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What Is Björk’s Legacy in Music and the Arts?

Björk is an unconventional artist who has defied every stereotype label given to pop musicians across the years. When she released her first solo album Debut in 1993, it shook the music industry to its core. If you haven’t heard of Björk’s music, her controversial fashion sense or film accolades might have caught your attention. She wore a controversial swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards and also starred in Lars Von Trier’s film Dancer in the Dark (2000) The film won the Palme D’Or at Cannes and landed Björk with numerous critical acclaim for her role.

If you wondered why you never saw Björk in another film again, it's because she said that film was so exhausting that she vowed never to act again. Fortunately, she did not quit music.

Music Career

Due to her eccentricity, Björk’s music is not mainstream even though it is vastly influential to the entire sphere of Western popular music. Since her first solo album Debut, Björk continues to innovate and evolve her sound, altering the course of pop music with every album release.

The Iceland native’s most influential album is her third studio album, Homogenic. Released in 1997, this album marked a sharp turn from her previous sounds, Her first two albums, Debut and Post was created with a broad sonic sound palate drawing from a wide variety of influences. They included an immense range of genres from the inspired rock song Army of Me, to the bubblegum pop of Hyperballad. These two outings hardly sound like they belong to the same artist, much less the same album.

Homogenic on the other hand feels like it’s come from one flavour. It’s a frigid and cold album, reflecting images of Björk’s homeland - Iceland. The album is propelled by electronic drum programming while at the same time, string arrangements provide an icy melodic backbone. The fascinating creativity of Björk lies in her ability to create grand, gorgeous hooks within unfamiliar and experimental environments.

Björk’s Influence and music evolution

Björk’s influence has inspired other musicians such as Radiohead. Thom Yorke has pointed out Unravel, a song from Homogenic as his favourite song of all time. It’s no coincidence that Radiohead made the move from alt-rock of Ok Computer, to the experimental electronica sound of their album Kid A.

Kanye West too made a similar transition with his album 808s & Heartbreak in 2008. Without Björk and Radiohead laying the groundwork nearly a decade before, Kanye West may not have created the sounds for his album.

After Homogenic, Björk continues to evolve and to inspire. Vespertine, released in 2001 was intended to be consumed from the internet with her extensive use of “microbeats”. This was aimed at minimising any compression that may occur with downloading the album through services like Napster in those days.

Biophilia (2011), was released alongside an app meant to enhance the listening experience and meld visual, technological, and auditory arts into one cohesive package. Following albums, Vulnicura (2015) and Utopia (2017) were the product of extensive collaboration with visionary electronic artist Arca, who was one of the creative forces behind Kanye West's Yeezus, FKA Twigs' EP2 and LP1, and Kelela's Take Me Apart.

With her ability to radically change her sound and appearance, Björk has proven time and again, over nearly three decades, that she is an unstoppable force of pure, unbridled creativity.

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