the same name. Björk played the role of Margit, a girl whose mother has been killed for practicing witchcraft. Björk also had an uncredited role in 1994's Prêt-à-Porter.

Björk also prominently appeared in the documentary Screaming Masterpiece (2005). The film delves into the intense and diverse Icelandic music scene.

In 1999, Björk was asked to write and produce the musical score for the film Dancer in the Dark, a genre-bending musical via drama about an immigrant named Selma who is struggling to pay for an operation to prevent her son from going blind. Director Lars von Trier eventually asked her to consider playing the role of Selma, a proposal she initially turned down. He then threatened to stop the project, which would have made all the musical work she had already done useless. Eventually, she accepted. Filming began in early 1999, and the film debuted in 2000 at the 53rd Cannes Film Festival. Björk received the best actress award for her role, and yet she described the shoot as so physically and emotionally trying that she has sworn off acting ever again. This was a rumour, however that was put to rest in numerous interviews. Björk later stated that she always wanted to do one musical in her life, and this was the one. She also said that she could not do movies and music at the same time. The soundtrack Björk created for the film was released with the title Selmasongs. The album features a duet with Thom Yorke of Radiohead titled "I've Seen it All". She was invited to record Gollum's Song for the film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but declined the invitation, as she was then pregnant; the track was instead recorded by her fellow Icelander Emilíana Torrini.

Her New York-based long-time boyfriend Matthew Barney is a major contemporary artist. Björk collaborated with him on the experimental art film Drawing Restraint 9, a dialogueless exploration of Japanese culture. Björk and Matthew both appear in the film, even though Björk commented that she wouldn't act again. She says that what she does in the film isn't acting; it's being a human sculpture. She is also responsible for the film's soundtrack, her second after 2000's Selmasongs.

Björk usually goes by her first name only. This is not a stage name or affectation; it is normal for an Icelander to be referred to by his or her first name, as the last name simply indicates the name of the father. See Icelandic naming conventions.

Björk means "a birch tree" in Icelandic (the meaning of Icelandic names is often transparent), cognate with Old English beorc and the modern English word. Though many English-speakers pronounce her name "Byork", a more accurate approximation would be "Byerk", which she has pointed out rhymes with "jerk". Guðmundsdóttir is pronounced roughly "GVUTH-muns-doh-t-ear", and means "Guðmundur's daughter".

Björk's father, Guðmundur Gunnarsson, is a well known labour leader in Iceland and was nationally recognized before his daughter became famous. Her mother's name is Hildur Rúna Hauksdóttir.

At the 2001 Academy Awards, Björk raised eyebrows when she arrived wearing the flamboyantly quirky "swan dress", designed by Marjan Pejoski, that was later featured on the "Vespertine" album cover. The dress drew widespread media attention—both derision and praise—and perhaps will go down as one of the most memorable dresses at an award show. That night's Academy Awards Host, Steve Martin joked, "I was going to wear my swan but to me they're so last year." Joan Rivers has commented that "Björk was brilliant for showing up in that swan dress." Ellen DeGeneres later wore it for comic effect at the 2001 Emmy Awards and at the 2006 Academy Awards Jon Stewart alluded to it in reference to the Dick Cheney hunting incident: "Björk couldn't be here tonight... she was trying on her Oscar dress and Dick Cheney shot her."

In an episode of cartoon series Fairly Oddparents, Wanda's twin Blonda attends an award ceremony in a swan dress patterned after Björk's.

Also, in the movie White Chicks, both actors can be seen in swan dresses at a fashion show. The joke goes that the two actors "have no taste in clothes" and therefore wear the dresses without qualms but it turns out to be a prank by the Vandergold sisters.

Björk and her partner, contemporary media artist Matthew Barney, have a daughter, Ísadóra, born October 3, 2002. Björk also has a son, Sindri Eldon Þórsson, born June 8, 1986, with Þór Eldon, who was her bandmate in the Sugarcubes. Sindri is a journalist and plays bass for several bands at present.

