Kate Bush is a superstar like no other. Bursting on to the music scene during the seventies, Bush emerged as a timeless master, even if she was still in her teens. Unafraid to make decisions and never scared to push herself creatively, Bush has largely operated in a sphere outside of the mainstream. She may have arrived as a pop star for the ages, but she soon gravitated towards being wholly inimitable as her modus operandi.
More often than not, this meant her albums, in particular, rarely followed a simple pattern. When you add Bush’s unwillingness to tour, only providing two in her entire career, it means that the songs on her albums, some of the best songs, in fact, were rarely shared outside of the LP. Below, we’ve done our best to dig out the finest songs from each of her ten studio albums as a reminder of her varied talent.
Kate Bush’s journey to stardom began at a very young age and would set her up for her role as an artistic visionary. Discovered by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour when she was only 16-years-old and still finding herself as an artist as well as a woman. Gilmour was working on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here when he was given a demo tape consisting of 50 songs of a young Kate Bush’s own composition. Just let that sink in for a minute. 50 songs from a teenager. It was proof alone that Bush was a sensational talent.
“I was intrigued by this strange voice,” Gilmour says in a new interview for the BBC. “I went to her house, met her parents down in Kent. And she played me, gosh, it must have been 40 or 50 songs on tape. And I thought, I should try and do something.
“I think we had the [EMI] record-company people down at Abbey Road in No. 3,” Gilmour adds. “And I said to them, ‘Do you want to hear something I’ve got?’ They said sure, so we found another room, and I played them ‘The Man with a Child in his Eyes.’ And they said, ‘Yep, thank you — we’ll have it.’ [Laughs.] It’s absolutely beautiful, isn’t it? That’s her singing at the age of 16, and having written those extraordinary lyrics.”
Those lyrics would set the standard for Bush, one she rarely fell away from as the artists delivered tome after tome of unique and explosive lyrics. With time, her artistic vision was given more control, and the empirical creativity Bush possessed was given space to roam. With a singer as mercurial as Bush, there would always be hiccups, but perhaps Bush’s biggest misstep was not making more music.
We’re taking a look back at all of her studio albums below and picking out our favourite song from each of them as a reminder of the wealth of talent she holds.
The best song from every Kate Bush album:
‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’ – The Kick Inside (1977)
When the 19-year-old Kate Bush finally got the chance to release her debut album, The Kick Inside, back in 1977, there wasn’t a single consumer who knew what was about to hit them. Starring her breakthrough song ‘Wuthering Heights,’ the singer’s debut album was built around Bush’s illustrious lyrical style.
“I was lucky to be able to express myself as much as I did,” said the star, still gasping for more room to breathe. “I would like to learn enough of the technical side of things to be able to produce my own stuff eventually.” She would achieve this goal, and so much more. Not as complete as some of her other work, The Kick Inside was the kick in the gut the machismo world of music needed. But while ‘Wuthering Heights’ announced Bush as a force to be reckoned with, as well as becoming the first woman to hit number one with a song she had both written and performed, but it’s not the best song on the LP.
As David Gilmour alluded to in the statement above, Bush’s talents can be most notably enjoyed on ‘The Man With The Child In His Eyes’. The song not only shows the lyrical talent of Bush, nor just her ability to make simple vocal runs leap into the air but the dexterity with which she applies both.
‘Hammer Horror’ – Lionheart (1978)
Ask any artist who triumphed with their debut album and they will tell you, the second album is a tough nut to crack. Very rarely do artists match up to their first record and Bush was another victim of the dreaded second album curse.
There’s a good reason for it too. While many artists will spend years honing their craft before they are eventually signed and release a debut LP, when that record has success, the turnaround time for a new album is usually incredibly short. It forces some singers and songwriters into an uncomfortable position and sees them rush through. This is what happened on the 1978 effort Lionheart.
The record does still have some bright moments on it, however. Using Bush’s eccentric style to make the opera of her thoughts come to light, the album does a great job of displaying their jumping-off point Bush had now secured herself. A perfect example of his eccentricity is on ‘Hammer Horror’, a track completely enraptured by the dark and light of life.
The third single released from the record, the song tends to operate in the darker reaches of Bush’s canon but should be illuminated whenever possible, if only to listen to her iconic vocals soar.
‘Breathing’ – Never for Ever (1980)
Following Bush’s game-changing Tour of Life, a tour so rigorously theatrical and painstakingly created that it put her off performing live for decades, the artist was given a little more room to breathe and create her next LP in all the time she needed. Her work flourished because of it and provided one of her most beloved albums in Never for Ever.
Featuring powerhouse numbers like ‘Babooshka’ as well as soulful moments like ‘Blow Away’, the album really comes alive with the brilliance of ‘Breathing’. Closing the album, Bush is in full flow as she delivers a piercing piano-driven ballad. Another showing of Bush’s inimitable style, she manages to feel as old as a World War I poet and as fresh as the Fairlight she wrote it on.
It is the convergence of concept and delivery that tips this song above the two mentioned titles. Don’t get us wrong, there’s literally never a bad moment to play ‘Babooshka’, but this one takes the accolade of the album’s best.
‘All the Love’ – The Dreaming (1982)
Another two years pass by, and 1982 saw Kate Bush really begin to enact her artistic vision and take creative control into her own hands. The previous records had proved that Bush was more than just a songwriter, she was a bonafide visionary, and now she was ready to make it painfully clear to anybody who doubted her.
