When Prince passed away back in May, a friend and I disagreed on his place in music history. As many others, he was putting the “genius” stamp on “The Artist” and was placing the Purple One on the same level as Madonna or Michael Jackson. I totally agree that these three singers each had a huge impact on millions of ears in the last 30 years, but they remain in my book “only” pop musicians. They all made music that is fun to dance to, with great video clips, and each became influential business players in the music industry. You have to admire Madonna’s handhold on her career and Prince’s rebellion against the manipulation of his label. MJ? He was probably too busy transforming his body in Neverland. But he did buy The Beatles’ catalogue and a big chunk of Sony’s. Bold moves that brought him millions of dollars on top of the ones he made selling records and concert tickets.

All good, but this is not art. It’s pop music, pop culture and music business. Art pushes the envelope further. Art reinvents music. Art ages well. Art brings the artist’s personality and ideas into albums that are game changers. In the list of artists that deserve this appellation for shaking the music world in the last 20 years are folks like Radiohead, PJ Harvey and undoubtedly, Björk. Bowie was another, which career spanned for over 40 years.

The Icelander brought music listeners in another world with her 2004 album, “Medúlla”. An album that is mainly built on human voices, stacked in layers like an orchestra. Not just doubling her own unique lead vocal track but going as far as creating synth sounds with voices, betting all on the human beat box and still create songs that can be catchy (Who Is It?) and fascinating to listen to. On the short Öll Birtan, that is only 1:52 long, Björk plays with a few tracks of her own voice and creates a canvas on which she can jam and fly away on powerful high notes. French singer Camille would also be great at this, as she has shown on her album “Le fil”.

“Medúlla” starts with a beautiful and strangely sexy song, Pleasure is All Mine, where many voices blend together to create some sort of ecstasy, as Björk sings about letting go. Show Me Forgiveness starts will her single voice alone, as a prayer, or a lullaby. It is in these moments that we can really appreciate her unique sense of melody. Truly fascinating!

 

Artists like Björk are not afraid to run on a musical path that their audience isn’t familiar with. On Where is he Line, she blends Greek drama chorus with breakbeats and grunts! Yes, it is somehow baffling to follow such artists, but this is where the line between listening to music and deep diving into an art work is drawn. Most Radiohead fans were a bit lost after “OK Computer“, when the English band walked on a more experimental path, but great albums were built this way, exploring new grounds. Björk has also taken a difficult road: every album has its concept, its inventiveness, its small revolution. It has been quite a career for the diminutive Icelander since her days in a jazz trio (in the early 90s), to the Sugarcubes, to her solo albums.

“Medúlla” was the one that showed the richness of the human voice. A whole album could be made only with a voice and it could sound astonishingly different from all that had been recorded up to here.

bjork-medulla-cover

BJÖRK
Medúlla
(One Little Indian, 2004)

-Genre: experimental art pop
-In the same style as Camille, Tanya Tagaq

Buy the album on the artist’s Google Play page
Follow the artist via her Facebook page
Listen to videos on the artist’s YouTube channel

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About The Author

Nicolas Pelletier

Mélomane invétéré et rédacteur agréé, Nicolas pratique la critique en mode olympique: il parle de tout, tout le temps, depuis 1991. Il a publié 6 000 critiques de disques et concerts dont 1100 chez emoragei magazine et 600 sur enMusique.ca, dont il a également été le rédacteur-en-chef de 2009 à 2014. Il publie “Les perles rares et grands crus de la musique” en 2013, et devient stratège numérique des radios de Bell Média en 2015, participant au lancement de la marque iHeartRadio au Canada en 2016.