Bjork Talks New Album Vulnicura, Kanye West & Female Producers Not Being Taken Seriously

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Lately there has been a lot of talk about former Fox News host and former (and possibly current) Republican candidate Mike Huckabee and his new book ‘God Guns Grits and Gravy’ not because it talks about two of the most popular food groups in the south, but because of his comments about Beyonce.

He precedes his dissing of the uber pop star by saying she is a great singer and super talented. Duh, everyone knows that, we don’t need Mike Huckabee to point it out. But then he goes on to say that she doesn’t “need” to display her sexuality out on stage and also made the outlandish assumption that she could be a “victim” of her husband Jay-Z who is in effect “pimping her out”.

His comments show that there is still a whole generation of people who think women need to put their damn sexiness away and that they are doing their own talent a disservice by choosing to display it. The thing is Mike, Beyonce isn’t doing it because she “needs” to, she does it because she wants to and who is anyone (let alone a politician who clearly doesn’t get it) to discredit a woman because she chooses to explore and embrace her sexuality?

For too long women have been sexual objects of desire for men, and now there is a whole generation and a movement of women reclaiming that for themselves. It is a shame that someone like Mike Huckabee is getting all this attention from dissing Beyonce, because it proves that his own merits aren’t good enough, and that women are still being damned for their choices, even though they may be choices that men have been more than comfortable exploiting for their own gain in the past (and NO we are not talking about Jay Z pimping his wife out…that is not even a thing!).

On the other side of the planet, Icelandic singer and iconic musician Bjork has something to say about how women are represented in music, in a slightly different way, but the message is the same: women have to fight to prove themselves while men’s actions and decisions are never questions.

The quirky singer known for her off-beat outfits and unique albums spoke to Pitchfork about her latest album Vulnicura and had the chance to point out why feminism is important to her, and how over her 30 year career she has seen specific ways in which women are represented differently to men.

Pitchfork’s Jessica Hopper describes the album as Bjork’s most tender-hearted and personal, which displays “her power as a woman, a producer, and an artist.”

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Bjork produced the album together with Venezuelan music producer by the name of Alejandro Ghersi, aka Arca, but as with other albums, she is the mastermind on every single part of it. One of the things that angers Bjork when it comes to women’s albums, including some of hers, is that often the female artist doesn’t get credit in the media if there is a man co-producing.

When news about her album was being released, there was plenty of press about Arca, but not necessarily about Bjork also being the producer. She likens it to what one of her idols Joni Mitchell once said about any man who was working on an album with her getting the credit instead.

“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.’ So around 2006, I put something on my website where I cleared something up, because it’d been online so many times that it was becoming a fact. It wasn’t just one journalist getting it wrong, everybody was getting it wrong,” she says.

“I’ve done music for, what, 30 years? I’ve been in the studio since I was 11; Alejandro had never done an album when I worked with him. He wanted to put something on his own Twitter, just to say it’s co-produced. I said, ‘No, we’re never going to win this battle. Let’s just leave it.’ But he insisted. I’ve sometimes thought about releasing a map of all my albums and just making it clear who did what. But it always comes across as so defensive that, like, it’s pathetic.”

It’s the notion of the world not accepting a female artist as a mastermind or producing genius, like we are so used to accrediting men as. Something needs to change in the culture, because as Bjork points out in her next example, we need to get to a stage where no one questions whether a woman is capable of the same things as men.

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“I have nothing against Kanye West. I’m not dissing him—this is about how people talk about him. With the last album he did, he got all the best beatmakers on the planet at the time to make beats for him. A lot of the time, he wasn’t even there. Yet no one would question his authorship for a second. If whatever I’m saying to you now helps women, I’m up for saying it,” she begins.

“For example, 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. [Matmos’] Drew [Daniel] is a close friend of mine, and in every single interview he did, he corrected it. And they don’t even listen to him. It really is strange.”

The reason she is speaking about this is now is because of the important impression it can make on a whole generation of female artists, Bjork believes.

“I want to support young girls who are in their 20s now and tell them: You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times. Girls now are also faced with different problems.”

She said the representation of women as producers and beat makers often gets lost in the mix (pun intended) because people cannot always see them in the studio.

“I spend 80% of the writing process of my albums on my own. I write the melodies. I’m by the computer. I edit a lot. That for me is very solitary. I don’t want to be photographed when I’m doing that. I don’t invite people around. The 20% of the album process when I bring in the string orchestras, the extras, that’s documented more. That’s the side people see. When I met M.I.A., she was moaning about this, and I told her, ‘Just photograph yourself in front of the mixing desk in the studio, and people will go, ‘Oh, OK! A woman with a tool, like a man with a guitar.’”

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“I remember seeing a photo of Missy Elliott at the mixing desk in the studio and being like, a-ha! It’s a lot of what people see. During a show, because there are people onstage doing the other bits, I’m just a singer. It’s an ongoing battle. I hope it doesn’t come across as too defensive, but it is the truth. 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.”

A lot of it does come down to representation. You can’t be what you can’t see, so we need to see more visible and popular examples of women in all areas of music, but especially behind the scenes. Currently women only makeup an estimated 5% of music producers in the industry, but with more mentorship and a wider scope of what is possible, perhaps the ratio will start to change.

We don’t need people like Mike Huckabee crapping all over a prominent female artist because of his own desire to live a conservative life, instead he should be encouraging more women and girls to get into the industry to create a variety of role model types that can appeal to the more conservative and more progressive. We need a range of female role models, ones that don’t feel they are going to be judged because they don’t display the type of image that one person doesn’t agree with.

Bjork is living proof that women are just as capable of having a long-lasting music career. Imagine a world where female artists didn’t have to battle stigma surrounding their appearance and could just get on with their creative work unhindered? We hope we live to see that day!

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  1. Pingback: Boom Clap For Charli XCX And Her Fight For Feminism In Music

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