“Icelandic Music or Music from Iceland?” The Image of Icelandic Popular Music in British Media

Authors

  • Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir University of Iceland
  • Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson University of Iceland
  • Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen University of Iceland

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.41191

Keywords:

Iceland, popular music, national image, Icelandic music, Björk, media

Abstract

This article aims to understand the image of Icelandic music as it is portrayed in three British media outlets and how this relates to the country of origin and the national image of Iceland. Using qualitative methods, the authors analysed 195 articles about Icelandic music. The image of Icelandic music has strong connections with Icelandic nature, whether imagined (other-worldly) or real (e.g., lava formations and glaciers). This is particularly true for Björk’s and Sigur Rós’s music. Findings indicate that these artists, specifically the eccentric Björk, have paved the way for a symbolically loaded “Icelandic sound” and, accordingly, have built a strong image of Icelandic music. At the same time, emerging popular artists from Iceland, such as Of Monsters and Men and Kaleo, go against this trend by following a different path which does not match established expectations for Icelandic music, thus shifting the focus from Icelandic music towards music from Iceland.

Author Biographies

Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir, University of Iceland

Margret Sigrun Sigurdardottir is an associate professor at the Faculty of Business Administration at the University of Iceland. Her PhD thesis, from the Copenhagen Business School in 2010, was on the organization of the British music industry. She has since conducted research on the creative industries in Iceland with a particular focus on music.

Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson, University of Iceland

Kristjan Mar Gunnarsson earned his four degrees at the University of Iceland, the most relevant being M.S. in Marketing, earned in 2016. He works in marketing and market research in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen, University of Iceland

Arnar Eggert Thoroddsen earned his PhD in 2019 at the University of Edinburgh under the supervision of Professor Simon Frith. He is the director of the undergraduate media and communication studies programme at the University of Iceland. He is the author of three books on Icelandic music with the fourth in progress.

References

Allen, L. 2011. “Bjork on Biophilia and Her Debt to UK Dance Music”. BBC, 28 July. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-14318593

Aronczyk, M. 2008. “‘Living the Brand’: Nationality, Globality, and the Identity Strategies of Nation Branding Consultants”. International Journal of Communication 2: 41–65.

Baker, S. 2014. “‘Nobody expectsto be paid … nobody asks, what isthe fee?’: Making a Living from Music in a Time of Economic Crisis—the Icelandic Experience”. In Popular Music Matters: Essays in Honour of Simon Frith, edited by L. Marshall and D. Laing, 31–44. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Barnes, H. 2008. “New Music on Wednesday - Iceland Airwaves Special!” The Guardian, 12 October. http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2008/oct/08/iceland.airwaves

Benediktsson, K., K. A. Lund and E. Huijbens. 2011. “Inspired by Eruptions? Eyjafjallajökull and Icelandic Tourism”. Mobilities 6/1: 77–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2011.532654 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17450101.2011.532654

Biesenbach, K. 2015. “Björk: Earth Intruder?” BBC, 5 March. http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20150305-bjrk-earth-intruder?ocid=global_culture_rss

Brockes, E. 2006. “The Emma Brockes Interview: Björk”. The Guardian, 13 February. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2006/feb/13/popandrock1

Brown, H. 2011. “Björk: Biophilia, CD of the Week”. The Telegraph, 6 October. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/cdreviews/8811194/Bjork-Biophilia-CD-of-the-week.html

Cannady, K. 2017. “Echoes of the Colonial Past in Discourse on North Atlantic Popular Music”. In The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries, edited by F. Holt and A. V. Kärjä, 201–218. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190603908.013.11 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190603908.013.11

Connell, J. and C. Gibson. 2003. Sound Tracks: Popular Music, Identity, and Place. New York: Psychology Press. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203448397 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203448397

Cragg, M. 2013. “Björk’s Debut: Celebrating 20 Years of Innovation”. The Guardian, 5 July. http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/jul/05/bjork-debut-20-years-of-innovation

