Björk Guðmundsdóttir, known mononymously as Björk, is an Icelandic singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer and actress. She has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards (including one for acting). For her performance in the film Dancer in the Dark, Björk won the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. She was ranked #36 on VH1's "The 100 Greatest Women in Rock and Roll" and #8 on MTV's "22 Greatest Voices in Music". Her record label, One Little Indian, reported in 2003 that she had sold more than 15 million albums worldwide.
Björk's musical career began at the age of eleven when she studied classical piano in elementary school. One of her instructors sent a recording of Björk singing Tina Charles' song I Love to Love to RÚV, then the only radio station in Iceland, where it was broadcast nationally. It was heard by a representative of the Fálkinn record label, who contacted Guðmundsdóttir to offer her a recording contract. In 1977, at the age of 11, Björk released her eponymous first album, Björk. The record contained covers of several pop songs, such as The Fool on the Hill, and boasted artwork from her mother and guitar work from her stepfather. The album became a hit within Iceland but was not released in any other country.
Björk's musical tastes were largely influenced by the punk revolution of the late '70s. At the age of 14, she formed an all-girl punk band called Spit and Snot and, in 1979, a post-punk group called Exodus.
In 1980, Björk graduated from music school. In 1981, she and bassist Jakob Magnússon formed another band called Jam 80, which later became Tappi Tíkarrass (Icelandic for "Cork the Bitch’s Ass"), and released an extended single, "Bítið Fast í Vítið the same year. Their next album, Miranda, was released in 1983.
Afterwards, Björk collaborated with Einar Örn Benediktsson and Einar Melax from Purrkur Pillnikk, and Guðlaugur Óttarsson, Sigtryggur Baldursson, and Birgir Mogensen from Þeyr. After writing songs and rehearsing for two weeks, the new band, KUKL (meaning "Sorcery" in Icelandic), developed a sound described as gothic rock. Björk began to show indications of her trademark singing style, which was punctuated by howls and shrieks. KUKL toured Iceland with anarchist UK punk band, Crass, and later visited the UK in a series of performances with Flux of Pink Indians. They produced two albums as a result of these collaborations: The Eye in 1984, and Holidays in Europe in 1986, both on Crass Records. The band was eventually dissolved, in part due to the closure of their label, Gramm. In mid-1986, several members of KUKL and the surrealist group Medusa got together to create the arts collective Smekkleysa (Bad Taste). They created a musical division, a band again called KUKL, but soon changed the name to The Sugarcubes.
The Sugarcubes, an art pop band made up of 6 members including Björk, became one of the rare Icelandic bands to break out of their native country when their debut album, Life's Too Good, became a British and American hit in 1988. For the next four years, the group maintained a successful cult following in the U.K. and the U.S. while they were stars within Iceland. During 1990, Björk also recorded a set of jazz standards and originals with an Icelandic bebop group called Björk Guðmundsdóttir & tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar. The album Gling-Gló was released only in Iceland.
By 1992, tensions between Björk and Einar had grown substantially, which resulted in The Sugarcubes splitting apart. Björk had initially rose to prominence as one of the lead vocalists of the band, but when she launched a solo career after the group's demise, she quickly eclipsed them in popularity.
Björk moved to London following a feature on 808 State's Ooops, which sparked her interest in club and house music. Instead of following in The Sugarcubes' arty guitar rock styles, Björk immersed herself in dance and club culture, working with many of the biggest names in the genre, including Underworld and Tricky. She had an especially strong working relationship with Nellee Hooper, a producer who had formerly worked with Soul II Soul and Massive Attack. The first result of their partnership was Human Behaviour which was released in June of 1993. "Human Behaviour" became a Top 40 hit in the U.K., setting the stage for the surprising number three debut of the full-length album, Debut, her first solo effort (excluding her eponymous 1977 album). The album not only established her new artistic direction, but made her one of the '90s most unlikely international stars. Throughout 1993, Björk had hit U.K. singles -- including Venus as a Boy, Big Time Sensuality, and the non-LP Play Dead, a collaboration with David Arnold taken from the film Young Americans -- as well as modern rock radio hits in the U.S. She earned rave reviews in both countries. At the end of the year, NME magazine named Debut the album of the year. Additionally, she won BRIT Awards for both International Female Solo Artist and Newcomer. Debut went gold in the U.S. and platinum in the U.K.
During 1994, Björk was relatively quiet as she recorded her second album with Nellee Hooper, Tricky, 808 State's Graham Massey, and Howie B of Mo' Wax Records. She also released a remix EP, co-wrote the title track for Madonna's Bedtime Stories, and performed on MTV Unplugged that same year. Army of Me, the first single from Björk's forthcoming album, Post, was released as a teaser single in the spring of 1995. It debuted at number ten in the U.K. and became a moderate alternative rock hit in the U.S. Post, her second full-length solo album, was released in June of 1995 and garnered positive reviews. It peaked at number two in the U.K. and number 32 in the U.S. Post matched its predecessor in terms of sales and praise, going gold in the U.S. and helping her earn her second BRIT Award for Best International Female Artist. It yielded the British hit singles Isobel (#23), It's Oh So Quiet (#4) and Hyperballad (#8). Despite her commercial success in the UK, her singles failed to make much headway on American radio or MTV.
In late 1996, she released Telegram, an album of radically different remixes of the entire Post album, in the U.K. Its American release followed in January 1997.
Homogenic was released on 23 September 1997 and spawned many remix releases in the next few years to follow.
In the spring of 2000, she was named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for her work in Lars von Trier's Palme d'Or-winning Dancer in the Dark. Selmasongs, her score for the film, reunited Björk with her Homogenic collaborator, Mark Bell, and arrived in Fall of 2000, just in time for Dancer in the Dark's U.S. release.
The full-length follow-up, Vespertine, was released one year later. Verspertine featured collaborations with electronic duo Matmos, who handled intricate micro-beats while Björk layered her voice in melodic, lyrical passages.
She released a Greatest Hits collection and the Family Tree box set late in 2002.
After performing a few dates in 2003, Björk worked on her all-vocals and vocal samples-based album, Medúlla, and a performance of its first single, Oceania, at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The soundtrack to Drawing Restraint 9, a film by multimedia artist Matthew Barney, arrived in 2005 and also featured contributions from Will Oldham. Bjork also starred in the film, which would never see a DVD release and is only viewable in select art museums.
Her next album, Volta, was released on 8 May 2007. Volta features collaborations with Timbaland, Mark Bell, and Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons. The album's first single, Earth Intruders, was released digitally on 9 April 2007.
Biophilia was released on the 5th of October, 2011, with Björk and 16bit producing.
Vulnicura was released on January 20, 2015, to rave reviews. The album centered around her divorce and she often describes it as showing what may happen to someone following the end of a relationship.
Her most recent album, Utopia, was released on 24 November, 2017. It featured a woodwind ensemble as she explored a "heavenly" side of her music, contrasting the darker Vulnicura.
She also sang on the contemporary classical composer John Tavener's piece Prayer Of The Heart.