Monday, January 14, 2019

"The madwoman in pop's attic"?

It came as something of a relief to learn last week that Kate Bush isn't a Tory after all. That suspicion had arisen from a 2016 interview in which she said of Theresa May ("a very intelligent woman") that "It is great to have a woman in charge of the country". Those comments appeared virtually on a par with Geri Halliwell declaring that May's predecessor Maggie Thatcher was a champion of feminism simply because of her gender - regardless of her personal beliefs or political convictions. Bush's complaint that her words were taken out of context seems a little dubious, given how unequivocal they were - but I for one am eager to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Bush's attempt to set the record straight reminded me that I've been meaning to post a link to this reappraisal of 1993's The Red Shoes, an album largely unloved by fans and artist alike and one with which I'm not really familiar. Reviewer Ben Hewitt does a great job of making the case for its qualities, but, more than that, he captures much of what makes her work in general so special and unique and gently but articulately chastens those (myself included) too inclined to reach for one particular adjective: "Plenty of people have described her as 'mad' - Bush herself among them - but it does her a disservice: it makes her sound like an eccentric ingénue not in control of her own talent, whereas the truth is she fought hard for autonomy after she was strong-armed into releasing Lionheart so soon after The Kick Inside. It can also be a creatively stifling label, too: to fetishise Bush as the madwoman in pop's attic may feel like a neat way of celebrating those theatrical, eccentric flights of fancy, but perhaps it doesn't leave her much room to come downstairs". On The Red Shoes, Hewitt argues, Bush does indeed come downstairs - and that shouldn't necessarily be held against her in the way it often has been.

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