Today, one of music’s best known female icons turns 51. That’s Björk, by the way. It’s hard to imagine that with an angelic fresh face like that, that it’s been 51 whole years since this ethereal, unearthly being descended onto our undeserving planet. I describe Björk in this way – like an alien – because it’s essentially the only accurate way that she can be described, and quite often you get the impression that’s the vibe she’s going for anyway. Born in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, which is small by any standard, and standing at just 5 ft 3″ tall, virtually no other human in the modern world has pipes quite like Björk. As Thom Yorke once aptly put it, “She was born with a voice that is very sexual, but at the same time, very child-like. Very vicious and very powerful, but no sense that she’d ever do damage.”
Let me take this opportunity to take you through 8 of Björk’s best recorded moments to date, from infamous outfits to the taking out of a pesky reporter on the streets of Bangkok.
Let’s begin with Tappi Tìkarrass, an Icelandic punk band and one of Björk’s first serious musical ventures. You’ve probably seen this video of one of the band’s live performances circulating on the internet. It captures Björk at around roughly 15-17 years old, going nuts on stage to one of their catchy songs, ‘Mataharì’, although the truth behind her age is shrouded in ambiguity no thanks to her chosen outfit which is almost identical to my grandfather’s Sunday Best. Despite not knowing Icelandic, I now know virtually all the words to this song from watching it constantly on loop this morning. It’s spellbounding, perplexing and brilliant.
Tappi Tíkarrass – Dúkkulísur + Hrollur (1981-3)
Here’s another live performance from Tappi Tíkarrass, this time with Björk adopting a more girly, china doll aesthetic. This video is a real testament to the power of Björk’s voice, even back in 1981-1983, or whenever this video was made, she was pulling out some astounding performances. Effortlessly, Björk does things with her voice that most of us hadn’t even imagined were physically and sonically possible.
Björk – Human Behaviour
‘Human Behaviour’ is one great track that could do with a bit more recognition. Released in 1993 and produced by Nellee Hooper, ‘Human Behaviour’ addresses the complexities and oddity of human emotion and behaviour through an animal perspective, something we could all think long and hard about right now. More importantly, this track and video were inspired by Britain’s very own David Attenborough, even more of a reason why this song should be in our Björk round-up.
The Notorious Swan Dress
Back in 2001, Björk shook the fashion world senseless with her cheeky swan number. This dress has become so well-known, that it has it’s own wiki page simply titled, ‘Swan Dress’. Designed by Marjan Pejoski, Björk also pretended to lay an egg on the red carpet, as pictured in the photograph below. It’s no wonder why this look went down in history and although praised by many fashion-types, it also made a lot of people angry, and in the least confused. Jay Carr of the Boston Globe wrote, “Bjork’s wraparound swan frock… made her look like a refugee from the more dog-eared precincts of provincial ballet”, and Steven Cojocaru called the dress “probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen”.
Bjork Attacks Reporter
One of my personal favourite moments in the history of Björk, is when she mercilessly pummelled a reporter on the street for saying “welcome to Bangkok.” With cold, wrathful look in her eye and a heart full of fiery passion that simply spilled over it’s capacity, Björk launches for the reporter and smacks her one, showing little remorse and is then dragged away despite appearing quite obviously thirsty for more.
Björk on MTV Cribs
Here Björk takes us around her home, and also talks about the library in the town and the importance of reading for the Icelandic people for quite some time. Most of all, it’s the things she comes out with, all delivered in her soft, loveable accent that we love the most. For example, her opinions on the people-to-sheep ratio in Iceland:
“It’s pretty pathetic if you ask me.”
Björk dismantles a TV
The video of Björk dismantling and analysing the insides of a television in 1988 is another iconic moment in the history of her time on this planet that has been doing the viral rounds on the World Wide Web. Aside from her music videos where she transforms herself into a robot or an extraterrestrial of some description, it is perhaps this video of Björk speaking about a television set that makes her seem like an alien the most. Quoting pure science from a Danish book she had read just that morning, as well as likening the circuit boards to a tiny city, Björk gives us the rare opportunity of understanding how one of our favourite pieces of technology operates.
“This beautiful television has put me in all sorts of situations.”
Björk – Oh So Quiet
And to conclude, it would only be fitting that we ended on Björk’s most famous number. Sit back, relax and most of all, enjoy.
Happy birthday, Björk.