Icelandic singer Björk is an artist who refuses to be put in a box.
From her music (a blend of trip-hop, jazz, electronica, and … just about everything else) to her style and stage presence, which are unapologetically, 100%, pure Björk-ian.
The latest act in Björk’s career-long mission of breaking the mold is a series of DJ sets she’s been doing at clubs and festivals around the U.S.
Lets talk about what exactly a DJ set is.
It’s a not-so-little-known secret that musicians love music, and not just their own. They’re constantly collecting influences, inspirations, and insights in the music they listen to and admire every day. A DJ set is when an artist plays some of their favorite music for an audience instead of performing it. They can play selections from their own work, but the night usually consists of a personalized mix of other songs from musicians they admire. It’s an act of musical appreciation for everyone involved, but it’s not a concert.
DJ sets are a pretty common part of the club and music festival scenes, and usually everyone present knows what to expect. They’ve been hosted by artists of all genres, from Animal Collective to Talib Kweli.
In December 2016, Björk was surprised by some of the reviews she received after a DJ set she hosted in Houston.
In a Facebook post, Björk opened up about the sexist double standard that she felt led to the criticism of her act that night, explaining that while most of the artists “played mostly other peoples music,” only she seemed to get dinged for not playing her own music.
“Some media could not get their head around that i was not ‘performing’ and ‘hiding’ behind desks . and my male counterparts not . and i think this is sexism . which at the end of this tumultuous year is something im not going to let slide : because we all deserve maximum changes in this revolutionary energy we are currently in the midst of”
In the post, Björk lamented the fact that women in music are often limited to superficial topics, and experimentation outside of that is criticized.
“Women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends,” wrote Björk. “If they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing, or anything else … journalists feel there is just something missing.”
Björk also noted that male artists are, in many ways, allowed to jump around in subject and experiment with their art more freely. “If [female artists] dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience,” Björk explained.
“Eat your bechtel test heart out.”
There are endless other examples of sexism in the music industry. As more artists like Björk come forward with their stories, the faster we can fix things.
From the lack of female representation at music festivals to Madonna and Björk herself having to constantly explain that, yes, they produce their own music to the truly horrifying and ongoing lawsuit between Kesha and the producer she alleges raped her.
Recognizing and appreciating the ability of female artists to branch out and experiment might seem like a small battle, but it’s a big step in respecting who they are as artists and people — which could have far-reaching effects on the industry.
“Lets make 2017 the year where we fully make the transformation !!!” wrote Björk, clearly excited at the possibility. “The right to variety for all the girls out there !!!”