Kate Bush is an incredible musician and "Rocket Man" is an incredible song. So what went wrong?
Kate Bush is a very, very talented musician. "Rocket Man" by Elton John is a very, very good song. So where did Kate Bush's cover go wrong?
It could've slept peacefully in the 1990s, accumulating cobwebs and fading from public consciousness. But today, Bush decided to release the video of her cover officially for the first time—alongside the announcement that an album of her B-sides and rarities, called The Other Side, is coming out on March 8th.
Bush's "Rocket Man" starts out promisingly, with Kate wailing in her singular soprano over dreamy synths, albeit sounding a bit breathier than usual. But disaster strikes about a minute into the video, when the full band leaps in with a disorienting reggae rhythm and Kate steps into the spotlight with a ukulele, hips swaying side to side robotically. The first chorus ends with a flourish on a sitar, a sound effect that's unexpected, to say the least, especially in light of the Uilleann pipes, concertinas, and synths jingling away in the background.
Kate Bush - Rocket Man - Official Music Video www.youtube.com
It's too many genres mixed together, and it fails to capture any of what makes Kate Bush and Elton John so virtuosic. This cover skips all that and instead features a Celtic-sounding fiddle solo three-quarters of the way through, which collides disorientingly with the reggae beat.
The mash-up of styles is an issue, but another problem is that the whole band seems to be having way too much awkward middle-aged fun. Maybe the trouble is that "Rocket Man" is such an emotional song, but Bush seems to be trying to turn it into a stoner anthem—which Young Thug actually did more successfully, with his appropriately spacious "High." That cover is initially disorienting, but it possesses the melancholy expansiveness that makes the original "Rocket Man" so extravagant and blissful to listen to.
Young Thug - High (ft. Elton John) [Official Audio] www.youtube.com
Bush's cover feels like convoluted abstract art rather than music. If she's really using reggae and hip-shaking to turn "Rocket Man" into a celebration of marijuana, she's doing it in a way that's almost as cringe-worthy as when Hillary Clinton said that she was "just chillin'."
Hillary Clinton Snapchat Video Chillin in Cedar Rapids | Chillary Clinton www.youtube.com
There are many ways to read "Rocket Man." It's rife with metaphors and cosmic allusions. It could be about getting stoned, sure, but it's almost certainly also about loneliness, life on the road, and the isolation of fame. Bush's cover just ignored all this, it seems. Her first hit was about Wuthering Heights; she can understand words, and she chose to read "Rocket Man" this way.
What a lost opportunity. Imagine "Rocket Man," but with the intensity, elegance, and clarity of vision that defines every track on Hounds of Love, or almost every other track she has released. Certainly, the odd Bush stan will love this cover, but most music fans will question its existence—instead of questioning their existence, which is what anyone who listens to "Rocket Man" should do.
Elton John - Rocket Man (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
There are a few shining exceptions. The image of Bush conducting a symphony of planets and fireworks is aesthetically gorgeous, and the few moments where she does unleash a flood of reverb and harmonies (at the very ends of the choruses) hint at what could have been, and why it became a No. 12 hit in 1991. But for the most part, listeners will be stuck feeling deeply uncomfortable.
Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter at @edenarielmusic.
POP⚡DUST | Read More...
Plus celebrities react to Nigerian protests.
Young people across Nigeria have been pouring into the streets for the last two weeks to protest police brutality, specifically the controversial special police force known as the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).
Tension came to a head on Tuesday when armed forces fired on protestors in Lagos, the biggest city in Nigeria, who were out past the state-mandated curfew. According to AP News, "Police also fired tear gas at one point, and smoke could be seen billowing from several areas in the city's center. Two private TV stations were forced off the air at least temporarily as their offices were burned."
Not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
October 21, 2020 marks the third annual International Pronouns Day.
Created by an independent board and first observed in 2018, it's one of those small commemorative holidays that trends on Twitter in hopes of drawing attention to a pressing social issue, like International Women's Day (March 8th) or the ever so serious National Taco Day (October 4).
But Pronouns Day in particular "seeks to make respecting, sharing, and educating about personal pronouns commonplace." The organization's website further describes, "Referring to people by the pronouns they determine for themselves is basic to human dignity. Being referred to by the wrong pronouns particularly affects transgender and gender nonconforming people. Together, we can transform society to celebrate people's multiple, intersecting identities."
But in the words of nonbinary activist and Trevor Project's Head of Advocacy and Government Afairs, Sam Brenton, "Pronouns are hard." Never before have pronouns been scrutinized as closely as they are in 2019 for their power to (in)validate or accurately describe something as fluid as gender identity. In fact, it was only this year that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary expanded the definition of "they" "to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary" (thus codifying a long history in English language of using "they" to refer to a singular non-gendered entity).
‘Everyone has the responsibility to be respectful.’ — The @TrevorProject’s Sam Brinton is explaining why pronouns a… https://t.co/pMMO8KRvBR— NowThis (@NowThis)1571253180.0
But throwing an additional wrench in the works is the fact that not all non-binary people prefer gender-neutral pronouns.
Take me, for instance: Despite having female biology, I couldn't pass a lie detector test saying I'm a "woman." But my pragmatic, Puritan family is still endearingly confused by the idea of "liberal arts," let alone the notion of gender fluidity. And I'd rather share a communal language with them than do the emotional and mental labor of re-orienting their worldview for them. Plus, I have the privilege of passing as female without feeling too, too, terribly dysphoric (which non-binary people can definitely suffer from, despite not identifying as trans).
But enough about me, look at Queer Eye's beloved Jonathan Van Ness. While he's been outspoken about being genderqueer, gay, and HIV positive, he prefers he/him pronouns. "The older I get, the more I think that I'm nonbinary," Van Ness said. "I'm gender nonconforming. Like, some days I feel like a man, but then other days I feel like a woman." As he told Out magazine, he doesn't identify as a man, but he does prefer "he/him/his" pronouns. In his view, those pronouns don't detract from or contradict his non-binary identity, because gender is not about simple binaries between masculine and feminine identifiers. "Any opportunity I have to break down stereotypes of the binary, I am down for it, I'm here for it," he said. "I think that a lot of times gender is used to separate and divide. It's this social construct that I don't really feel like I fit into the way I used to."
On the other hand, last month non-binary singer Sam Smith announced that their preferred pronouns are "they/them." Smith posted to Instagram, "I've decided I am changing my pronouns to THEY/THEM ❤ after a lifetime of being at war with my gender I've decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out." People like Smith and Trevor Project's Sam Brenton simply feel more validated, seen, heard, and true to themselves with gender-neutral pronouns. Smith wrote, "I'm so excited and privileged to be surrounded by people that support me in this decision but I've been very nervous about announcing this because I care too much about what people think but f*ck it!"
Most importantly, as pretty much every non-binary person and activist is aware, changing cultural norms is hard. While LGBTQ+ activism is inspired and passionate and dedicated to expanding human rights to all gender identities, we all know that changing society's entire understanding of gender and pronoun usage is about slowly opening minds. As Smith wrote, "I understand there will be many mistakes and mis gendering but all I ask is you please please try. I hope you can see me like I see myself now. Thank you." Happy Pronouns Day to you/him/her/they/(f)aer/zim.