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Studio album by Björk
Released 31 August 2004
Length 45:40
Björk chronology
Vespertine Live
(2004)Vespertine Live2004
Army of Me: Remixes and Covers
(2005)Army of Me: Remixes and Covers2005
Singles from Medúlla
  1. "Who Is It"
    Released: 18 October 2004
  2. "Triumph of a Heart"
    Released: 28 February 2005

Medúlla is the fifth solo album by Icelandic musician Björk,[nb 1] released on 30 August 2004 by One Little Indian. The title derives from the Latin word for "marrow". The album is almost entirely a cappella and constructed with human vocals. Medúlla received two Grammy Award nominations and reached number one in several record charts.


A mannequin wearing the hair mask and the Alexander McQueen–designed bell dress from the "Who Is It" music video, at Björk's exhibition at MoMA

The album cover for Medúlla was photographed by Inez and Vinoodh in London, on 28 June 2004, and designed by M/M Paris. It features Björk wearing a mask made of hair, which was made specifically for the shoot, a black dress and a necklace that is made of black "bones" that says "Medúlla".[7] The hair mask was created by Shoplifter, an Icelandic Björk's friend. The artist stated that in 2004, she had a solo show at ATM Gallery, where she showed a wall mural made of brown braids. Björk appreciated it, and then invited her to work on creating a hair sculpture to support her idea for the Medúlla's character. She also explained that because the album was entirely recorded with voices, the singer did not want to wear clothes but more things that were made of something from the body.[8] Shoplifter complemented by saying,

"For the album we tossed ideas back and forth, I sent her endless references of extreme hairstyles from the past. Björk wanted it to have a darkness about it, like a warrior or a Valkyrie, like somebody fierce. It felt like a roar or a rumble coming from the gut, it was coming from a dark place. It was a very strong character that she developed around the music, and a human hair wig was basket-woven into a helmet that I would install and add it together with her hair".[8]

Photographer Inez van Lamsweerde said that they "were all inspired by women's handicrafts and this idea of being in your own cocoon in your home, with your family, and this reclusive character that hand-makes the whole world around her". The hairpiece was part of a 2015 MoMA retrospective on the singer, titled Björk.[9] In an interview with Style magazine, Shoplifter said about her part at the exhibition, explaining it dedicated a room to each album of Björk's career, with the Medulla section having a mannequin in the likeness of Björk wearing the Alexander McQueen–designed bell dress she wore in the video for her song "Who Is It".[8]


Björk struggled to find a title for the album. She said, "Something in me wanted to leave out civilisation, to rewind to before it all happened and work out, 'Where is the human soul? What if we do without civilisation and religion and patriotism, without the stuff that has gone wrong?'", originally calling it Ink, as she wanted the title to represent the "5,000 year-old blood that's inside us all; an ancient spirit that's passionate and dark, a spirit that survives".[10] A friend then suggested "Medúlla", a medical term for bone marrow in Latin.[10]

Music structure and lyrics[edit]

At the time of its construction, Björk considered Medúlla to be her most political album,[11] saying that it countered outbreaks of racism and patriotism that followed the 11 September 2001 attacks.[11] These messages are prominent throughout the album, especially on the song "Mouth's Cradle". Björk also stated that being pregnant with her daughter, Ísadóra, influenced the album, particularly the song "Submarine".[11][10] Björk described "Submarine" as a song meant to call her attention to wake up and work, because she felt that maybe she got somewhat lazy after having her daughter.

The album consists almost entirely of human vocals and a cappella arrangements; only a few musical instruments are featured: a bass synthesizer on "Who Is It", piano on "Ancestors" and a gong on "Pleasure Is All Mine". However, the vocals are sometimes processed or sampled: for example, the atmospheric haze that dominates "Desired Constellation" was created from a sample of Björk singing the phrase "I'm not sure what to do with it" from "Hidden Place" on her previous album, Vespertine; another example are the cut-up vocals in "Mouth's Cradle"; and also, the beat noises on "Miðvikudags" are made out of Björk clicking her tongue. The album features beatboxing, choral arrangements and throat singing, as well as guest appearances by such artists as Mike Patton, Robert Wyatt, Tanya Tagaq, Rahzel (formerly of The Roots), Shlomo and Dokaka.

All songs were written by Björk, except the lyrics for "Sonnets/Unrealities XI" which was based on the poem It May Not Always Be So; And I Say by E. E. Cummings, and the song "Vökuró", originally by Jórunn Viðar.

The album was originally released on CD, SACD and on DVD-Audio and SACD in 5.1-channel advanced resolution. The album was re-released in 2006 as a DualDisc including a lower-quality DTS 96/24 version of the original advanced resolution 5.1 mix. The DualDisc also formed part of the ( surrounded): box set.


