November 21, 2009
Is it possible that BJÖRK (born 1965) is not an unreasonably talented singer and video artist, but just a typical Icelander who bothered to leave her homeland? How to judge the genius of Björk’s Oscar-night stunt when she paused on the red carpet to lay an egg from her swan gown — an isolated incident of genius, or the sort of genial prank any Icelander would do if nominated? Maybe everybody in Reykjavik is fey and feral and and daring and cute. Even if that were the case, though, Björk is special. She cut her first album when she was 11, and at 14 formed an all-girl punk band named Spit and Snot. You can divvy up the 1990s like this: first half is gangsta, grunge, and Garth; second half is made-over Mouseketeers making mad money. But Björk’s albums — teasing out the tensions and pleasures of Human/Nature on Debut, assimilating all of London’s dance undergrounds on Post, pushing pop music as hard as Radiohead ever did with Homogenic’s glacial beauty — span that decade and own it. In the schema of nations, Björk’s Iceland doesn’t seem quite European. Like the Galapagos or Madagascar, it calved off and became isolated, weird; something about it is uncooked, fermenting — but that may just be the putrefying shark meat, rank with ammonia, they like to serve over the holidays. In its entire history Iceland has never produced a world-class sitcom, dance craze, or innovation in typewriter design. Oh sure, it gave us Sigur Rós, Lazy Town, and cured ram scrota for dinner, but most importantly it produced Björk and that in itself justifies its existence.
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