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BJÖRK UNRAVELLED

Demystifying Björk's music, one piece at a time

 
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ABOUT

Bjork Unravelled is the podcast that every Bjork fan can share with their skeptic friends and say, “See? She's not that weird.” 

 

Season 1 is a primer for Bjork beginners. Each episode picks apart a different facet of her music to show that her music isn’t “unlistenable” or “esoteric.” It’s for everyone.

Season 2 follows a slightly different format. Each episode analyzes the intersection of Bjork and a specific social movement, community, or idea, through fan interviews and original analysis.

 

New episodes every other Thursday.

 
 

EPISODES

 

001

Will the real Björk please stand up?

Who is Björk? A mysterious woman in a swan dress? An Icelandic weirdo? A musical genius?   Does the pop culture version of Björk hold any truth — or is Björk is just playing us? In this episode, we'll get to know the "real" Björk. We'll discuss her childhood, her early career, and yes, even that one time she attacked a reporter. We'll sort fact from fiction, discard the stereotypes, and discover how Björk sees herself.

002

Björk: the first genre-bender?

In 2020, when artists like Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, and Lizzo try on musical styles like they do designer clothing, genre seems irrelevant. But that’s a pretty new development. In fact, back in the mid-90’s, when CD’s reigned supreme, genre was everything.

So when Björk released her first album, Debut — a record that sampled a different musical style in nearly every song — the music world took note. Her chameleon-like ability to adapt to any genre, and then make it her own, set Björk apart from other artists. So in this episode, we’ll talk about how Björk bends genre and why it matters.

003

Unlocking the full Björk-estra

One of the most common complaints I hear about Björk’s music is her voice.

And these complaints aren’t unfounded. Sometimes she grinds her vocal cords together. Sometimes she wails. And yes, sometimes she shrieks.  But if you suspend your discomfort, you might realize how rich and true-to-life it is because it evokes the full sonic and emotional spectrum. If you've ever wondered, "Why is she screaming in her songs?" then you might ask yourself, "Why are there cymbals in an orchestra?"

In this episode I’ll explore how Björk’s vocals add texture and depth to her songs — specifically in her third studio album, Homogenic. I’ll discuss three songs from that album with my sister Marisa (who introduced me to Björk's work) to understand how her unusual vocals are integral to her music.

004

For the love of Selma

Björk has a superpower that the best musicians do: she can create a character to tell a compelling musical story. David Bowie did it with Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke. Prince did it with Camille. And Nicki Minaj... has too many characters to count.

One of Björk's characters is Selma, whom she played in the 2000 film Dancer in the Dark. She said that the soundtrack she created for the film was her gift to Selma.  The songs serve as windows into Selma’s inner thoughts and dreams. Examining how these songs bring Selma to life demonstrates Björk’s brilliance as a storyteller — something that I think any film score fan or even country fan can appreciate. So in this episode we’re going to explore the rich interior world of Selmasongs.

005

Beats by Björk

The past few years have been big for women in the entertainment industry. One sector that remains fairly stagnant, though, is music production. It’s still very much a boys’ club. In fact, a 2018 USC Annenberg study revealed that only 2 percent of music producers and 3 percent of audio engineers are women.

But if you think it’s tough now, imagine what it was like 20 or 30 years ago — when Björk was making music. Although she took a very active role in producing her records, she often didn't receive full credit for her work.

That’s why I want to spend some time with a record that shows Björk's painstaking attention to detail as a producer: Vespertine. My sister Natalie and I will examine it in detail to show why Björk isn’t just a talented vocalist or composer, but a pioneer in music production.

