Björk, born Björk Gudmundsdottir, November 21, 1965, in Reykjavík, Iceland, is the singer-songwriter and actress best known for her solo work covering a wide variety of music styles. Integrating electronic and organic sounds, her music frequently explored the relationship between nature and technology.
Björk recorded her first solo album, a collection of cover versions of popular songs, as an 11-year-old music student in 1977. Throughout her teens she performed with various short-lived bands, ending up at age 18 with Kukl, a punk group that eventually became the Sugarcubes. With Björk as lead vocalist, the Sugarcubes won acclaim in the United Kingdom with their first album, Life’s Too Good (1986). After recording two more albums over the next five years, Here Today, Tomorrow, Next Week! and Stick Around for Joy, the band broke up, and Björk embarked on a solo career.
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After moving to London, Björk released Debut, her first international solo album, in 1993. It was a departure from the harder-edged sound of the Sugarcubes and included a wide variety of musical styles ranging from techno-pop to jazz. Debut produced a number of hit singles, including “Big Time Sensuality” and “Venus as a Boy.” Her follow-up, Post (1995), opened with the single “Army of Me,” a characteristically throbbing, synthesized track accompanied by the singer’s now-familiar breathy yodel. Never content to conform, Björk in 1997 released her most experimental works to date: Telegram, an entire album of Post remixes, and Homogenic, a studio effort with collaborator Mark Bell. Bell and Björk also worked together on Selmasongs, the score for Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000), a tragic musical in which she also starred. The film won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival, and Björk was named best actress.
In 2001 Björk released the quiet and hypnotic Vespertine. Her first studio album in four years, it refrained from pushing the musical boundaries that had made her a star of the 1990s and instead focused on a more rhythmic, contemplative intimacy. Medúlla (2004) was an all-vocals and vocal samples-based album that featured beatboxers (vocal-percussion artists), Icelandic and British choirs, and traditional Inuit vocalists, while the similarly eclectic Volta (2007) boasted sombre brass arrangements, African rhythms, and guest production from Timbaland. For the ethereal Biophilia (2011), Björk used tablet computers to help her compose songs, which were released, in addition to conventional formats, as a series of interactive iPhone and iPad apps.
Björk performed “Oceania,” a single from Medúlla, at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. She also composed the sound track for her romantic partner Matthew Barney’s film Drawing Restraint 9 (2005). Björk excavated the end of her relationship with Barney on the devastating Vulnicura (2015), coproduced with Arca, and she worked with Arca again on Utopia (2017), which incorporated recordings of birdsong and a flute ensemble. In 2019 Björk premiered Cornucopia, a series of multimedia performances, for the inaugural program at The Shed, a cultural institution that opened in New York City that year.
As a response to the financial turmoil that rocked Iceland in 2008, Björk partnered with an Icelandic venture capital firm to establish a fund that would invest in socially and ecologically responsible businesses. She was awarded the Polar Music Prize for lifetime achievement by the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 2010.