Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

(b Björk Gudmundsdottir, 21 October 1966, Reykjavik) Pop singer, a child prodigy raised in an Icelandic hippy collective, making her first album at the age of nine. She sang and played keyboards in various groups throughout her teens, among them an intriguing Icelandic punk band whose name translated as 'Cork The Bitch's Arse', but made an international impact alongside crazed trumpeter/vocalist Einar Orn Benediktsson in eccentric college rock favourites the Sugarcubes, who established a following with One Little Indian/Elektra albums Life's Too Good '88, Here Today, Tomorrow Next Week! '89, and Stick Around For Joy '92 (all UK top 20, also charted USA), then disbanded.

She had collaborated '91 on two tracks with Manchester dance innovators 808 State on their Ex-El album, a starting point for a solo career as alchemist/icon. Enlisting an army of collaborators including enigmatic former Soul II Soul mainstay Nellee Hooper, Björk fashioned a breathlessly up-to- the-minute hybrid of classical, jazz, folk and modern dance styles, balancing fearless musical innovation with a cunningly-fostered image as a wide-eyed ingenue. Her first album Debut '93 was perhaps the most ferociously eclectic top three UK hit of all time (also charted USA); singles 'Human Behaviour', 'Venus As A Boy' and 'Big Time Sensuality' spread her renown world-wide to the point that Madonna performed a Björk composition to flatteringly unconvincing effect on her Bedtime Stories '94. Björk's follow-up album Post also went top five UK, though a sceptical minority continued to bemoan her affected lyrical and vocal mannerisms. Extravagant rendition of Betty Hutton's film-tune showstopper 'It's Oh So Quiet' made the UK top five in midwinter '95-6 but her next (and best) single 'Hyperballad' barely scraped the top 20. Telegram '96 was an album of remixes of her songs, which disappointed some fans; there were a couple of brushes with the world's tabloids over an allegedly unprovoked attack on a TV reporter at Bangkok airport, and an obsessive US fan who video-recorded his own suicide after sending her a nail bomb (intercepted). An album of new material Homogenic '97 was her strongest yet, self-produced with her own string arrangements, a peak of new maturity.