006

1 + 1 = 3

Over the years Björk has done collaborations with well-known (and obscure) musicians. What’s worth exploring about these collaborations is her approach. She obviously has a clear vision of what she wants, but she’s skilled at balancing it with artists who have equally strong ideas. In an interview with Jefferson Hack in 2017, he asked Björk if her collaborative spirit stems from her punk rock origins. She said that it might, but she’s also found that the key to successful collaborations is taking care of your individual creative goals. Because once you feel secure about your own vision, you can feel open to another artist’s perspective.  She described this idea as "1 + 1 = 3" — basically if both artists find common ground, they can create something greater than their two halves.  So in this episode we’re going to explore that equation through a few of my favorite collaborations Björk has done. Ones that I think will appeal to all kinds of listeners.

007

Björk to the future

A recurring theme in Björk's music is the intersection of humanity and technology. Think of how she effortlessly combined the human pulse of strings with crunchy electronic beats in Homogenic. Or how she mixed vibrant drums and horns with electronic instruments in Volta.

But her experimentation goes beyond the music itself. Björk also plays with the technology of music distribution. Her seventh studio album, Biophilia, became the first record to be released as an app — with each song accompanied by a musicology or science game — and her immersive virtual reality exhibit, Björk Digital, paved the way for some of the first VR music videos.

In this episode I'll talk about how Björk’s music intersects with technology and science. I'll start with Biophilia and trace its evolution into the even more expansive Björk Digital exhibit — to show how she uses technology to transform the way we experience music.

BONUS

Great Expectations

If you listened to the trailer of this series, then you know that I created Björk Unravelled to persuade my friend Carter to give Björk's music a chance. And — it worked!
In this episode, Carter and I will reflect on this season and hear how his mindset shifted along the way. How exactly did he go from being confused to enthusiastic? 
And if you started out in his shoes, I want you to think about that too. How did each episode of this series make you more of a Björk fan?

BONUS

Underrated Björk songs with The Björk Collector

For this episode I teamed up with Elijah Flores. You may know him as @thebjorkcollector on Instagram. Elijah’s collection is comprehensive. He has purchased every Björk release since Debut and is familiar with even the most obscure parts of her career. So I wanted to bring him on the show to talk about some lesser known, or maybe just underrated songs in her discography.

He’ll share 10 of his picks here, and I’ll add a few of my own. We’ll start chronologically with her work in The Sugarcubes and conclude around the Medulla period.

BONUS

Björk + astrology with Sachi the Scorpio

Whether you follow it or not, astrology is one of many lenses we can use to better understand Björk and her music. In this episode, I talk with astrologist and Björk fan Sachi the Scorpio to learn how Björk's birth chart informs her music — specifically in the song “Pluto” but also throughout her discography. 

201

Medulla: Björk's most punk record?

Before Debut, before The Sugarcubes… Björk was actually a punk rocker.

If you look closely at the rest of her career, you realize her punk origins are still with her. Björk makes music on her own terms. She’s the ultimate non-conformist when it comes to her fashion and music. And, she’s a musical and technological pioneer; she was experimenting with app-building and VR before it was cool. In this episode, I’ll look back at Björk's punk roots. We’ll learn about the bands she played with, what those years taught her, and how that punk ethos still resonates — specifically in Medulla.

202

Björk's musical foremother

In this episode I’m going to focus specifically on Kate Bush’s influence on Björk. I’ll draw connections between their careers and their music to better understand Björk's place in the family of musical greats. And through it all, I’ll explain how Bush paved the way for Björk's success in the UK.

203

The swan in the room (with Techno Prayer)

In this episode, I'm joined by Federico Protto, creator of the Bjork fashion archive Instagram called Techno Prayer. Together we'll discuss five looks from the Bjork fashion archives — including what they look like, who designed them, and why they matter. 

And don’t worry… we will address the swan in the room.

204

Björk vs The World

Björk didn’t want to be seen as a political figure. For her, the music mattered most, and it existed in a sphere beyond the day-to-day squabbles of politics. But there is one issue that activates her: climate change.
In this episode, I’ll trace Björk's progression as a climate activist — from reluctant protester to national leader. And I’ll examine the impact this activism has had on her music and the world.