The album isn’t as full of pop hits as her previous albums, but this is the moment Bush began to become the legend we all know and love today. Taking control of her own destiny, Bush began to break through an unspoken glass ceiling with this LP, and even aside from the great songs on the record, it’s a landmark moment in Bush’s career.
It may feel strange to ignore the iconic title track on this album, but there’s something special about the unusual jazz tones of ‘All the Love’. It fits the narrative Bush constructed but also provided a canny reminder of her ability to switch that narrative whenever she saw fit.
‘Cloudbusting’ – Hounds of Love (1985)
There’s a pretty good chance that we were never going to please everyone with our pick for Hounds of Love. In truth, the album is so rich and dense with incredible material that we could have picked any single song from the record and put up a pretty decent fight for its inclusion in our list. However, we’ve bitten the bullet and made our choice.
‘Cloudbusting’ was written about the famed psychologist and philosopher Wilhelm Reich and the tumultuous relationship he shared with his son, Peter; the song is written from Peter’s point of view and focuses on the games he and his father shared during his upbringing on the family farm.
It’s a testament to Bush’s writing that she is able to turn a subject matter like this into a chart hit and an even greater achievement that she seamlessly blended it into a high-concept record like Hounds of Love.
‘Running Up That Hill’ and the title track may now be considered more widely-adored by Bush’s fans, but the record would be incomplete without ‘Cloudbusting’ as our vision of Bush herself would be.
‘This Woman’s Work’ – The Sensual World (1989)
The song was originally written for the film She’s Having a Baby in 1988 and was later released on Bush’s 1989 album The Sensual World. Astonishingly, the track only peaked at number 25 in the UK singles chart, despite being one of Bush’s most intense and ethereal compositions.
Written for the movie, director John Hughes expertly used the song during the film’s dramatic climax, when Jake (Kevin Bacon) learns that the lives of his wife, Kristy (Elizabeth McGovern), and their unborn child are in danger. It’s the same sentiment that Bush adopts for the lyrics.
‘This Woman’s Work’ plays to a seizing montage of happier times, flashbacks and dramatic moments and was written by Bush specifically for the scene from Jake’s viewpoint, even matching the words to the visuals which had already been filmed by the time Bush composed it. It’s a mark of commendation to her impeccable songwriting skills, able to find empathy in almost every situation.
It’s a symphony of powerful emotions and intense notions all punctuated by Bush’s impeccable vocals. Her first notes, in particular, are arresting in their beauty.
‘Rubberband Girl’ – The Red Shoes (1993)
1993 effort The Red Shoes is about as ‘usual’ as Kate Bush gets and, for that reason, it has often found itself maligned by her fans. But, for us, any album that contains both ‘Lily’ and ‘Eat The Music’ is worthy of its place on the list of Bush’s best albums.
The album is tinged with sadness for the artist who, as well as feeling the album was “trying too hard”, lost her mother during the making of the album. Any devastation like that is more than likely to turn an artist’s head. The album was meant to form the basis of a new live show but it never came to fruition.
There’s a thrill and fancy to this song that not only makes it standout among Bush’s otherwise unique style, but also more closely aligns her with the pop charts.
‘Bertie’ – Aerial (2005)
2005 welcomed Kate Bush back to the fold, and she arrived on the music scene with one of her most impressive albums, proving that she was truly a timeless artist. Songs like ‘How To Be Invisible’ and the dual ‘A Sea of Honey’ and ‘A Sky of Honey’ showed that she was still at the very top of her game.
But perhaps her most poignant moment on the album, the reason she had retreated from the public eye for so long, was the song ‘Bertie’ named after her son. It’s a celebration of the love and clarity he had provided her life. It’s not necessarily the most famous song on the album, but it does the best job of expressing the emotions of Bush’s life at the time.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing about this record, aside from Bush’s always impressive vocal performances, is that, unlike her counterparts, Bush is able to return to the spotlight without adjusting her style or tone to the era.
‘The Red Shoes’ – Director’s Cut (2011)
Kate Bush’s first album in years saw the anticipation rise dramatically for 2011’s Director’s Cut — Bush was back. It meant that when it was revealed that the record was set to rework and rearrange songs from her albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, there was a little drop of disappointment from her devoted fans.
Having said that, if you’re truly a diehard fan, then these reworkings will likely bring you a tonne of joy. Particular highlights are the reworkings of ‘This Woman’s Work’ and a bouncing rendition of ‘Rubberband Girl’.
But the best reworking of a song on the album was certainly ‘The Red Shoes’. The track goes a few steps further than the original and turns this bruising number into a quasi-Iirish folk foot-stomper.
‘Misty’ – 50 Words for Snow (2011)
2011 was a fruitful year for Kate Bush. As well as releasing the aforementioned Director’s Cut, she also released the stunning, ethereal and all-round gorgeous record 50 Words For Snow.
The concept album provided a crystalline image of Bush’s creativity. There’s also a couple of guest spots too as Stephen Fry makes an appearance adding his dulcet voice to the words and Elton John too, who pops up on ‘Snowed In At Wheeler Street’. But the real beauty is the 14 minutes of twisting and turning that takes place on ‘Misty’.
Most artists wouldn’t write such a long song about the building and then mounting of a snowman, but then Kate Bush isn’t most artists. She proves it with her most eccentric take on the record, providing us with every notion we needed that Kate Bush is one of the most unique artists to have ever graced the earth.