Recently The Daily Telegraph ranked Kate Bush’s 31 singles from worst to best. I was struck how low some of my personal favorite were, and how well some of the ones I was more indifferent to were ranked. Perhaps it’s a function of being here in the States, where Kate never really broke out, as opposed to England where she did quite well. I thought I would offer up my own ranking, and will include The Daily Telegraph’s ranking and how high the song reached on the British charts as well.
#31 – Deeper Understanding (2011)
from Director’s Cut; ranked #21 by The Daily Telegraph; #87 on the British charts
This track utilized the Trio Bulgarka a Bulgarian vocal ensemble to great effect in its original version lifted from The Sensual World, and it was still a bit cheesy. When Kate re-recorded it for her Director’s Cut album, substituting her son Bertie as the voice of the computer it just didn’t work at all.
#30 – And So Is Love (1994)
from The Red Shoes; ranked #25 by The Daily Telegraph; #26 on the British charts
Kate gets bluesy with a little help from Eric Clapton on this album cut from The Red Shoes. I always used to skip over this song when I listed to the album. Not really my cup of tea.
#29 – The Man I Love (1994)
from The Glory of Gershwin compilation; ranked #14 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #27 on the British charts
This fairly straightforward reading of a Gershwin classic was one Kate Bush song I hadn’t heard until I found this Daily Telegraph list! Kate does a nice job with this song, but alas, it’s not a Kate bush song…
#28 – Wow (1979)
from Lionheart; ranked #8 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #14 on the British charts
This was the first single off the much-anticipated follow-up to Kate’s groundbreaking debut, The Kick Inside. It’s a daring little confection about trying to keep theatrical performances fresh while performing them day-in and day-out, week-in, week-out, with references to bitchy queens and vaseline, but it’s over-dramatic (appropriately so) howling chorus does wear on me after awhlie.
#27 – Lyra (2007)
from The Golden Compass (soundtrack); ranked #13 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #187 on the British charts
Lovely, sweeping vocals play over the closing credits of the sadly disappointing film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantastic teen novel, The Golden Compass. It hit the British charts on the strength of its Digital Downloads alone. A bit of a throwaway, but a nice song. (I wish they’d included Be Kind to My Mistakes, Kate’s offering from the 80’s film Castaway, wasted as a B-side. That would have possibly cracked my top 10!)
#26 – Wild Man (2011)
from 50 Words for Snow; ranked #12 by the Daily Telegraph; reached #73 on the British charts
The lead, and only single from Kate’s last album, Wild Man is reminiscent of her previous single, King of the Mountain — interesting and heralding something new from a notoriously slow to produce artist, but in context, rather straightforward although this one has a rather intriguing chorus with some funky vocals.
#25 – Rocket Man (1991)
from Two Rooms; ranked #28 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
Offering her own version of one of Elton John’s beautiful classics, Kate puts her own reggae spin on Rocket Man taken from an early 90’s tribute album. Nice to see Kate having a little fun in the video.
#24 – King of the Mountain (2005)
from Aerial; ranked #22 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #4 on the British charts
Twelve years or so in the making, King of the Mountain heralded a triumphant return as the lead single of a double album masterpiece. It’s one of Kate’s highest charting single, but strangely enough, I never really appreciated it until I saw it performed live with the majesty and menace that lay hidden within.
#23 – Don’t Give Up (1986)
from So; ranked #16 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #9 on the British charts
This duet with Peter Gabriel off his masterpiece album, So, features Kate as the solitary ray of hope trying to reach a defeated man. A review in Rolling Stone magazine said this about Kate: “Don’t give up,” she breathes with the voice of life itself…” That’s Kate. The voice of life itself.
#22 Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) (1985)
from Hounds of Live; ranked #11 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #3 on the British charts (#37 on the U.S. charts!)
Kate’s only Top 40 U.S. single, also cracked the top 5 in Britain, this propulsive, rumination on seeing the world through your partner’s eyes has a lot of mileage for a deceptively simple song… although Kate’s simplest songs are more complicated that most pop singers can even imagine. I was surprised that this didn’t make the Telegraph’s Top 10. One of her best videos though…
#21 – Them Heavy People (Live) (1979)
from Live at the Hammersmith Odeon EP; ranked #26 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #10 on the British charts
American audiences weren’t ready when Kate appeared on Saturday Night Live singing about Gurdjieff and Jesu. This live track taken from her first concert tour captured her musical talent, her dancing daring, and her wackiness perfectly.
#20 – Babooshka (1980)
from Never for Ever; ranked #9 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #5 on the British charts
Bush’s third album saw her reaching toward the gorgeous madness that culminated in what many feel is her masterpiece fourth album, The Dreaming. Yet somehow, even as the edges of her music frayed with brilliance, she retained a strong pop sensibility while howling out, “I’m all yours, Babooshka!” This is a fun song, but not deserving of the Top 10 spot that The Daily Telegraph bestowed upon it.
