What Taylor Sterling Is Listening To #15: Kate Bush Special

If you’re a Kate Bush fan, there’s a good chance you’re a fan of literature. You probably like getting lost inside a fantasy, to escape from reality. Through that journey, you may have learned something about the human experience; maybe you even discovered something about yourself. That’s the mysterious magic that fictional storytelling has; it can simultaneously be a fabrication while also speaking a sincere truth.

Kate Bush fans feel a deep connection to her through her music, yet she doesn’t reveal much about herself in her songs; they’re not overtly personal. Instead, she opts for theatrics, masks, fanciful costumes. She borrows quotes and words from literature and refracts them through her own experiences and language. Her music doesn’t define her as a woman; it tells singular stories from Bush’s imagination. We get a glimmer of her life, but more importantly, her music gives us space to see ourselves. The same can be said for the novels that we clutch to our chests.

Kate Bush

“I think of myself as a writer first, then a singer and performer,” Kate Bush told BBC Radio 4 in 2005. “The songwriting process is super quick.” Bush started writing songs at the age of 11, and her first album, “The Kick Inside,” debuted the strange, ethereal song “Wuthering Heights,” which Kate wrote at 17. Despite the record label’s suggestions, Bush insisted this peculiar song be the single. Kate’s tenacity paid off, and it became the first song written by a British female artist to reach number one on the charts. When I first encountered “Wuthering Heights,” I was stupefied, spellbound — it’s like no other song I’d heard. The meandering melody paired with Bush’s high-pitched, challenging vocal acrobatics is an overwhelming attack on the senses. Its strangeness immediately enchanted me, and that it’s inspired by Emily Brontë’s famous novel, Wuthering Heights.

Literature is featured strongly in a lot of Bush’s music. Her albums are filled with literary references. For example, there’s Peter Pan in “In Search of Peter Pan” and Othello in “Blow Away,” Stephen King’s The Shining in “Get Out of My House,” James Joyce’s Ulysses in “The Sensual World” and Peter Reich’s A Book of Dreams in “Cloudbusting.” For book lovers, this makes Bush’s music especially alluring. It’s clear that Kate is well-read and enjoys reinterpreting stories into her uniquely crafted literary style, and much like with a good novel, that work is reinterpreted once more by the person engaging with it.

In 2018, Kate Bush published her first book, How To Be Invisible, a beautifully curated selection of lyrics from her 40-year career. Bush is not simply a singer-songwriter. She’s truly one of a kind, a master storyteller capable of expressing a wide range of narrative viewpoints and turning them into provocative, sensual, political and transformative performances. Despite this great achievement, Bush herself never calls for attention; in a way, she is invisible. She’s like an empty vessel. Her music acts as a catalyst — agitating its listeners, leaving them permanently altered in the same profound and mysterious way that all great literature does.


BBC Radio 4 (2005)

Kate Bush is a very private artist who doesn’t do many interviews. Her elusiveness only adds to her appeal. While she does open up during this interview, it’s subtle and refrained. Kate comes off as down-to-earth. She prioritizes her personal life; fame is of little interest to her. She took that long hiatus to focus on raising her son. She could have easily fallen into the pressures of success, but she chose to take a step back. It’s rare to see that from an artist of her caliber. After this 12-year break from releasing music, Bush came out with a double album, “Aerial.” It’s easy to assume such a long absence from the music industry would influence Kate to return with a real heavy-hitter. Instead, “Aerial” is subdued, experimental, poetic — nothing like the music playing on the radio at the time. She’s not making music to please anyone but herself. Yet, it never feels rigid or pretentious. It feels like each song is a work of art.


“Running Up That Hill” (2014 BBC Documentary)

Typically, a documentary is not something I’d include in my “listen” list, but it’s worth sharing. This was an interesting look at Kate’s career, and it emphasized how much she’s changed the music industry. I enjoyed hearing different musicians, performers and writers talk about how Bush influenced them. Especially when Elton John reminisces about how all anyone wanted to do at his celeb-packed wedding was talk to the mysterious Kate Bush.


Despite my affinity, I’m not blinded by love. I don’t think every song by Bush is incredible. In fact, many of her songs feel like filler chapters in an epic novel. But even if they aren’t all knock-outs, you still want them to exist, to be a part of the story. Kate’s “failures” possess more charm and texture than most artists’ successes. Her later albums don’t have as much panicked, dizzying vocal theatrics as her early work, and some of it feels too Soft Rock for my taste. But I can hear her working, searching — determined to carve her own path in a new musical era.

Here are some of my favorite songs from her music from the past three decades:

Listen to Lists:

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 910 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

Loved this post?
Subscribe to the Sunday Stories newsletter!

Get our weekly email with all new Glitter Guide articles delivered to your inbox. 

Invalid email address

Author: Taylor Sterling

Taylor Sterling is the founder and creative director of Glitter Guide. When she's not working on all things GG, she can be found reading and sometimes art directing photoshoots for @LolaJayne. She enjoys spending time with her family and eating french fries (not necessarily at the same time, although that's definitely the best combination). Follow her at @TaylorSterling