Björk Being Björk: There Are Apps for Her New Album ‘Biophilia’

For more than a quarter century, particularly as lead singer of the Sugarcubes back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, and more prominently since then, as a solo act, Björk has delivered music that’s unique enough to make her perhaps Iceland’s greatest export, musical or otherwise. At the same time, of course, she has also made headlines for everything from her swan dress at the 2001 Academy Awards to her 2008 stance on Tibetan independence, which didn’t sit well with the Chinese government. When you combine the music, the fashion, the politics and everything else about her, you can think of it as just Björk being Björk.

Bjork ‘Biophilia’ Cover

And just as Björk continues to be Björk with her new concept album Biophilia, which she produced, in part, on an iPad and is releasing both as CD’s and, in what’s probably a music industry first, as apps for iPads and iPhones in conjunction with Apple, she even added her own take on the music industry’s troubles in an interview with the trade website midemblog, in which she was asked whether the recent changes in the music industry have made it a better place. Björk said that the big labels “killed Elvis and will rip you off,” elaborating further on how the major labels once had unnecessary overhead, were making too much money, and now “has gone normal again.”

While it’s doubtful that the big labels really killed Elvis, Björk does make an interesting point, at least if one sign of the industry having “gone normal again” is Sony Music Entertainment having recently shuttered three of its labelsJiveArista, and J; the latter two founded by veteran music producer and impresario Clive Davis—and folding those labels’ signed artists’ contracts into the RCA label it acquired from Germany’s BMG back in the mid-2000’s. The RCA label, which Elvis once recorded for, goes back over a century, to the days of the Victrola.

A far cry from the vinyl that originally pressed Elvis’ recordings, though, would have to be the way Biophilia was done. Beyond the fact that Björk produced the album, in part, on an iPad, is that she also made each of the 10 tracks on that album into its own app. The main app for Biophilia is free, but each track/app on it is worth $1.99, or $10 for all 10, at iTunes, and those aren’t your typical “hear the song” apps, mind you. Lots of interactivity comes with each app. Björk herself told NPR’s Laura Sydell recently that on one of the track/apps, “Thunderbolt,” you can tap the lightning icon to change the speed or range of its bass line.

Of course, quite a few naysayers have taken Apple to task by leaving comments on their iTunes page for Biophilia about how buggy or unenjoyable the apps are, but at the very least, you got to love the concept and the effort it took to make it happen. Maybe future efforts, whether by Björk or others, will work out the bugs that those few say were prevalent in Biophilia.

As for what company released Biophilia, it’s one of those “indie-distributed-by-a-major” deals, which we’ve written about before on matters like ownership of the master recordings. In Biophilia’s case, the London indie label One Little Indian released the album, and it’s distributed, at least in the US, by Warner Music Group’s Nonesuch label, so while it’s a bit ironic that Björk’s comments about how the major labels “killed Elvis and will rip you off” come while she indirectly continues to do business with them, her years of having dealt with the majors may encourage her to consider “doing it herself” in the near future.

Do you think Björk is still being Björk after all these years?