#19 – This Woman’s Work (1989)
from The Sensual World; ranked #5 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #25 on the British charts
Kate wrote this song for the John Hughes film, She’s Having a Baby, and it’s an interesting take on the power of childbirth from the man’s point of view. It’s a gorgeous ballad, with Kate’s voice at it’s most emotional, starting of tremulously, then building with a grand crescendo that will chill you. Still, I rank it far lower than The Telegraph, which has this song at #5!
#18 – Hammer Horror (1979)
from Lionheart; ranked #20 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #44 on the British charts
Kate mines her love of horror films, particularly the classics produced by this movie studio, to spin a tale of a dead colleague who can’t let go of life. It features her trademark swooping vocals that soar into the stratosphere before plunging deep into the ocean. And a great little video too.
#17 – Breathing (1980)
from Never for Ever; ranked #17 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #16 on the British charts
Here is the moment when Kate began to take control of her musical career, and it’s fitting that it’s where The Daily Telegraph and I agree. Tackling a powerful subject, a song sung from the point of view of an unborn child who doesn’t want to be born into a post-apocalyptic world, Kate starts to move away from the child-like vocals and introduce a darker element to her music. It’s a chilling song, and the video is a mini-masterpiece, complete with cheesy 70’s special effects!
#16 – Experiment IV (1986)
from The Whole Story; ranked #19 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #23 on the British charts
When Kate released her greatest hits collection to introduce her music to America, she included one new track, the haunting, dystopian Experiment IV. Kate likes to imagine a dark future, and in this track, she imagines a world where scientists have created a sound that can kill from a distance. In the dark vision of Ms. Bush, this takes the form of a demonic entity played by the musician herself. The video features appearances by Dawn French, Hugh Laurie and Gary Oldman. I thought as a follow-up to Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) Kate might have another Top 40 hit in America. Shows you what I know.
#15 – December Will be Magic Again (1980)
stand-alone Christmas single; ranked #10 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #29 on the British charts
Only Kate could release a Christmas single that’s also a love letter to England. With her trademark vocal swoops and dives evident in full force, this is an easy song for non-believers to make fun of, but it’s just beautiful, and it captures the magic of Christmas and England beautifully.
#14 – The Dreaming (1982)
from The Dreaming; ranked #31 by the Daily Telegraph; reached #42 on the British charts
While it lacks the polish of Hounds of Love, The Dreaming may actually be my favorite Kate Bush album. It was a commercial flop, but it is so audacious; so insane, that it pushes the boundaries of pop music. For the title track, Kate tackles the plight of the aboriginal in Australia, and the mystic place between life and death called the Dreamtime. This was The Daily Telegraph’s lowest ranked single, but for me it’s sheer boldness merits a place in the Top 20 — and it’s multi-layered sound is rather amazing.
#13 – Love & Anger (1989)
from The Sensual World; ranked #29 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #38 on the British charts (and #1 on Billboard’s Modern Rocks chart!)
To kick off The Sensual World, Kate chose a logical follow-up to her triumph of Hounds of Love. Lots of drums, guitar by David Gilmour, and a cool video kept Kate in the American consciousness. Kind of the grown-up version of the fuck-you/adolescent cockiness of Sat In Your Lap. It’s a solid Bush song.
#12 – The Red Shoes (1994)
from The Red Shoes; ranked #30 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #21 on the British charts
Kate’s 1994 album, The Red Shoes was pretty hit and miss with me, but the title track was a explosive, manic dance number driven by Irish melodies, pipes and strings, and Kate’s intense vocal delivery. It was the high point in a bold, yet nearly conventional album that left Bush with an eleven-year gap between albums. Here, and with the previous Love & Anger is where The Daily Telegraph and I really differ.
#11 – The Man with the Child in His Eyes (1978)
from The Kick Inside; ranked #7 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #6 on the British charts
She wrote this song when she was 13. That’s all you really need to know about this exquisite ballad that rivals those written by musicians years her senior. Simple, understated, and beautiful. It just misses my top 10.
#10 – Army Dreamers (1980)
from Never for Ever; ranked #24 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #16 on the British charts
As Bush started to spread her wings lyrically and musically on her third album, she tackles one of her most devastating ditties, about young men going off to war and coming back in coffins. Sung as a lilting waltz, she marries a light musical touch with serious lyrical overtones. I’ve always loved this song, and its accompanying video. It’s a strong anchor for my Top 10.
#9 – Wuthering Heights (1978)
from The Kick Inside; ranked #4 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #1 on the British charts
Here’s the song that started it all. The precocious Kate Bush released a debut single not about falling in love, or getting your heart broken (although really, it’s about both of those things) but about Heathcliff and Cathy, the characters from Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights. More specifically, about Cathy’s ghost haunting Heathcliff forevermore on the moors. It was like nothing heard before on pop radio and it kicked off a career that is unparalleled still today.
#8 – Moments of Pleasure (1993)
from The Red Shoes; ranked #1 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #26 on the British charts
In what is most likely Bush’s most personal song, this beautiful, emotional ballad is clearly inspired by the death of her mother as she fondly remembers loved ones who have been part of her world. Although slightly overblown production-wise, you can’t deny the power of Bush’s delivery and turn of melody. And when she sings, “Hey there, Michael, do you really love me?” The answer is a resounding yet.
