In 1978, a 19 year-old Kate Bush made history by becoming the first female to get a #1 in theUK with a self-written song titled ‘Wuthering Heights’. Forty years later, she’s self-produced with her own record label ‘Fish People’ and ten albums to her name. On the 16th and 30th November, she will be releasing her entire remastered discography on CD and Vinyl. But what is it about Kate Bush that has continued to make her a treasured figure in music?
Not only did she begin to make her mark at such a young age, she did it on her own terms. Her approach to music is a lot more experimental in comparison to her contemporaries such as Blondie or Madonna. Labelled as ‘the Queen of art pop’, an eclectic range of sounds can be found within her discography such as classical, renaissance, glam rock and reggae to name a few. Several of her albums contain a heavy use of a CMI synthesizer that allows her to manipulate sounds in her music such as broken glass or gun cocks. Since it first appeared in her 1980 album ‘Never for ever’, it became a prominent tool in the production of her future albums. With Bush describing it as an ‘atmospheric tool’, it allows her to further delve into creativity and the avant-garde. However, this is a complete contrast to the piano led ‘Lionheart’ or the rock influences found in ‘The Red Shoes.’ With all of her musical projects, she seamlessly blends various sounds and genres to create an alluring accompaniment to her lyrics.
Bush is very much a storyteller when it comes to writing her lyrics. Her main influences come from multiple aspects of culture whether that be historical, cinematic or found in literature. However, her work that truly stands out is the powerful narratives that she creates herself. For example, ‘Breathing’ is from the viewpoint of a foetus during nuclear war and in ‘And dream of sheep’ she introduces a woman lost at sea. With each of her songs, she creates a character and embodies them entirely to tell the listener their story. Through her emphasis of the powerful yet gentle tones of her voice, she effectively dramatizes her characters. Whether that be a mother, a bank robber or a soldier, her stories continue to be compelling and leave the listener captivated.
Her artistry does not only lie within her music. To accompany her music, she creates magnificent and visually stunning music videos that continue to carry on her stories. In 1993, she released her own musical film ‘The line, the cross and the curve’ for her album ‘The Red Shoes.’ The film was nominated fora Grammy Award and is still played in art house cinemas to this day. Bush is also trained in mime and has taken dance lessons by esteemed choreographer,Lindsay Kemp. With these skills she is able to communicate to her audience through motion and her facial expressions as well as her lyrics, showing herself to be a dynamic artist. In ‘Running up that hill’, the relationship between the man and woman is revealed through how they respond to each other’s actions and the closeness they maintain and repel. With her movement, she gains control leaving everyone else to watch and admire her.
Unfortunately, it’s incredibly rare for Kate Bush to make a public appearance these days. Her 22-date residency at Hammersmith Apollo in 2014 was her first live performance in 35 years. Her choice to remove herself directly from the spotlight allows her to focus entirely on her creative process. Through this isolation, she inadvertently presents herself as a mystical enigmatic figure, and eagerly we watch and wait for what she comes up with next.
Text by Temi Ade-Coker
Picture research by Anna Irina, featured image from Pinterest.