By Kamala Woods
Björk’s uncompromising album “Homogenic,” a music sensation considered to be one of the greatest electronic albums of all time, celebrated its 20th birthday in September. The album represents a musical peak in a career of provocative work, where Björk has experimented with a range of various media including music, video and visual arts.
In the 1980s, Björk began her musical career with the Sugarcubes, an Icelandic alternative rock band. Releasing several albums and hit records during their career, the band became well known internationally until they disbanded in 1992. At this turning point, Björk decided to become a solo artist, releasing her first album “Debut” to the public in 1993. This pushed her even further into the spotlight as it received positive reception from UK critics. A few years after producing “Homogenic” in 1997, she starred in the morbid musical “Dancer in the Dark,” and received a Grammy nomination for the song “I’ve Seen It All.” Since then she has produced five other albums, including “Vespertine,” “Medulla,” “Volta,” “Biophilia” and “Vulnicura,” her most recent. Though “Homogenic” stands as her most vulnerable personal representation, her career as an artist has been a statement in itself, inviting the listener to view the world through her eyes.
Björk created “Homogenic” with a distinct purpose in mind. She wanted to capture the array of raw beauty found in her native landscape using a myriad of rhythms to express her boundless love for it. An homage to her native land whilst also a deep introspection into her own identity, Björk manifested this album around a singular obsession, a homogenous feeling, granting it the name “Homogenic.” It represents her therapeutic reconnection with the land after a string of shaking personal events, allowing her to process and understand her confusion. On Sept. 12, 1996, American pest control worker Ricardo López killed himself after mailing a homemade bomb to Björk’s address in hopes of killing her. Having a psychotic obsession with the music star, López was outraged to discover Björk’s romantic connection with the musician Goldie. He believed that with her death as well as his own, they would unite in heaven. Though the package was intercepted before it reached Björk, she was left rattled and afraid for her son’s safety. Leaving for Spain shortly after, she then began putting her album together. She used each song to explore her different frustrations and aspirations, allowing them to serve as a reminder to jump into life with love and enthusiasm despite the turbulence of failed relationships, immaturity and disappointment. Even 20 years later, her unrelenting voice and blend of unconventional musical moods sets her apart from the rest, cementing her almost mystical existence and magical understanding of the world.
“Homogenic” exerted a frenzy over the music industry. Nominated for a Grammy Award in America, awarded Best International Female at the British Record Industry Trust Show and placed on dozens of popularity charts around the world, critics responded favorably to Björk’s experimentation with classical and techno styles. Many critics previously thought these genres were completely incompatible given earlier failures by other artists. This is one of the elements that makes the album “Homogenic” so paramount: it impeccably intertwines the two together, infusing Baroque techniques with abstract beats, creating a body of work that pulses with emotion and sensitivity. It utilizes a wide range of instrumentation, from accordions to glass harmonicas to violins, transporting the listener into a complex landscape of sound. Though the music scene continues to change, “Homogenic” will always stand as an example of pure talent and ingenuity, a creation that can never again be replicated or replaced.