Damman, G. 2015. “Ice and Fire:The Classical Music Scene in Iceland”.The Guardian, 9 January. http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/jan/09/classical-music-scene-in-iceland

Dibben, N. 2009. “Nature and Nation: National Identity and Environmentalism in Icelandic Popular Music Video and Music Documentary”. Ethnomusicology Forum 18/1: 131–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/17411910902816542 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17411910902816542

——2017. “Music and Environmentalism in Iceland”. In The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries, edited by F. Holt and A. Kärjä, 163–82. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dinnie, K. 2015. Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice. London and New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315773612 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315773612

Empire, K. 2013. “Sigur Rós: Kveikur—Review”. The Guardian, 16 June. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jun/16/sigur-ros-kveikur-review

——2014. “Ásgeir: In the Silence—Review”. The Guardian, 26 January. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/jan/26/asgeir-in-the-silence-review

Fitzpatrick, R. 2011. “Sigur Rós: ‘We’re justfour dudesin a band’”. The Guardian, 10November. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/nov/10/inni-sigur-ros

Gill, J. 2008. “Emiliana Torrini Me and Armini Review”. BBC, 8 September. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/vjcz

Gittins, I. 2011. “Ólöf Arnalds—Review”. The Guardian, 4 March. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/mar/04/olof-arnalds-review

Godler, Y. and Z. Reich. 2013. “How Journalists ‘Realize’ Facts: Epistemology in Practice at Press Conferences”. Journalism Practice 7/6: 674–89. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2013.791067 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17512786.2013.791067

Gunnarsson, K. M. 2016. “Að slá í gegn, græða íslenskar hljómsveitir á því að segjast vera frá Íslandi”. Master’s dissertation, University of Iceland. http://hdl.handle.net/1946/24086

Gürhan-Canli, Z. and D. Maheswaran. 2000. “Cultural Variations in Country of Origin Effects”. Journal of Marketing Research 37/3: 309–317. https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.37.3.309.18778 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1509/jmkr.37.3.309.18778

Hall, Þ. D. 2017. “‘Even cute babies will bite when provoked’: Icelandic Popular Music and the Rise of the Krútt”. In Sounds Icelandic, edited by Þ. D. Hall, N. Dibben, Á. H. Ingólfsson and M. Tony, 114–34. Sheffield: Equinox.

Hallur Már. 2012. “Ótrúlegur árangur Of Monsters and Men [Of Monsters and Men’s unbelievable success]”. Morgunblaðið, 5 June. http://www.mbl.is/frettir/sjonvarp/83214/

Hoban, A. 2008. “Turning Japanese: The Sound of Distant Tundra”. The Guardian, 4November. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2008/nov/04/turning-japanese-sigur-ros

Holt, F. 2017. “Introduction: Music in a Globalizing Region”. In The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries, edited by F. Holt and A. V. Kärjä, 1–32. Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190603908.001.0001 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190603908.001.0001

Hudgkinson, W. 2010. “‘I don’t want geysers in my videos’”. The Guardian, 19 September. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/sep/16/olaf-arnalds-innundir-skinni?CMP=twt_gu&fbclid=IwAR2Ouncpwk29TVeNsRYjYwENR9ALRRJmeL-5XhGxRJ6ifjitxwzuClwrQFI

Hudson, R. 2006. “Regions and Place: Music, Identity and Place”. Progress in Human Geography 30/5: 626–34. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132506070177 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132506070177

Hutchinson, K. 2016. “Kaleo: A/B Review—Warbling, Fedora-clad Rock with not a Single Original Idea”. The Guardian, 23 June. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jun/23/kaleo-ab-review-warbling-fedora-clad-rock-with-not-a-single-original-idea?fbclid=IwAR08tOX8uz1P7VMP46m94cP3e_NMW8J4-B-AD_1oc8pImuhyxwlwoyzgF7E

Icelandic Tourist Board. n.d. https://www.ferdamalastofa.is/is/tolur-og-utgafur/fjoldi-ferdamanna/heildarfjoldi-erlendra-ferdamanna

——2014. Survey among Foreign Tourists in Iceland Summer 2014. Icelandic Tourist Board.