"Oceania" was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2004 Olympic Games. She wore a very large dress which unfolded during her performance to eventually occupy the entire stadium and showed a map of the world in sign of union.[12] Additionally, Björk wore "bluish-purple glittery eye shadow across her lids. Her dark hair dangled in tiny twists that framed her pixieish, freckled face".[13] On 8 October 2004, Björk performed at the BBC Studios for the show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. She performed a bell choir mix of "Who Is It" with Rahzel and an English bell choir.[14] On 10 October 2004, Björk performed a set of five songs live in studio for Gilles Peterson's BBC Radio 1 program.[15] On 15 October 2004, Björk performed a set of six songs for the French television show Album de la Semaine at Canal+ studios in Paris, France.[16] On 2 July 2005, Björk performed in Tokyo, Japan, at the Makuhari Messe for Live 8.[17]

Other than these few performances, no concerts or tours were arranged to promote Medúlla. Björk said in numerous interviews that this was because she wished to immediately continue writing and recording yet another new album. She spoke to Rolling Stone in June 2004: "Every album I've done, the minute that it's done, I feel really lubricated and, like, 'Wow, now I can write an album in five minutes'... And I just want to find out if that's just a fantasy or if it's true." Also, Björk thought it would be too difficult to play the songs live.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 84/100[19]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[20]
Entertainment Weekly A[21]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[22]
Los Angeles Times 3.5/4 stars[23]
Mojo 4/5 stars[24]
NME 8/10[25]
Pitchfork 8.4/10[2]
Q 3/5 stars[26]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[27]
Spin B+[28]

Medúlla received critical acclaim from music critics. The album holds a rating of 84 out of 100 at Metacritic.[19] The Guardian newspaper's David Peschek gave it five stars out of five and heralded it as "brave and unique".[22] Dominique Leone from Pitchfork commented that Medulla was "an interesting record", while saying Björk had "found a way to bathe her immediately distinctive melodies and vocal nuances in solutions that cause me to reevaluate her voice and her craft".[2] Barry Walters of Rolling Stone stated that "Medulla is both the most extreme record Bjork has ever released and the most immediately accessible."[27] Blender's Ann Powers was also positive, calling it "another playful step" in Björk's "unstoppable, wandering quest".[29] Matthew Gasteier from Prefix magazine called Medúlla her most joyful album since Post and also her strangest at the time.[30] Mark Daniell from Canadian website Jam! also gave it a positive review, saying "pairing gooey purrs with grooves provided by a human trombone might not seem like a good idea, but when Björk is the one making the arrangements the effect is spine tingling".[31]

Andy Battaglia of The A.V. Club said that "Once perceptions and expectations settle out... the album proves arrestingly in thrall to its own twisted tongue",[32] whilst AllMusic thought that Medúlla is "not an immediate album, but it is a fascinating one, especially for anyone interested in the world's oldest instrument being used in unexpected ways".[20] Jennifer Vineyard from MTV News called the album "an ambitious project — and not just because it's almost entirely a cappella. The songs are pretty unusual, as well. Some could be medieval hymns; others could be modern pop songs; others are almost indescribable. But throughout, Medúlla is a strange journey that can leave you feeling elated or unsettled, without quite understanding why".[33] David Hooper from BBC Music gave Medúlla a mixed review, stating that it has some high points and it never gets boring, but the album left him "feeling rather confused", because "the end product feels disjointed and at times claustrophobic. Whereas previous albums like Vespertine were real growers, some people may lose patience with this one. The unquenchable desire to try out new ideas, which makes Björk such an exciting artist, may prove to be her downfall on Medúlla, as too much of the experimentation doesn't quite hit the mark".[34] Björk received two Grammy Award nominations for Medúlla, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Oceania", and Best Alternative Music Album.[35] This album was also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[36]

Commercial performance[edit]

The album reached a position of number nine on the UK Albums Chart and number 14 on the US Billboard 200, her highest position at the time. It also reached number one in Estonia, France, Iceland and Belgium (Wallonia).

Medúlla has sold 235,000 copies in the US,[37] and more than 1 million worldwide.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Björk except where noted; all tracks produced by Björk, except where noted.

No. Title Length
1. "Pleasure Is All Mine" 3:26
2. "Show Me Forgiveness" 1:23
3. "Where Is the Line" (producers: Björk, Mark Bell) 4:41
4. "Vökuró" ("Vigil";[38] writers: Jórunn Viðar, Jakobína Sigurðardóttir) 3:14
5. "Öll Birtan" ("All the Brightness"[38]) 1:52
6. "Who Is It (Carry My Joy on the Left, Carry My Pain on the Right)" 3:57
7. "Submarine" (producers: Björk, Bell) 3:13
8. "Desired Constellation" (writers: Björk, Olivier Alary) 4:55
9. "Oceania" (writers: Björk, Sjón; producers: Björk, Bell) 3:24
10. "Sonnets/Unrealities XI" (writers: Björk, E. E. Cummings) 1:59
11. "Ancestors" (writers: Björk, Tagaq) 4:08
12. "Mouth's Cradle" 4:00
13. "Miðvikudags" ("Wednesday") 1:24
14. "Triumph of a Heart" 4:04


Charts and certifications[edit]


  1. ^ Medúlla is officially considered to be the fifth solo album,[6] although technically it can be viewed as sixth if to count her 1977 juvenilia work, or seventh, counting in her 1990 jazz output Gling-Gló.


