Björk, one of the most singular artists of our time, continuously hurtles forward with her experimental solo work and adventurous collaborations in film, art and fashion, and especially music. Her seven-date New York City residency and the opening of her career-spanning retrospective at the MoMA take place this weekend, with the residency commencing at Carnegie Hall March 7 and the MoMA exhibit opening its doors to the public on March 8. In honor of her NYC takeover, here are ten of Björk’s most memorable musical collaborations.
“Ooops” with 808 State Though recognized for her work with the Sugarcubes, Björk was not quite the superstar she is today when she appeared on two tracks on rave pioneers 808 State’s 1991 album Ex:el. And for a track by rave pioneers, “Ooops” is a rather more accessible, pop-influenced piece: all the better to set the stage for Björk’s global musical conquest of the Nineties.
“Play Dead” with David Arnold This dramatic track was tacked on to the end of 1993’s Debut following the release of Young Americans, the movie in which it appears. A collaboration with noted film composer David Arnold co-written with Jah Wobble, “Play Dead” and its lush arrangement and soaring strings offered a suitably epic platform for Björk’s powerful vocals.
“Yoga” with Tricky There was no way that Björk could not have collaborated with Tricky, was there? In the mid-Nineties these two were at the vanguard of what was dubbed the U.K.’s “trip-hop” scene. The innovators meet up in this slinky, sexy track, one of the two collaborations on the Bristolian artist’s 1996 side project Nearly God, which appeared following his departure from Massive Attack and after the release of his debut album, Maxinquaye.
On the next page: Death Grips, Madge, and Radiohead get Björked
“(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” with PJ Harvey Sure, when these two joined forces at the 1994 Brit Awards, their performance of the Rolling Stones’ smash was roundly mocked by the pundits of the day. But imagine if the Brits had got their way and Björk had agreed to the Meat Loaf duet they’d requested. This appearance came at around the same time as a three-way (with Tori Amos) Q Magazine cover interview that had the now-awkward-sounding headline “Hips. Tits. Lips. Power.”
“Bedtime Story,” written for Madonna At the request of Nellee Hooper, Björk penned this (almost) title track for Madonna’s 1994 album Bedtime Stories. Björk later revealed that Madge went rogue on this one, singing the wrong lyrics. “It was a really interesting mistake,” she said, politely.
“Oxygen” with Evelyn Glennie Scöttish percussionist Evelyn Glennie had appeared on Björk’s remix album Telegram a few years prior to their collaboration on this sparse and atmospheric track. Glennie describes “Oxygen” as a wholly spontaneous effort: “Everything we did we recorded,” she remarked of the tune in the liner notes for Her Greatest Hits. “All the pops, rattles and other unrefined noises…without ‘makeup’ or doctoring of any kind.”
“I’ve Seen It All” with Thom Yorke Björk’s leading role in Lars von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark was reportedly punishing on the singer/sometime-actress, but it did result in a Best Actress award at Cannes, as well as Björk’s famed swan dress (on view at the MoMA exhibit). It also gave rise to the soundtrack, Selmasongs, on which this Oscar-nominated Thom Yorke collaboration appears. Icelandic writer Sjón helped out with the lyrics.
“Earth Intruders” with Timbaland and Konono Nº1 Björk’s seventh album, Volta, featured three tracks co-produced by Timbaland, who really seemed to have a hand in every other record released in the late Nineties/early Aughts, from Aaliyah to Jay-Z and back again. Lead single “Earth Intruders” featured Congolese multi-instrumental group Konono Nº1 on the electric likembe.
“The Dull Flame of Desire” with Antony Hegarty These kindred artists have collaborated on several projects, with Hegarty most recently lending vocals to “Atom Dance” on Vulnicura. Also appearing on Volta, “Dull Flame of Desire” is a translation of a poem by Fyodor Tyutchev.
“Up My Sleeves” with Death Grips Rumors of Björk collaborating with Death Grips ran rampant last summer when they suddenly dropped Niggas on the Moon, featuring her voice on the gloriously chaotic “Up My Sleeves” and throughout the album. “i adore death grips and i am thrilled to be their ‘found object’ !” she wrote on Facebook, suggesting this one was a sample rather than a collaboration. It’s so good we included it anyway.
Björk’s seven-show New York City residency begins March 7 at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium. Tickets are sold out, but you can find them on the secondary market.