From Iceland — Fifteenth Time Lucky: Björk's Incredible Grammy Awards Journey

Fifteenth Time Lucky: Björk’s Incredible Grammy Awards Journey

Published December 10, 2018

Fifteenth Time Lucky: Björk’s Incredible Grammy Awards Journey
Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Santiago Felipe

The news came out yesterday that Björk has been nominated for the Grammys for her new album, ‘Utopia,’ in the Alternative Albums category. Whilst this in itself might not seem that surprising—she’s a major international artist, after all—there’s one aspect of it is. Because, like several other well-known geniuses—say, Stanley Kubrick and Leonardo Dicaprio (?) in the world of film, or The Velvet Underground and Jimi Hendrix in music—she has never gone home with a Grammy award trophy, despite being nominated a total of fifteen times.

Her first nomination was in 1994, for the memorable “Human Behaviour,” directed by the incredibly original artist Michel Gondry. It was none other than David Fincher who robbed Björk of the honour, for his incredibly poor video for The Rollings Stones’ “Love is Strong,” which ages as badly as cancer.

From 1996 until now, Björk received eight more best album nominations—amongst others for videos, vocal performances and so forth—at the Grammys—and what a ride it’s been. We thought it might be a good time to take look back at the nominees, over the years, who have bested this beloved daughter of Iceland.

In 1996, Björk was nominated for her second album, ‘Post’—one of her best albums, if you ask the Editor-in-Chief here at The Reykjavík Grapevine. This year, the Grammy competition was tough. Also in the running were the Foo Fighters, for their eponymous debut, PJ Harvey for her classic ‘To Bring You My Love,’ and The Presidents of the United States of America’s self-titled album.

So far, so good—you’s be forgiven for thinking she had this one in the bag. But no. The final contender, and ultimate winner, was the legendary “MTV Unplugged in New York” by none other than the iconic, era-defining alt-rock band Nirvana.

Fair enough.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. Björk’s next nomination came only two years later for her ‘Homogenic,’ which, more or less, rewrote the rulebook on how to make a textured, lyrical electronica-pop crossover masterpiece.

Surely, this time, the Grammy would be hers. But who was she competing with? Brace yourself.

Little known English crooner David Bowie got the nod for his reinvention LP ‘Earthling’; big-beat duo The Chemical Brothers where nominated for ‘Dig Your Own Hole’; The Prodigy, too, for ‘The Fat of the Land.’ All good contestants, but c’mon man—’Homogenic’ is clearly the best. 

Alas, again, there was a final competitor. This time, it was an LP you might have heard of—’OK Computer,’ by Radiohead.

Christ! How unlucky can you be? But with the power of hindsight, I’ll happily state the case that ‘Homogenic’ was a game changer, the effects of which can still be seen today. Radiohead wouldn’t manage such an influential album until ‘Kid A.’ 

So, third time lucky… right? Björk’s next nomination for the best album came in 2002 when she released another true favourite of her oeuvre: the beautifully crafted ‘Vespertine.’

The competition? Tori Amos, for ‘Strange Little Girls,’ Fatboy Slim’s ‘Halfway Between the Gutter and the Stars,’ and Radiohead’s nowhere-near-as-good-as-OK-Computer ‘Amnesiac.’

This was it! It must be Björk’s year.

But no. The winner was a commercial indie smash hit: Coldplay’s ‘Parachutes.’

Thanks to that moment, we’re stilling all listening to bullshit colourful-jacket arena-rock. Although, sure, ‘Parachutes’ was one of Coldplay’s best albums, and did have an incredible moment at that time.

So… the shitshow must go on.

In 2005 Björk got nominated again, for her experimental voice-and-beats LP ‘Medúlla.’ Not her strongest effort, sure—but then again, neither was the competition. Couldn’t Björk beat Franz Ferdinand’s self-titled debut, PJ Harvey’s okay-ish ‘Uh Huh Her,’ and the forgettable ‘Good News for People Who Love Bad News’ by Modest Mouse?

Probably. But what won? Some band called Wilco. Not be confused with the UK home goods chain store, or the iconic 80s fantasy movie ‘Willow.’

I mean, come on. Björk was robbed this year. Franz Ferdinand’s album was presentable enough, but Wilco? Jeez.

In 2008, Björk was still going strong, releasing a robust album with striking visuals and an excellent live show: ‘Volta.’ The nominations were Lily Allen – ‘Alright, Still,’ The Arcade Fire for ‘Neon Bible,’ The Shins for ‘Wincing the Night Away’… it was looking good for Queen B.

The winner? A past their prime White Stripes, for ‘Icky Thump.’

There’s not so much to say at this point. The White Stripes were fantastic. And whatever happened to the Shins?

Five years later, Björk released perhaps her most ambitious effort yet—the amazing scientific/educational/Tesla-infused insanity of ‘Biophilia.’ This album arguably moved the needle on what an album even is—the concept around it was elaborate, imaginative, expansive project, including apps, an exhibition, and even an educational programme.

Now it must happen! The competition?

Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Tom Waits – Bad as Me

But who won?

Are you sure you’re ready? 

It was the Belgian one-hit-wonder Gotye, with his album ‘Making Mirrors.’

What’s that you say? No Tesla-coil generated bass? No app suite? No educational programme? Who cares, it’s the Grammys….

So, now we’re down to the last one. 2016 Björk released the deeply sincere ‘Vulnicura’ where she tackled the brutality of her divorce with Matthew Barney, pouring her heart out for her listeners. Stark, brave and beautiful.

Who would stand a chance against the now world-famous electronica queen, with the powerful emotions that arose from that album? Here are the competing nominees:

My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Tame Impala – Currents
Wilco – Star Wars

This is obviously in the bag. Right?

Not right.

The winner: Alabama Shakes with their album ‘Sound & Color.’

Wait, what? This is getting silly.

So… to today. Björk got her 15th nomination for the critically acclaimed ‘Utopia.’ This places her fourth in the pantheon of musicians who’ve been nominated without having actually won a Grammy. But even here, poor Björk is beaten—Snoop Dogg leads, with 17 unsuccessful nominations.

So. Fifteenth time lucky? The competition this year looks doable… Björk fellow nominees are:

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Beck – Colors
David Byrne – American Utopia
St. Vincent – Masseduction

Our money is, of course, always on Björk. Although, Beck’s ‘Colors’ is surprisingly fresh. And on previous Grammy form? At this stage, your guess is as good as ours.

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