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Remembering the Time Only One Other Woman Headlined Coachella

This year Beyonce will headline Coachella so let's look back at the last woman who came through a full decade ago: Bjork in 2007.

by Sarah MacDonald
Jan 5 2017, 3:09pm

Image via YouTube

Image via YouTube

Earlier this week, Coachella, a music festival in California that also doubles as a flower crown convention, announced its line-up for this year. For what it's worth, it is actually a very good line-up. Consider that the headliners Beyonce, Radiohead, and Kendrick Lamar are also billed with acts like Stormzy, Warpaint, Mitski, Arkells, Tory Lanez, and Hans Zimmer. Wild! But the biggest news was that Beyonce, pop culture's queen, would fill Saturday's headline slot. This is a big announcement for two reasons: Beyonce is the first black female performer to headline and she is also only the second female headliner at the festival in its nearly 20-year history. The only other woman to headline Coachella is Bjork, who headlined in 2002 and 2007. Bittersweetly fitting how, a decade later, Beyonce would be the one to assume a headlining mantle. Not like she hasn't deserved it earlier than 2017, and the same can be said about many, many other female performers.  

We can lament all the ways in which Coachella fucks up nearly every year by choosing tired bands to headline (Guns n' Roses, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Roger Waters) or famous DJs who rely on the women they bring out during their performance to hype the crowd. But we can also look at Bjork's last headlining performance in 2007, which—long before the festival was a two-weekend endeavor—was fantastic and a singular experience that couldn't be replicated. 

Bjork and Beyonce share a few similarities: they are both calculatingly precise with their music and performance, having a literal hand wherever they can; their works are both raw and heartbreaking details of the female experience; and they both put on visually and sonically gripping live performances. Both have, also, been problematic faves: Bjork's liberal use of the n-word in reference to sound and music, as well as the utilization of sweatshops for Beyonce's athleisure apparel, Ivy Park. 

Bjork's nearly hour-and-a-half long set —which also took place during the coveted Saturday slot of the festival— takes the audience on through sonic whips and turns. Wearing a dress with colourful tulle and a skeleton bodice—a move that looks very deliberate, showing us her "insides"—Bjork, accompanied by a full band, belts out tracks like "Oceania", "Army of Me", and "All Is Full of Love" to name a few. Bjork is a rare avant-garde artist to have crossover appeal. She took her deep synths, horns, and lasers to the desert and it was magical. Bjork's Coachella performance is both innocent and youthful, with the singer prancing around the stage, and powerfully wise. Her songs are odes to the feminine and act as modern chants in tribute. A decade removed, you can still get chills listening to her literally jump through her catalogue.

Whatever Beyonce's set will look like this year, we know that it, too, will be powerful, both visually and sonically. That's just the way Beyonce functions. One can only hope that we don't have to wait another decade for a woman to headline this influential of a festival and that we won't have to go through Beyonce's set a decade later to recognize, again, why women deserve to be there and at the top.   

Sarah is feeling jumpy and is here to slander any and all this year. Follow her on Twitter.