Björk's Miami debut was filled with Easter eggs.
Björk's Miami debut was filled with Easter eggs.
Photo by Santiago Felipe

Björk Took Art Basel to Church and Around the World

Did Björk just dab?

Going into Mana Wynwood Tuesday night, I wasn't sure what to expect from Björk's DJ set. She's not known as a DJ in the traditional sense of the word, and her live shows can feel frenetic on their own.

Would she address the crowd? Would she surprise everyone by singing a couple of tracks live?

No and no. In fact, Björk quietly took the stage a couple minutes after 10 p.m. and started off with a choir crescendoing while birds chirped. If you had listened to her new album, Utopia, all of this would have seemed very familiar. Vines and flowers cascaded from the rafters, giving the illusion that the bird sounds were coming from above. It felt magical.

The Utopia samples continued as she played Visionist's "Your Approval," with the flute samples from "The Gate" punctuating the song. Her whole set seemed to acknowledge she's acutely aware of what her contemporaries are doing. And her sonic palette wasn't limited to Western music. Throughout her set, she highlighted music from the Middle East and India, showing that our understanding of music needs to go beyond North America and Europe.

For the first 30 minutes, Björk had seemingly put together a Pinterest mood board of all the sounds that have been influencing her recent work. Those who had listened to Utopia before going to Mana were rewarded with a multitude of Easter eggs spread throughout the set. For a superfan like me, picking apart everything she played became a game.

But despite the beauty of the set's beginning, the crowd's energy began to wane a bit, because, after all, when you think "DJ set," you think "dancing."

Björk Took Art Basel to Church and Around the World
Photo by Santiago Felipe

Then Björk dropped a sped-up version of Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know," signaling she was ready to have some fun. From the outside, Björk might seem like the avant-garde artist who listens to whale sounds mixed with noise in her spare time, but if her DJ sets have proven anything, it's that she enjoys a good pop track like the rest of us.

So she included cuts such as Junglepussy's "Bling Bling," Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow," and Fever Ray's "To the Moon and Back." That's not to say Björk's DJ set was standard. A microphone might have helped her a bit. It would have been nice to hear her say hi, especially because she had never before appeared as a solo artist in Miami. It also would've helped her explain why she disappeared for three songs. (Bathroom break, I assume.)

The oddest part was when she let Rabit, the Texas-based producer who worked on the Utopia track "Loss," take over the decks for the remainder of the set. She had described on Instagram before the show what would happen, but if you weren't aware, you would've thought she was done for the night. In fact, most of the crowd quickly exited.

If you left early, you missed seeing Björk dance to Trick Daddy and Trina's duet "Nann Nigga," an Art Basel highlight if there ever was one. In fact, Rabit seemed to relish his surroundings, playing plenty of Miami bass and Southern crunk hits such as Jacki-O's "Pussy (Real Good)" and Trina's "B R Right."

Rabit
Rabit
Photo by Santiago Felipe

Rabit closed the set with arguably the oddest track a DJ has ever dropped: Hole's "Dying," an obscure cut from the band's 1998 album, Celebrity Skin.

Whether you thought Björk's DJ skills were any good depended upon your expectations. Yes, it was all over the place, and she could have done a better job of letting us know what was happening. But it still felt as if we were peeking into her personal Spotify playlist.

After last night, if Björk were to invite me to party at her house, I wouldn't hesitate to RSVP.

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