Björk has complained of being hounded by paparazzi and in 1996 two separate incidents gave the media much to chew on. First, after a long flight to Thailand an obviously exhausted Björk emerged from her aircraft at Don Muang Airport with her then ten-year-old son to find a horde of journalists and cameramen waiting to greet her. When one reporter greeted Björk by saying "Welcome to Bangkok," Björk attacked her and landed several blows before the melee was broken up. Björk claimed that this reporter stuck a microphone in her son's face, prompting Björk to attack, though many have said that there is no evidence of this on tape. Björk later called the reporter and apologized, and the reporter declined to press charges against her.

Later that year a deranged fan from Florida named Ricardo Lopez filmed himself in the process of making a bomb intended to kill Björk. The nearly 20 hours of videotape describe Lopez's obsession with Björk, the construction of the device, his thoughts on love, and general rantings. The video footage continues after his mailing the bomb and ends dramatically as Lopez, believing that his device would soon kill Björk, shoots himself on camera. He was successful in taking his own life, but the tape was seen by police and the package was intercepted in time to save Björk.

Already a private person, Björk was loath to comment on either of these incidents and later told The Guardian: "It just got a bit much."

In an interview with Diva magazine in 2004, she talked about her openness to bisexuality.

Solo studio albums:

* 1977 - Björk
* 1993 - Debut
* 1995 - Post
* 1997 - Telegram
* 1997 - Homogenic
* 2001 - Vespertine
* 2004 - Medúlla

Singles information:

* Björk has had three Top 10 singles and seven Top 20 singles in the UK. All of her chart-eligible singles have charted within the Top 40, aside from "Hunter", which is on Homogenic.
* The first single from Homogenic, "Jóga", had a limited release of 3000 copies, meaning that it did not chart.
* "Play Dead" was not included on the initial release of Debut. After the release of the single, Debut was re-issued with the song as a bonus 12th track in the UK and Europe.
* "Oceania", from Medúlla, was released only as a radio-single and did not have a full commercial single release.
* A fourth single from Medúlla, "Where is the Line", was pencilled in for release, but because of the release of the Drawing Restraint 9 soundtrack and the Army of Me: Remixes and Covers album it did not make sense to market all these projects together. Björk decided against releasing it, to give the DR9 soundtrack maximum exposure.
* It's Not Up To You, was also scheduled to be the fourth single from Vespertine, however the imminent arrival of her daughter, Isadora, resulted in the single being shelved, though rumours have it that remixes were made.

DVD:

* 2002 - Greatest Hits - Volumen [DVD]
* 2002 - Vessel - Debut Live Documentary [DVD]
* 2002 - Shepard's Bush Empire - Post Live [DVD]
* 2002 - Cambridge - Homogenic Live [DVD]
* 2002 - Vespertine Live - Royal Opera House [DVD]
* 2002 - Later - 1995-2001 seven TV appearances [DVD]
* 2002 - MTV Unplugged - Debut album performed [DVD]
* 2002 - Miniscule - The making of Vespertine [DVD]
* 2003 - Inside Björk - A Documentary [DVD]
* 2004 - The Inner or Deep Part of an Animal or Plant Structure - Making of Medúlla [DVD]
* 2005 - The Medúlla Videos [DVD]
* 2005 - Screaming Masterpiece [DVD]

Television:

* 1987 - Glerbrot character: María. (Ríkisútvarpíð) - National Icelandic Television.
* 2001 - Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Björk appears as Space Ghost's wife who is continually hounding him talking nonsense.

Films, including cameos:

* 1982 - Rokk í Reykjavík (Íslenska Kvikmyndasamsteypan), film directed by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson.
* 1983 - Nýtt Líf (Nýtt Líf ehf.), film directed by Þráinn Bertelsson.
* 1987 - The Juniper Tree, character: Margit. (Rhino Home Video)
* 1994 - Prêt-à-Porter, featuring Björk as a model.
* 2000 - Dancer in the Dark, character: Selma Jezková. (Zentropa Entertainment)
* 2005 - Drawing Restraint 9, character is known as the "Guest." (Matthew Barney)
* 2005 - Screaming Masterpiece, herself.
* 2006 - Anna and the Moods, Björk performs the voice of Anna Young. (CAOZ Ltd.)Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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