For this Spring cycle here at The Wave, I’m trying something a little different. Instead of using this column as a way to give an entire breakdown of music history for each artist, I’ll be treating Musique Nonstop as my own personal radio station. So without further ado, let’s start off this season in some really interesting musical territory, as we travel to Scandinavia to focus on one of this region’s finest artists: Björk.
Björk Guðmundsdóttir hails from Reykjavik, Iceland, and is one of the most innovative female electronic artists to emerge in the last couple of decades. Björk is an eclectic musician, who has experimented with incorporating a wide array of world music-inspired beats as well as symphonic sounds into her work throughout her long musical career (which spans back to 1993). I love listening to all of Björk, but what really gives me the chills is the the more haunting side of her music.
To give you a little taste of that, I’ve compiled a playlist of what I think are Björk’s most hauntingly beautiful songs, which you can listen to below. (If you don’t have a Spotify account, I’ve made a YouTube playlist with all the same songs. Check it out here!)
Part of what makes Björk so distinctive is her unusual voice, which isn’t something that would conventionally be considered “beautiful.” For instance, she doesn’t display the same deep richness in her voice that someone like Lana del Rey does. Some people actually even despise her voice, critical of how breathy and screechy it can get, or how it’s often borderline out of tune. Generally, I agree with these criticisms, but, to me, those vocal “flaws” are actually what make Björk’s voice so compelling. Her voice is incredibly stark. Björk even compares her voice to as something similar to her country, in that it has a “naked and bare” quality, which perfectly contributes to the eeriness of her music and the discomfort that may be felt as a result. Björk is also renowned for creating surreal and forward-thinking music videos, which for some may be a little overwhelming but can not be denied of their artistic merits. (Check out this YouTube playlist to get a sense of what I mean.)
Pairing Bjork’s unique voice with such consistently masterful electronic and symphonic instrumentation only adds to her magic as an artist. This is her power, and it’s breathtaking.