Björk, the Icelandic pop iconic whose career spans over four decades of searing, superlative originality, is a keen student and avid fan of the wondrous world of music. She would never call herself a complete musician as she sees music, like life, as a natural evolution.
Having been a part of the music industry since the tender age of 11, Björk has effectively been raised within a cut-throat industry built on creativity and, largely, the commercialisation of talent. To be surrounded by the creatives that have swirled around her own journey has clearly had an effect on her. Ever since she first gained international recognition as the lead singer of the alternative rock band the Sugarcubes, Björk has never stood still. Not for a second. It has seen her become a true icon of artistry.
Since then, Björk has found a diverse source of inspiration. Whether it comes from her colleagues, her family, her home or the environment she surrounds herself in. She collects moments, feeling, senses, like the proverbial Magpie, feathering her musical nest with the trinkets of old and new. All culminating in a sound, and career, unlike any other.
Back in a past interview with The Guardian, Björk once went beyond tangible musical inspiration and referenced the rainforest as a major source of creative aid: “I need it, I need it, I need it,” she said of her adoration for music and nature to combine. “I found it is actually so good for my voice, too. Seventy per cent humidity is ideal for vocal cords. It is and it isn’t different to what I grew up with — Iceland is very humid, but not as warm. I was hiking in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and was crying inside myself. I wanted never to leave.”
More recently, while discussing her upcoming new music with Pitchfork, Björk has listed a number of artists she describes as her favourite ‘confessional singer/songwriters’ in a wide-ranging new interview. “Funnily enough, with my favourite music like that, I don’t understand the words,” she said, before adding: “I really like fado singers like Amália Rodrigues, but I don’t speak Portuguese. [laughs] I really like Abida Parveen from Pakistan, but I don’t understand a word she sings either.
It’s not just the weird and wonderful that inspire the singer though. She also finds inspiration in more mainstream singers: “As for American singers, you know who I’ve loved almost since my childhood? Chaka Khan. I love Chaka Khan. I’ve totally fallen in love with a remix album of hers from the ‘80s. I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure. It’s just pleasure.”
She continued: “Obviously, I really love Joni Mitchell. I think it was that accidental thing in Iceland, where the wrong albums arrive to shore, because I was obsessed with Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter and Hejira as a teenager. I hear much more of her in those albums. She almost made her own type of music style with those, it’s more a woman’s world.”
See the choices, below.
Björk’s favourite confessional singers:
- Amália Rodrigues
- Abida Parveen
- Chaka Khan
- Joni Mitchell