Whatever Happened To Bjork?

In the '90s, Icelandic singer, songwriter, and actress Björk made a name for herself with her ethereal, otherworldly music and boundary-pushing music videos. An especially memorable appearance at the 2001 Academy Awards, at which Bjork donned a "swan" dress, sealed her global status as an aesthetic pioneer and risk-taker.

So, what has our favorite Icelandic warbler been up to since then? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

She's releasing a career-spanning songbook

Björk has been singing, writing music, and performing for four decades, so it's not surprising that she's got quite a few compositions under her belt. June 2017 will see the publication of a career-spanning songbook entitled 34 Scores for Piano, Organ, Harpsichord and Celeste, the first time that any sheet music for her songs is being released. 

Björk discussed the origins of the project in a statement, in which she explained her desire to test the boundaries of what music means in this day and age. "I ... wanted to question how I felt about musical documentation, when CDs were slowly becoming obsolete, I was curious about the difference of midi (digital notation) and classical notation and enthusiastic in blurring the lines and at which occasions and how one would share music in these new times [sic]."

Consider us impressed.

She's still performing

Over the course of her career, Björk has performed worldwide, and in fact you can still catch her on the road if you're lucky. 2017 alone had her performing in Los Angeles (with a full orchestra) and Japan

From the sounds of it, she's never deviated from putting on quite the show; recent performances came complete with jellyfish dresses and masks. Entertainment Weekly lauded a 2015 performance at Carnegie Hall as "a memorizing act of catharsis."

We're into it.

She had a retrospective at MoMA

In case you're looking for any further proof that Björk has been one of the most influential and iconic musical artists in the past couple of decades, MoMA had you covered in 2015

The famous NYC art museum hosted a massive retrospective of her work, including "an interactive, location-based audio experience through Björk's albums, with a biographical narrative that is both personal and poetic, written by the acclaimed Icelandic writer Sjón, along with many visuals, objects, and costumes."

Okay, okay, so admittedly reviews weren't exactly glowing; but still, being selected to share the same halls as artists like Picasso and Warhol is undeniably awesome.

She's been experimenting with virtual reality

Considering her willingness to be at the forefront of all things experimental, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Björk has been finding ways to incorporate virtual reality technologies into her work. In an interview with Pitchfork, she discussed her high hopes for VR and music, saying, "I think it's going to end up being as available as an iPhone. It's immersive, and anything that's creative is a positive thing. With music, from my point of view, VR is a continuation of the music video."

In 2017, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented "Björk Digital," which had previously been shown in Sydney in 2016, an immersive exhibition showcasing "groundbreaking VR video works featuring music from Björk's latest album," including "six VR experiences where users are transported with custom headsets," among others. Honestly, it sounds about as Björk-y as you can get, without actually being Björk.

She's been DJing

With everything else she's had going on, it was pretty impressive to find out that Björk has also made time to try her hand at DJing. In 2016, she put it in appearance behind the booth at Houston's Day for Night Festival (accompanying a showing of the "Björk Digital" exhibition).

After some negative reviews that bemoaned the singer's appearance (or lack thereof), Björk took to her Facebook page to condemn what she understood as sexism in the music industry, writing in a lengthy letter that "some media could not get their head around that I was not 'performing' and 'hiding' behind desks. And my male counterparts not. And i think this is sexism."

Despite the less-than-stellar experience, she's all set up to DJ again in Barcelona in June 2017. Right on, Björk. 

She had surgery

If you've ever checked out Björk's intense live performances, or even just listened to her tunes, it's pretty clear that she pushes her vocals to the limit. In November 2012, she revealed that she had had laser surgery to remove a polyp on her vocal chords.

Ever-chipper, Björk went on to post about the experience on her website, writing, "I have to say, in my case anyway, surgery rocks! ... I stayed quiet for three weeks and then started singing and definitely feel like my cords are as good as pre-nodule! It's been very satisfying to sing all them clear notes again."