Jones, F. 2007. “Iceland Airwaves ’07 - Day Four”. BBC, 20 October. http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/atl/review_specific132839.shtml

Kaneva, N. 2011. “Nation Branding: Toward an Agenda for Critical Research”. International Journal of Communication 5: 117–41.

Kelly, J. 2012. “The Formula for Scottishness”. BBC News Magazine, 26 October. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20048521

Kerrigan, F., J. Shivanandan and A. M. Hede. 2012. “Nation Branding: A Critical Appraisal of Incredible India”. Journal of Macromarketing 32/3: 319–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146712445788 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0276146712445788

Kjartansdóttir, G. 2010. “Made in Iceland”. Master’s dissertation, University of Iceland. http://hdl.handle.net/1946/5188

Kjartansdóttir, K. and K. Schram. 2013. “Something in the Air: Performing the North within Norden”. In Performing Nordic Heritage: Everyday Practices and Institutional Culture, edited by P. Aronsson and L. Gradén, 53–72. Farnham and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Kniazeva, M. 2011. “It all began with a kiss, or when packaging sells a country”. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research 5/4: 383–95. https://doi.org/10.1108/17506181111174664 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/17506181111174664

Kotler, P. and D. Gertner. 2002. “Country as Brand, Product, and Beyond: A Place Marketing and Brand Management Perspective”. Journal of Brand Management 9/4: 249–61. https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.bm.2540076 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.bm.2540076

Lester, P. 2012. “Of Monsters and Men (No 1,278)”. The Guardian, 29 May. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2012/may/29/new-band-monsters-men

——2013. “Ásgeir (No 1,553)”. The Guardian, 15 July. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/jul/15/asgeir

Loftsdóttir, K. 2015. “The Exotic North: Gender, Nation Branding and Post-colonialism in Iceland”. NORA—Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 23/4: 246–60. https://doi.org/10.1080/08038740.2015.1086814 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08038740.2015.1086814

Marsh, P. 2001. “Bjork Vespertine Review”. BBC, 28 August. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/8rgb/

McCrone, D., A. Morris and R. Kiely. 1995. Scotland—the Brand: The Making of Scottish Heritage. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

McLean, C. 2007. “There’s No Place Like Home”. The Guardian, 14 October. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2007/oct/14/popandrock11

Merkelsen, H. and R. K. Rasmussen. 2016. “Nation Branding as an Emerging Field—an Institutionalist Perspective”. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 12/2–3: 99–109. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-016-0018-6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-016-0018-6

Mitchell, T. 2009. “Sigur Rós’s Heima: An Icelandic Psychogeography”. Transforming Cultures 4/1: 172–98. https://doi.org/10.5130/tfc.v4i1.1072 DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/tfc.v4i1.1072

——2017. “Music and Landscape in Iceland”. In The Oxford Handbook of Popular Music in the Nordic Countries, edited by F. Holt and A. Kärjä, 145–62. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Murphy, B. 2015. “Reykjavik Rappin’: How Iceland’s Cool Kids Created a Hotbed of Hip-hop”. The Guardian, 29 July. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/29/reykjavik-rappin-how-icelands-cool-kids-created-a-hotbed-of-hip-hop

Nelson, T. 2008. “Sigur Rós Með Suð í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust Review”. BBC, 24 June. http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/reviews/59zf

Ng, K. H. and T. Skotnicki. 2016. “‘That British sound’: Talk of Nationalness in Global Capitalism”. Signs and Society 4/1: 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1086/684444 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/684444

Pálsdóttir, I. H. 2016. “Promoting Iceland: The Shift from Nature to People’s Power”. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 12/2–3: 210–217. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-016-0040-8 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41254-016-0040-8

