Saturday, January 08, 2011

"I'm Afraid Of Americans" by David Bowie

I figured since it's David Bowie's birthday, and since I'd already shown a 70s video and an 80s video, I'd better now show a 90s video of his - in this case I'm Afraid of Americans, from the 1997 album Earthling; lest those of you out there who are sensitive to such things become overwrought and insensible with worry that either Bowie or I are engaged in even more (or, indeed, any) America-bashing I should first let you know that the title is ironic. The clues are subtle, but they're there:
  • the song comes from an album called Earthling, which Bowie clearly is not, so how could a song he wrote with that title also be literal
  • it was written and recorded in 1997, when Americans were much less scary than they would become circa 2001-2006
  • in it, Bowie is in collaboration with industrial music pioneer and noted American Trent Reznor, of Nine Inch Nails fame
  • since Bowie doesn't appear to be afraid of Trent Reznor he's probably not afraid of anyone
  • Bowie lives at least part of the year in New York City, a well-known place in America
  • as the song's lyricist and co-composer (alongside Brian Eno) he says it's not - therefore he should know - and,
  • it just isn't, okay?!?
If anything, the song (and especially its video) satirizes the paranoia with which much of the rest of the world views America and its people, seemingly inured to the horribility of their own populations. After all, as the lyric says 'I'm afraid of Americans / I'm afraid of the world'; let's not forget kids, it's not Americans that are awful, it's humans in general...

I hope that helps put your collective minds at ease...

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1 comment:

Seumas Gagne said...

Excellently thought-through and communicated. Ta, ever so.