  1. ^ "björk : albums : MEDÚLLA". 24 April 2005. Archived from the original on 24 April 2005. Retrieved 23 June 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c Leone, Dominique (30 August 2004). "Björk: Medulla". Pitchfork. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Bjork, Medulla (Elektra)". Spin. 17 November 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  4. ^ "Björk lança o seu trabalho mais experimental" (in Portuguese). Terra. 13 September 2004. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  5. ^ "Medulal - Bjork". One Little Indian. Retrieved 13 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "New Releases". One Little Indian. Archived from the original on 6 August 2004. Retrieved 29 March 2016. 
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  8. ^ a b c Rosenfeld, Austen (6 March 2015). "Meet Shoplifter, Björk’s Icelandic Hair Sculptor". Style. Archived from the original on 7 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Gottschalk, Molly (2 March 2015). "As Björk Opens at MoMA, Behind the Scenes of Her Most Iconic Images". Artsy. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c McNair, James (12 August 2004). "Passions in a cold climate". The Independent. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
  11. ^ a b c Liz Hoggard (13 March 2005). "'Maybe I'll be a feminist in my old age'". Retrieved 23 August 2008. 
  12. ^ Larson, Jeremy D. (26 July 2012). "11 Olympic Theme Songs, Dissected". Time. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  13. ^ "Bjork, Tiesto Help Ring in Olympics". Billboard. 14 August 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "Graham Norton trips the light fantastic". BBC Online. 8 October 2004. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Gilles Peterson - Tracklisting". BBC Radio 1. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "L'Album de la semaine". L'Album de la semaine. Season 1. 25 October 2004. 19 minutes in. Canal+. 
  17. ^ "Live8 begins in Japan". The Age. 2 July 2005. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  18. ^ Gitlin, Lauren (15 June 2004). "Bjork Voices "Medulla"". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  19. ^ a b "Reviews for Medulla by Björk". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  20. ^ a b Phares, Heather. "Medúlla – Björk". AllMusic. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  21. ^ Willman, Chris (10 September 2004). "Medulla". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Peschek, David (27 August 2004). "Björk, Medulla". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  23. ^ Cromelin, Richard (5 September 2004). "Ambitious music, even by Bjork's standards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  24. ^ "Björk: Medulla". Mojo (130): 93. September 2004. 
  25. ^ "Björk: Medulla". NME: 73. 4 September 2004. 
  26. ^ Mulholland, Garry (October 2004). "Björk: Medulla". Q (219): 120. ISSN 0955-4955. 
  27. ^ a b Walters, Barry (16 September 2004). "Medulla". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  28. ^ Harris, Keith (16 September 2004). "Björk: Medulla". Spin. 20 (10): 111–12. Retrieved 9 May 2016. 
  29. ^ Powers, Ann. "Björk - Medúlla". Blender. Archived from the original on 19 October 2004. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  30. ^ Gasteiser, Matthew (31 August 2004). "Bjork - Medulla". Prefix. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  31. ^ Daniell, Mark (1 September 2004). "Medulla". Jam!. Retrieved 20 August 2017. 
  32. ^ Battaglia, Andy (8 September 2004). "Björk: Medulla". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  33. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (12 August 2004). "Bjork Album Preview: Beautiful, Baffling and Bothersome Medúlla". MTV News. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  34. ^ Hooper, David. "Bjork Medúlla Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 26 December 2015. 
  35. ^ "Grammy Awards 2005: Key winners". BBC News. 14 February 2005. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  36. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  37. ^ Bliss, Karen (10 May 2007). "Bjork's New Blend". Billboard. Retrieved 24 September 2016. 
  38. ^ a b "LYRICS •". Retrieved 1 March 2012. 
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Björk – Medúlla". Hung Medien. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
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  43. ^ "Top 50 Ξένων Άλμπουμ" (in Greek). IFPI Greece. Archived from the original on 10 October 2004. Retrieved 20 September 2016. 
  44. ^ "GFK Chart-Track Albums: Week 36, 2004". Chart-Track. IRMA. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  45. ^ Inc, Nielsen Business Media (11 September 2004). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved 23 June 2017 – via Google Books. 
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  47. ^ "Björk | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart Retrieved 23 December 2015.
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  50. ^ "French album certifications – Björk – Medúlla" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 12 December 2016. 
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  52. ^ "Russian album certifications – Björk – Medúlla" (in Russian). National Federation of Phonogram Producers (NFPF). 
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External links[edit]