Interestingly, Björk later claimed in 2015 that the procedure had lowered and thus extended her vocal range, saying "Since the operation, I have some of the high notes better than I have had for a while, but also I've got some deep notes that I didn't have before ... I'd like maybe to do an EP just with the deep notes.”

She went through a bad breakup

As the law of attraction asserts, like attracts like; accordingly, Bjork was in a relationship with equally experimental multimedia artist Matthew Barney for over a decade. After many years together and even sometimes collaborating as artists, the pair went their separate ways in 2013.

Unfortunately things became acrimonious between the famous exes, and Barney sued Björk in 2015 for custody of their then 12-year-old daughter, Isadora.

For her part, Björk was able to channel her feelings around the breakup into art, using the pain of the experience to inspire a number of tracks on her 2015 album VulnicuraBarney's loss, our gain.

She's been thinking about social media

Björk has been incorporating technology into her work since, you know, forever, so it makes sense that she's been thinking carefully about social media and the role it can play in our lives. 

An active Facebooker herself, she's gone on the record to share advice on how to moderate use so that it doesn't take over."You can be on Facebook for a long time, and then you get a feeling in your body like you've had three hamburgers. You know it's trash," she has said. "I always advise my friends: just go for a walk for an hour and come back and see how you feel then ... I think we need to put humanity into technology—the soul. It's about using technology to get closer to people, to be more creative."

Speaking of which, we're going for a walk. BRB. 

She's still making music

Good news, Björk-nuts: word has it that Björk is actively working on a follow-up to her most recent album, 2015's Vulnicura. 

Her collaborator, artist and filmmaker Andrew Thomas Huang (who produced several music videos for her) told Fader in March 2017"Björk's already written quite a bit of it. We just want to evolve what we did in Vulnicura, which was so personal and introspective ... What I can say is this new album's gonna be really future-facing, in a hopeful way that I think is needed right now." 

She's been helping out Planned Parenthood

In April 2017, Björk used her powers for even more good and joined a number of notable musicians like the Foo Fighters, Bon Iver, and Mary J. Blige to contribute a track to a compilation album entitled 7-inches for Planned ParenthoodAccording to Rolling Stone, "Planned Parenthood will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from both streams and sales of the box set."

Intrigued? You can check out more info here.

She's been speaking up on climate change

Climate change is another cause close to Björk's heart that's been taking up her time in the past few. In 2015, along with other artists like David Bowie, Yoko Ono, and Thom Yorke, she signed  "an open letter addressed to the leadership of the... Paris Climate Conference outlining significant changes to the United Nations' climate change framework." The letter asked for the leaders of the Conference "to agree to a comprehensive, binding international framework agreement on greenhouse gas emissions reductions, with mechanisms to assess, review and revise commitments over the long term."

Over the years, Björk has been especially vocal about the effects of climate change in her home county of Iceland, telling Rolling Stone in 2015, "we should try to head into the 21st century with more green technologies, rather than building dams, electric lines and factories everywhere." She added, "I know for sure if I would ask my fans to put pressure on the Icelandic government to keep the Icelandic highlands as they are, it would make a big difference." Taking her tremendous influence into account, we've no doubt about that.

She was impersonated on Ru Paul's Drag Race

In case you're still not convinced that Bjork is the total embodiment of all things weird and great, here's our final plea: she was impersonated on Ru Paul's Drag Race in 2016... and she adored it. When she was asked in a Reddit AMA interview whether she'd seen All Stars season 2 contestant Katya Zamolodchikova's impression of her, she wrote, "YESSSSSSSS i absolutely loved it... especially when she started humming to herself ha ha ha ha... sincerest form of flattery etc." 

Even better, Bjork revealed herself to be a true fan of the show, telling The Guardian in 2016"[Recently] I was looking for something to watch with my daughter, and over the last few months we we [sic] watched all eight series. It's uplifting how [RuPaul] builds up the queens, he gives them tough love and they blossom throughout the series. It's really life-affirming. But on top of everything else it's obviously hilarious."

An artistic pioneer and a great TV-watching buddy? Bjork, we love you.