The year 2021 was when I finally decided to dive into the tirelessly timeless discography of two influential singers. Sade and Kate Bush were artists who had been on my radar for the longest time. Their impact was inescapable in articles, essays and general pop culture registries. So as someone who prefers the classics than just plainly reproaching the present era with a ‘how the mighty have fallen’ stance, I promised myself to listen to their very best songs and celebrate their collective and individual artistry. It’s a promise I was lucky to fulfil.
Though I have a long way to go in discovering more of their gems, it’s a start I cherish and since August of last year, it has been my habit to put their songs in heavy rotation, making them two of the most valuable artists to grace my expansive playlist. As a music lover, afficianado of its intricacies, social urgency and melodic magic, I urge all serious listeners of the current generation to pay utmost heed to KATE BUSH and SADE, the two British titans who continue to rule hearts universally. Their place is indelible and incalculable to cultural history and with good reason.
SADE is in a league of her own. She owns one of the most beautifully smooth, husky voices in music and has justifiably influenced scores of singers down generations. It’s a voice that is, however, not prone to imitation or impressions; it’s her own instrument generating an innate sensuality we hardly come across so easily, creating a serene environment for those opting to find moments of reprieve or genuine merit in being music lovers.
Take her signature tunes like YOUR LOVE IS KING, SMOOTH OPERATOR, JEZEBEL or IS IT A CRIME? to unlock her understated passion invested in the vocals and the seamless manner in which saxophones dominate their aural quality. A swoon and a sigh are two of the dominant responses that I personally reserve for much of her discography I’ve heard.
Then there are other standouts like HANG ON TO YOUR LOVE that revel in her style with a more upbeat tone while THE SWEETEST TABOO has a tropical vibe that’s at home with her breezy, cool as a cucumber ethos.
A swoon and a sigh, a feeling of overwhelming, sobering awe are therefore a requisite for this listener as he plays NO ORDINARY LOVE and his personal favourite BY YOUR SIDE. Or even in the instance of FLOWER OF THE UNIVERSE off A WRINKLE IN TIME original soundtrack which unfolds like a mantra, an universal chant befitting its title and mythic feel.
The caravan comes to a close with two songs off her 2010 album SOLDIER OF LOVE that I had heard sparingly within the period of its release, given that it was such an acclaimed record overall. So of course, it had to come to my attention.
SOLDIER OF LOVE is built around her unwavering spirit and a tensile beat while BABYFATHER is a great R&B song with a repetitive refrain and communal aura. Both attest to her iconic composure and sense of control in her delivery.
So listen to these, discover more from her discography and spread the word.
We now reintroduce ourselves to KATE BUSH. Now, this artist truly defined 2021 for me, ending up as one of the most sought after musical discoveries. In my view, she is an artist far ahead of her times who incorporated grave social issues in her inimitable repertoire with a stamp of originality. The first standout on that front has to be BREATHING, a sombre meditation on nuclear warfare, destruction and mankind’s cruel ways. Particularly ingenuous is the way she devotes almost minute and a half to a muffled, ominous conversational snippet where men can be heard discussing the mechanics of nuclear warfare (or war in general) drenched in atmospherics to match, finally closing the song with a chorus that enquires about the cost of life and with Bush pleading for it. The exhaustion, haplessness and brutal tempers are driving forces behind her vocals. The courage in her emotional investment is rewarding on a deeply psychological level altogether. A counterpoint to this is the childlike twinkle and infantile vocals on ARMY DREAMERS. At two minutes, its pithy nature and seeming innocence don’t conceal the manner in which its lyrics rip apart war propaganda that brainwashes young men and eventually claims their lives. It’s audio satire of the highest form.
This grasp on humour and subject matter shines on one of her classic tunes BABOOSHKA which I adore for its vocals and entertaining treatment. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable one while WUTHERING HEIGHTS is where it all begins for anyone getting acquainted with Ms. Bush. Once you listen to it twice, it will be stuck with you for good measure. The base is on the character of Kathy from the eponymous novel and the plaintiff cry, “Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Kathy/ I’ve come home” is both haunting and memorable. The track is unforgettable. That squeaky vocal of course sounds unusual and funny. But the love lorn ethos is paramount here.
Her discography, in general, is filled with diversity. HOUNDS OF LOVE, CLOUDBUSTING( which I first heard on a Season 3rd episode of THE HANDMAID’S TALE), RUNNING UP THAT HILL ( A DEAL WITH GOD), AND SO IS LOVE ( with guitar work by its certified practitioner Eric Clapton) let us explore the nuances of that sonic landscape. Drums, strings, pianos, guitars and synths all get utilised to create a vast array of effects. I also love how with almost each song, she switches vocal registers. Whispers, full- throated swoops, childish timbres et all meld with the songs’ thematic quality. She hence adapts her style to minute elements.
On the other hand, AND DREAM OF SHEEP, THE SENSUAL WORLD and MOMENTS OF PLEASURE take full advantage of her quieter reckoning and balladry, with her affinity to nature occupying centrestage.
My favourite Kate Bush songs are the wrenching ballad THIS WOMAN’S WORK(hands down my most heard song of 2021) , THE MAN WITH A CHILD IN HIS EYES and her collaboration on Peter Gabriel’s beautifully written and modulated classic DON’T GIVE UP. Her individualistic and excellent covers of Elton John’s ROCKET MAN and Billie Holiday’s THE MAN I LOVE are equally memorable.
You know what, I can go on and on about her. I recommend all these songs for starters and exhort you to spread the word about her.
So make SADE and KATE BUSH an immediate and indelible part of your playlists. They are truly artists to reckon with.