I was not alone in my joy earlier this week when Bjork decided to surprise us all by releasing her new album, Vulnicura, on iTunes, and I've been listening to the album on repeat ever since. Unlike 2011's Biophilia, Vulnicura is a deeply personal journey through heartbreak and ultimately, liberation. The album sounds like something of a musical diary where Bjork explores pain and heartache, motherhood and family, as well as finding clarity.
Co-producing the album with Arca and Haxan Cloak, Bjork was integral to much of the instrumentation on Vulnicura. She wrote and arranged all of the string parts for the album and collaborated with Arca to produce the record, adding Haxan Cloak to mix the album. When news first broke that Bjork would be releasing the album, though, it was misreported that Arca was the sole producer. Arca insisted on clearing up the matter on Twitter, when he tweeted, “just to clarify! rather than ‘sole producing,’ Bjork and I are co-producing music together!”
This isn't the first time this has happened to Bjork either. In a recent interview with Pitchfork, she explained, "I did 80% of the beats on Vespertine and it took me three years to work on that album, because it was all microbeats—it was like doing a huge embroidery piece. Matmos came in the last two weeks and added percussion on top of the songs, but they didn’t do any of the main parts, and they are credited everywhere as having done the whole album."
This reflects a larger problem in the music industry: female musicians are not valued or credited the way male musicians are. Examples of this can be found throughout the industry from female musicians being majorly underrepresented in music festivals to female DJs being largely overlooked in electronica. This is yet another industry where female artists are not being valued as we all saw recently when the Oscar nominations were announced and there were zero women in the writing, directing, or cinematography categories.
Being a female musician, writer, and artist, this is an issue that is very personal to me. I have experienced sexism in the music industry—from the sound technician who would only talk to my male bandmates during sound check to the house manager who informed me “girlfriends weren’t allowed backstage” not realizing that I was one of the performers. And I can’t even count the number of shows I’ve played where I was the only female on the bill.
The good news is that this is an issue that is being brought to the forefront and more female musicians are refusing to be erased. Bjork went on to tell Pitchfork, "I didn’t want to talk about that kind of thing for 10 years, but then I thought, 'You’re a coward if you don’t stand up. Not for you, but for women. Say something.'" Speaking out about the need for female artists to be respected and credited the way male artists are is the first step towards progress. It gives me hope to see popular artists like Taylor Swift and Beyonce speaking out for gender equality and feminism.
Bjork closes out the interview by saying, “I definitely can feel the third or fourth feminist wave in the air, so maybe this is a good time to open that Pandora’s box a little bit and air it out.” We can only hope that the next generation of female artists will follow in Bjork’s footsteps.