#7 – Cloudbusting (1985)
from Hounds of Love; ranked #3 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #20 on the British charts
Despite the mainstream success of Running Up That Hill (A Deal with God) it was the other three singles from Hounds of Love that were the triumvirate of pop genius. Cloudbusting, coming it at #7 on my list, and #3 on The Daily Telegraph’s ranking, is epic in scope, complete with a 7-minute movie/video starring Donald Sutherland to accompany it. As the closing encore to her Before the Dawn concert in 2014, it left the audiences gloriously uplifted.
#6 – There Goes a Tenner (1982)
from The Dreaming; ranked #18 by The Daily Telegraph; did not make the British charts
The only Kate Bush single to miss the British charts completely, I attribute that to the backlash against The Dreaming album, which for me is sheer genius, and evident by the #6 ranking of this delightfully quirky, and hilarious ditty about a bank robbery gone wrong. I loved the videos from The Dreaming ear as well, and this, another mini-epic, is delightful. (In fact, my favorite non-single by Bush is arguably from this album, Suspended in Gaffa.)
#5 – Rubberband Girl (1993)
from The Red Shoes; ranked #23 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
I’m not sure why I love this song so much. Maybe because it’s such a mainstream, pop ditty from Kate Bush. It’s basically one chord with some funky instrumentation and trademark swooping Bush vocals. Why on earth EMI elected to release the far more mundane and less interesting Eat the Music for the American single is beyond me. This is a far better choice. I’ve included both the UK version (from The Red Shoes film) and the US version of the videos because they’re fun.
#4 – Sat in Your Lap (1982)
from The Dreaming; ranked #6 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #11 on the British charts
This was the single that heralded a new day for Kate. It was the lead single from The Dreaming, and I’m sure some people thought she’d lost her mind. Especially when they say this whack-a-doodle video (one of my favorites). I just love this song about the challenge of staying motivated to improve creatively. Something Bush clearly knew a lot about with this change in musical direction. It never stopped after The Dreaming. Nice to see the high ranking on the Telegraph as well… and that the British public responded pretty well too – almost getting her back into the Top 10. And come on, isn’t this the best video?
#3 – The Sensual World (1989)
from The Sensual World; ranked #2 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #12 on the British charts
There is no song out there that better embodies the sensual, the sumptuousness of lush, sexual beauty, than Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. And to add to that this song is actually the soliloquy Ms. Bush interprets for James Joyce’s Molly Bloom, plucked out of the novel Ulysses and set free to feel and experience that real, sensual world, as opposed to the literary world of words. And surely one of the most gorgeous videos ever made as Kate/Molly dances through the woods as the seasons change, in a gorgeous, form-fitting, velvet dress. The breathy vocals, and that last look into the camera as the song comes to a close. Wow. Look how close The Daily Telegraph and I are on this one. There’s no denying it. You just need to experience it.
#2 – The Big Sky (1986)
from Hounds of Love; ranked #27 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #37 on the British charts
For the longest time, The Big Sky was my stock answer when asked what my favorite Kate Bush single was. As you can see, that has changed, but it’s still pretty close. I love the joy Kate expresses in this song… it’s so exultant and fun — a celebration of the sky, but at the same time a bit of a diss to the press, and a song about putting things into perspective. Such a gloriously fun video too. The audience is filled with members of the Kate Bush Club, and I remember thinking the first time I saw it, if I had been in the audience when Kate ran down the catwalk blowing kisses into the crowd, I would have swooned. I don’t know what The Daily Telegraph is thinking by ranking this single to low. They’re just wrong in this case.
#1 – Hounds of Love (1985)
from Hounds of Love; ranked #15 by The Daily Telegraph; reached #15 on the British charts
Over the past 10 – 12 years, Hounds of Love has emerged to be my favorite Kate Bush song. It’s a perfect song for me. From the spoken intro, “It’s in the trees, it’s coming” and the tribal pounding of the drums, you know something amazing is about to start. The rhythmic driving of the strings provide the perfect combination of propulsion and menace beneath Kat’s frantic vocal that is both filled with fear, and filled with longing. The song is a perfect allegory, the fear of love and commitment being likened to a fox fleeing the hunt… it’s the hounds of love are hunting… and Kate captures the range of emotions beautifully. The title track off her seminal album, this song just lifts me up to glorious heights until Kate’s final exultant cry, “I need love, love, love, love, love, love, yeah,” puts the transcendent cap on the this perfect pop song.
And there it is, Kate’s 31 British singles ranked from least favorite to most favorite according to me. I definitely skew to mid-career — The Dreaming and Hounds of Love being her pinnacle for me. Although I always thought How to Be Invisible from Aerial should have been a single, and it would have ranked very high on this list. I will leave you with one of my favorite non-singles from Kate that she also happens to have made a video for. Suspended in Gaffa was taken from The Dreaming, and I’m not sure why she made the video since it wasn’t released as a single, but I’m sure glad she did.