Icelandic singer, songwriter, composer, and record producer Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known mononymously as Björk has released her new song titled “Sorrowful Soil.”
“Sorrowful Soil” is a track released from the singer’s highly anticipated tenth studio album, Fossora. The album was released in 2022 through One Little Independent Records.
Noted for her distinct three-octave vocal range and eccentric persona, she has developed an eclectic musical style over her four-decade career that has drawn on electronic, pop, experimental, trip hop, classical, and avant-garde music.
Born and raised in Reykjavík, Björk began her music career at the age of 11 and gained international recognition as the lead singer of the alternative rock band the Sugarcubes, by the age of 21. After the band’s breakup in 1992, Björk embarked on a solo career, coming to prominence with albums such as Debut (1993), Post (1995), and Homogenic (1997), while collaborating with a range of artists and exploring a variety of multimedia projects.
Björk’s other albums include Vespertine (2001), Medúlla (2004), Volta (2007), Biophilia (2011), Vulnicura (2015), Utopia (2017) and Fossora (2022).
Several of Björk’s albums have reached the top 20 on the US Billboard 200 chart. As of 2015, she had sold between 20 and 40 million records worldwide. Thirty-one of her singles have reached the top 40 on pop charts around the world, with 22 top-40 hits in the UK, including the top-10 singles “It’s Oh So Quiet”, “Army of Me”, and “Hyperballad” and the top-20 singles “Play Dead”, “Big Time Sensuality”, and “Violently Happy”.
Björk’s accolades and awards include the Order of the Falcon, five BRIT Awards, and 15 Grammy nominations. In 2015, Time named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Rolling Stone named her the 60th greatest singer and the 81st greatest songwriter.
Björk starred in the 2000 Lars von Trier film Dancer in the Dark, for which she won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song for “I’ve Seen It All”.
Biophilia was marketed as an interactive app album with its own education program. Björk has also been an advocate for environmental causes in Iceland. A retrospective exhibition dedicated to Björk was held at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2015.
Over her three-decade solo career, Björk has developed an eclectic and avant-garde musical style that incorporates aspects of electronic, dance, alternative dance, trip hop, experimental, glitch, jazz, alternative rock, instrumental, and contemporary classical music.
Björk’s music has since been subject to critical analysis and scrutiny, as she consistently defies categorization in a musical genre. Although she often calls herself a pop artist, she is considered a “restlessly experimental creative force.” According to The New Yorker’s Taylor Ho Bynum, “no contemporary artist so gracefully bridges the divide [between music experimentalist and pop celebrity] as Björk.”
Björk’s album Debut, which incorporated electronic, house, jazz, and trip hop, has been credited as one of the first albums to introduce electronic music into mainstream pop. Her work has been described as “frequently explor[ing] the relationship between nature and technology.”
Broadly summarizing her wide-ranging integration of art and popular music, Joshua Ostroff suggested that “there is no better descriptor for what Björk does than artpop.” The NME also called her output a “consistently progressive pop agenda.”
Björk’s work is idiosyncratically collaborative, having worked with various producers, photographers, fashion designers and music video directors. She however believes that her male collaborators have received more credit than her, which Björk attributes to her being a female artist.
While Björk said that she was influenced by “Everything”, she has name-dropped Stockhausen, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno and Mark Bell as some of the people who influenced her the most. Some “confessional singer-songwriters” Björk commends include Abida Parveen, Chaka Khan, Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush; with the latter being a definitive influence in her career.
Mitchell also inspired Bjork to write her own songs, saying that Mitchell “created her own [female musical universe]”, and found it “very liberating.” According to Pulse: “a lot of Björk’s early influences were books (George Bataille’s Story of the Eye, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita) and films (Tampopo, Star Wars, The Tin Drum) available internationally. […] But talk about Iceland and you’re getting to the heart of the matter, the source of her spirited outlook on life.”
Björk is a soprano, with a range spanning from E3 to D6. Her singing voice has been described as both “elastic” and “somersaulting” in quality as well as being praised for her scatting ability, unique vocal stylings and delivery.
On a review for her live performance at the 2011 Manchester International Festival, Bernadette McNulty of The Daily Telegraph commented, “the 45-year-old still uses electronic dance beats with a full-blooded raver’s passion and the elemental timbre of her voice has grown more powerful with age”.
In late 2012, it was reported that Björk had undergone surgery for a polyp on her vocal cords. Commenting on the success of the procedure after years of maintaining a strict diet and using vocal exercises to prevent vocal injury, she “stayed quiet for three weeks and then started singing and definitely feel like my cords are as good as pre-nodule”. However, in a review for Biophilia, Kitty Empire of The Guardian stated that pre-surgery Björk still sounded strong, commenting that her voice was “spectacular and swooping”, particularly on the song “Thunderbolt”.
In a similar vein, Matthew Cole of Slant Magazine adds that her voice has been “preserved quite well”; however also noting that her voice has become too hoarse and shouty, adding “it’s only where her most dramatic vocal pyrotechnics are concerned that there’s any question of physical ability”. National Public Radio counted Björk among its list of “50 Great Voices” and MTV placed her at number 8 on its countdown “22 Greatest Voices in Music.”
Björk has been ranked 60th as one of the 100 greatest singers ever, and 81st as one of the 100 greatest songwriters ever by Rolling Stone, who praised her voice as being unique, fresh and extremely versatile, fitting and being influenced by a wide range of influences and genres.