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Studio album by Björk
Released August 31, 2004 (UK)
  • Greenhouse (Iceland)
  • Estúdio Ilha dos Sapos (Brazil)
  • La Hoyita Studios (Spain)[1]
Length 45:40
Björk chronology
Live Box
Army of Me: Remixes and Covers
Singles from Medúlla
  1. "Who Is It"
    Released: October 18, 2004
  2. "Triumph of a Heart"
    Released: February 28, 2005

Medúlla is the sixth studio album by Icelandic musician Björk, released on August 31, 2004 by Warner Bros. Records and 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.

Background and structure[edit]

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".[2] A friend then suggested "Medúlla", a medical term for bone marrow in Latin.[2] The album cover for Medúlla was photographed by Inez and Vinoodh in London. It features Björk wearing a mask made of hair, a black dress and a necklace that is made of a black substance that says "Medúlla". The hair mask was made specifically for the shoot by Björk's friend, Shoplifter. The photographer said "We 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."[3]

At the time of its construction, Björk considered Medúlla to be her most political album,[4] saying that it countered outbreaks of racism and patriotism that followed the September 11, 2001 attacks.[4] 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".[4][2] 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.[5] Additionally, Björk wore "bluish-purple glittery eye shadow across her lids. Her dark hair dangled in tiny twists that framed her pixieish, freckled face".[6] On October 8, 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.[7] On October 10, 2004, Björk performed a set of five songs live in studio for Gilles Peterson's BBC radio program.[8] On October 15, 2004, Björk performed a set of six songs for the French television show Album de la Semaine at Canal+ studios in Paris, France.[9] On July 2, 2005, Björk performed in Tokyo, Japan, at the Makuhari Messe for Live 8.[10]

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.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 84/100[12]
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4/5 stars[13]
The A.V. Club favourable[18]
Entertainment Weekly A[14]
The Guardian 5/5 stars[19]
NME 8/10[20]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[21]
Spin B+[16]
Stylus Magazine A[15]
Robert Christgau (choice cut)[17]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[22]

Medúlla received general acclaim from music critics. The album holds a rating of 84/100 at Metacritic.[12] The Guardian gave it 5 stars out of 5 and heralded it as "brave and unique". Pitchfork Media concluded: "Medulla is an interesting record...(Björk)'s found a way to bathe her immediately distinctive melodies and vocal nuances in solutions that cause me to reevaluate her voice and her craft". Rolling Stone stated that "Medulla is both the most extreme record Bjork has ever released and the most immediately accessible." In more balanced reviews, 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", while 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."

Björk received two Grammy Award nominations for Medúlla, including Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for "Oceania", and Best Alternative Music Album. This album is also featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Commercial reception[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,[23] and more than 1 million worldwide.[citation needed]

Track listing[edit]

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


Produced by Björk, except #3, 7 and 9, co-produced by Mark Bell.

Charts and certifications[edit]


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  2. ^ a b c McNair, James (12 August 2004). "Passions in a cold climate". The Independent. Retrieved 23 December 2015. 
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  8. ^ "BBC - Radio 1 - Gilles Peterson - Tracklisting". Retrieved 2015-10-25. 
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  11. ^ Bjork Voices "Medulla": Bjork : Rolling Stone at the Wayback Machine (archived December 3, 2007). Retrieved on 2011-02-28.
  12. ^ a b "Medulla Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More at Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
  13. ^ Medúlla at AllMusic
  14. ^ Willman, Chris (10 September 2004). "Medulla". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  15. ^ Björk - Medulla - Review. Stylus Magazine. Retrieved on 7 July 2011.
  16. ^ Bjork - Medulla at the Wayback Machine (archived January 9, 2008). (13 October 2004). Retrieved on 22 November 2012.
  17. ^ CG: bjork. Robert Christgau. Retrieved on 7 July 2011.
  18. ^ Battaglia, Andy (8 September 2004). "Björk: Medulla". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  19. ^ "CD: Björk, Medulla". The Guardian. 27 August 2004. Retrieved 24 December 2015. 
  20. ^ 4 Sept 2004, p.73
  21. ^ Pitchfork: Album Reviews: Björk: Medulla. (30 August 2004). Retrieved on 7 July 2011.
  22. ^ Walters, Barry (16 September 2004). "Medulla". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 April 2012. 
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  50. ^ - Charts - Albums - Top Electronic Albums
  51. ^ "French album certifications – Björk – Medúlla" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. 
  52. ^ "Russian album certifications – Björk – Medúlla" (in Russian). National Federation of Phonogram Producers (NFPF). 
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External links[edit]