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Of Björk and Iceland’s image

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My mom told me the other day over breakfast that Björk is about to release a new album called Volta. While enjoying her morning coffee she wondered whether she should buy the album.

I already knew she wasn’t going to buy it. She never does. In fact there isn’t a single album by Björk in my parent’s house. But every time she releases a new album, my mom and dad wonder whether they should buy it.

My parents, like almost every Icelander, love Björk. They never listen to her music, except for some old hits, but they just love her.

Björk is one of the most precious parts of Iceland. She is a national treasure herself, as well as our glaciers, highlands and sagas. This former punk singer has a special place in every Icelander’s heart.

She is the first, and so far the best known Icelandic international star in the entertainment industry. That has made her become a big part of Iceland’s image. Most people in the world hardly knew Iceland existed before Björk came along. Now more people know of our tiny island far up north.

Björk has created an image for herself that is very suitable for Iceland. Her artsy looks and manners contribute to a character full of mystique, just like her songs. Being mysterious means being exciting, and of course, Icelanders want to look like an exciting nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.

So, we here in Iceland love her. We are very proud of her. She has won Grammys, Brit awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

She never forgets where she comes from. Her lyrics and videos are usually strongly linked to Iceland. Her Icelandic pronunciation of English words reminds the world that she is not from the US or the UK. (She speaks perfect English, though. This way of pronunciation is just for commercial use.)

On top of that, she appears to bee one of the “good” guys in the entertainment industry. She doesn’t do drugs (that we know of), she doesn’t go partying without underpants and she doesn’t have any bizarre personal preferences like kaballah, adopting masses of children from the third world or similar.

So, to Icelanders, Björk is a milestone in both culture and the image we like to have of ourselves. Her music, however, is a different matter.

Her albums always get great reviews in Icelandic newspapers, of course, but I’d say most Icelanders don’t really care about the musician Björk. Her music is a minor thing to us; it is experimental and hard to listen to. Björk isn’t exactly a sing-along musician.

My parents’ attitude towards Björk represents the attitude most Icelanders have towards her, I think. They somehow manage to love the artist without caring about the art itself.

HEH – [email protected]

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.