It’s fair to say that in the summer of 2007, the top 10 of Billboard’s Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart was something of a hodgepodge.
Now-classic LPs like LCD Soundsystem’s Sound of Silver and Gnarls Barkley’s St. Elsewhere mingled with various compilation albums of club tracks and disco cuts. Elsewhere in the top 10, Tiësto and Imogen Heap made unlikely chart partners.
But in the No. 1 position was an artist well-familiar with the territory. On June 18, 2007, Björk had once again ascended to the top of the chart with her sixth studio album, Volta. It was the Icelandic artist’s second LP to reach the No. 1 position and the album that spent by far the most time, 9 weeks, at the top, with Vespertine charting at No. 1 for 3 weeks in 2001 and Biophilia spending a week in the top position in 2011. (Billboard launched the Top Dance/Electronic Albums chart in June 2001, meaning that many of Björk’s earlier albums like Post and Homogenic predated it.)
While Volta was less overtly electronic than some the work on these previous LPs, in moments turning to cinematic orchestral arrangements and ethereal harp sounds, the album maintained the avant-garde electronic experimentalism that had established Björk as one of the scene’s most interesting and exciting artists — in the truest sense of the word — since her emergence in the early ’90s.
“But with this one, it was different because I knew more emotionally what I wanted,” Björk told Pitchfork of Volta in 2007. “And because I’d done two or three projects in a row that were quite serious, maybe I just needed to get that out of my system or something. So all I wanted to do for this album was just to have fun and do something that was full-bodied and really up.”
To get really up, Björk recruited collaborators including Timbaland, who was on a hot streak in 2007 with recent hits including Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” and Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.” Timbaland’s work on the LP focused largely (and unsurprisingly) on rhythm, with the star producer delivering beats for album singles “Earth Intruders” and “Innocence.”
“It wasn’t like I was desperate for the hottest producer,” Björk told MTV News of the collaboration in 2007. “I just thought for a long time that we might be really, really different, but we have this tiny little section that we have in common. I guess I was just up for a bit of action in my music, and maybe that’s why this became sort of the moment where we decided to go for it. Even though we are quite different, we have something musical in common.”
The Volta tour was Björk’s first in four years and ran from April 2007 to August of 2008. She performed “Earth Intruders” on the April 21, 2007 episode of Saturday Night Live (which was hosted by Scarlett Johansson, who was then promoting her film The Nanny Diaries), appearing barefoot on a stage packed with musicians and a robed female choir who lent the song’s “ooh ooh ooh’s” Björk’s trademark cerebral playfulness.
“Earth Intruders” would become one of the album’s standout tracks, with the song hitting No. 84 on the Hot 100 in April 2007. Another standout came via Volta’s closing song “Declare Independence,” a personal emancipation anthem on which Björk encouraged listeners to “start your own currency, make your own stamp, protect your language… declare independence, don’t let them do that to you.” Thirteen summers later, these themes remain particularly relevant.
“I mean, the human race, we are a tribe, let’s face it, and let’s stop all this religious bullshit,” Björk said in that same Pitchfork interview. “I think everybody, or at least a lot of my friends, are just so exhausted with this whole self-importance of religious people. Just drop it. We’re all fucking animals, so let’s just make some universal tribal beat. We’re pagan. Let’s just march.”