I’d never heard any of the Icelandic pop singer Björk’s music before a couple months ago, when her new single “the gate”(stylized in all low-caps) popped up in the New Releases page on my Spotify. And it seems like a large majority of other people my age have never heard of her either—according to the Doodle poll I sent out on the Pfoho open email list to which a grand total of 23 Pfohomies responded, 60.9% has never heard of her, 17.4% does not like her music, 17.4% likes her music, and 4.3% (1 respondent) thinks she’s “alright.”
I myself had heard of her before, but the main thing I knew from a random Google search a long time ago was that she wore a dress in the shape of a swan to the Oscars (and she even “laid” an egg on the red carpet!), and it became something of an iconic moment in fashion history, earning its own Wikipedia page. The swan dress is definitely one of her tamer outfits—she likes wearing outrageous floral masks that border on beautiful and creepy, enormous puffy wigs ranging a wild array of colors, and Alexander McQueen dresses inspired by a strange mix of technology and nature, which make her seem like she comes from a distant planet, and make some of Lady Gaga’s outfits look relatively normal. So I’d written her off as a kook, and I’d never gotten past her wacky visuals to bother to actually listen to her songs. I never imagined that I’d get so obsessed. I never thought “the gate” would truly be a gateway to her weird and wonderful musical world…
I actually am not all that crazy about “the gate.” It is a minimalistic track with a spooky wooden flute accompaniment and Björk’s typical freestyle vocals that sound more like whining and crying at times than singing. It was a little too formless and arrhythmic for me.
But I did get into a lot more into her older tracks like “Jóga,” “Hyperballad,” “Human Behavior,” “Pagan Poetry,” “Venus as a Boy.” The interesting thing about Björk’s music is that every track promises something fresh. Some tracks feature a strong rhythmic impulse from instruments that I can never identify, and some seem to lack any form at all. I read that Björk’s music sounds like a genre of its own because she is endlessly curious about an extremely wide range of musical styles.
But mostly it’s her voice that I’ve been so obsessed with. Björk is not afraid to let out shrieks and screams along with smooth, mellifluous, girlish singing that seems to glow. She indeed often tells how when she was a young girl, she would always write music in her head as she wandered outdoors through the otherworldly landscapes of her home country Iceland, where desolate plains are punctuated by tectonic rifts, sulfur-spouting geysers, and active volcanoes. Her music certainly sounds like that—wild, unpredictable, somewhere in between brutal and beautiful.
—Staff writer Faith A. Pak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.