Page, S. J. and S. Pike. 2014. “Destination Marketing Organizations and Destination Marketing: A Narrative Analysis of the Literature”. Tourism Management 42: 202–227. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2013.09.009 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2013.09.009

Pike, D. 2009. “Geographies of Brands and Branding”. Progress in Human Geography 33/5: 619–45. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132508101601 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132508101601

Plush, H. 2016. “29 Reasons Why Iceland is Incredible”. The Telegraph, 25 September. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/iceland/articles/iceland-the-best-things-to-see-and-do/

Prime Minister’s Office. 2008. Ímynd Íslands - styrkur, staða og stefna [Image of Iceland, strength, placement and strategy]. https://www.stjornarradid.is/media/forsaetisraduneyti-media/media/skyrslur/forsaetisr_arsskyrsla_end2.pdf

Prior, N. 2015. “‘It’s a social thing, not a nature thing’: Popular Music Practices in Reykjavík, Iceland”. Cultural Sociology 9/1: 81–98. https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975514534219 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1749975514534219

Promote Iceland. 2019. “International Image of Iceland: Nation, Production and Services”. https://public.tableau.com/profile/mask.na#!/vizhome/Image-public/Image-Detailed

Richardson, J. 2017. “Surrealism in Icelandic Popular Music”. In Sounds Icelandic, edited by P. D. Hall, N. Dibben, Á. H. Ingólfsson and T. Mitchell, 172–93. Sheffield: Equinox.

Roncha, A. 2008. “Nordic Brands towards a Design-oriented Concept”. Journal of Brand Management 16/1–2: 21–29. https://doi.org/10.1057/bm.2008.16 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/bm.2008.16

Schram, K. 2011. “Banking on Borealism: Eating, Smelling, and Performing the North”. In Iceland and Images of the North, edited by D. Chartier and S. R. Ísleifsson, 305–327. Québec: Presses de l’Université du Québec. https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv18pgjb2.16 DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv18pgjb2.16

Sigurdardottir, M. S. 2019. “… And Björk of course—The Image of Icelandic Music”. In The Nature of Nordic Music, edited by T. Howell, 108–122. Abingdon and New York: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315462851-6 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315462851-6

Smith, C. L. 2011. “Olafur Arnalds: The Indie Kid Who Knows the Score”. The Guardian, 9 January. http://www.theguardian.com/music/2011/jan/09/olafur-arnalds-producer-drummer-interview

Størvold, T. 2018. “Sigur Rós: Reception, Borealism, and Musical Style”. Popular Music 37/3: 371–91. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143018000442 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143018000442

——2020. “Musical Aesthetics below Ground: Volcanic Action and the Geosocial in Sigur Rós’s ‘Brennisteinn’”. Journal of Aesthetics and Culture 12/1: 1–11.

Strauss, A. L. and J. M. Corbin. 1990. Basics of Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications.

Thoroddsen, A. E. 2012. “Þegar ljónshjörtun sigruðu Ameríku [When the lionhearts conquered America]”. Morgunblaðið, April.

——2018. “Music-making in a Northern Isle: Iceland and the Village Factor”. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Edinburgh.

Tweed, F. and A. Watson. 2019. “The Screams All Sound the Same: The Music of Of Monsters and Men and the Icelandic Imaginary as Geographical Discourse”. Area 51/1: 126–33. https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12422 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12422

Weisethaunet, H. 2007. “Historiography and Complexities: Why is Music ‘National’?” Popular Music History 2/2: 169–99. https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v2i2.169 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1558/pomh.v2i2.169

Published

2021-12-10

How to Cite

Sigurdardottir, M. S. ., Gunnarsson, K. M. ., & Thoroddsen, A. E. . (2021). “Icelandic Music or Music from Iceland?” The Image of Icelandic Popular Music in British Media. Journal of World Popular Music, 8(2), 185–206. https://doi.org/10.1558/jwpm.41191

Issue

Section

Articles