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The Sensual World

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The Sensual World
A grayscale photo of a woman holding a rose.
Studio album by
Released16 October 1989 (1989-10-16)
RecordedSeptember 1987 – July 1989
ProducerKate Bush
Kate Bush chronology
The Whole Story
The Sensual World
Aspects of the Sensual World
Singles from The Sensual World
  1. "The Sensual World"
    Released: 18 September 1989
  2. "This Woman's Work"
    Released: 20 November 1989
  3. "Love and Anger"
    Released: 26 February 1990

The Sensual World is the sixth studio album by the English singer-songwriter Kate Bush, released on 16 October 1989 by EMI Records. It reached No. 2 on the UK Albums Chart. It has been certified Platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for shipments in excess of 300,000 in the United Kingdom,[2] and Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in the United States.[3]


Bush drew inspiration for the title track from the modernist novel Ulysses by James Joyce. Bush realised that Molly Bloom's soliloquy, the closing passage of the novel, fitted the music she had created. When the Joyce estate refused to release the text, Bush wrote original lyrics that echo the original passage, as Molly steps from the pages of the book and revels in the real world.[4] She also alluded to "Jerusalem" by William Blake in a reference to the song's gestation ("And my arrows of desire rewrite the speech"). The song includes Irish instrumentation (uilleann pipes, fiddle, whistle) under a breathy rendering of the orgasmic 'Yes' of the original text.

The songs "Deeper Understanding", "Never Be Mine", and "Rocket's Tail" all feature backing vocals by the Bulgarian vocal ensemble Trio Bulgarka. "Heads We're Dancing" includes a characteristic Mick Karn fretless bassline. The song "This Woman's Work" from the romantic comedy film She's Having a Baby (1988) was re-edited for this album. On 27 November 2005 it was featured in the British TV drama Walk Away and I Stumble starring Tamzin Outhwaite. Due to that broadcast, the song reached No. 3 on the UK Singles Downloads Chart in late 2005.[5] This song has also been used in a long-running UK television advert for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, broadcast between 2005 and 2008, and in the Extras Christmas Special in 2007. A version of the song was recorded by R&B artist Maxwell in 1997 for his MTV Unplugged EP.

Released as CD players were becoming increasingly popular, the original LP ended with "This Woman's Work", whilst "Walk Straight Down the Middle" was included as a bonus track on the CD and cassette versions of the album. The gap between these two tracks is slightly longer to indicate the album was intended to finish with "This Woman's Work". "Walk Straight Down the Middle" later appeared on the compilation The Other Sides.

A video collection called The Sensual World: The Videos was also released. It contained videos for the title song, "Love and Anger", and "This Woman's Work" (all directed by Bush herself), as well as excerpts from an interview Bush gave to the music TV channel VH1.

In May 2011, Bush released the album Director's Cut, which featured new versions of four songs from The Sensual World, including the title song, now called "Flower of the Mountain". Finally having received permission from the Joyce estate, Bush recorded a new vocal using Molly Bloom's soliloquy as the lyric. Additionally, she re-recorded a sparse, piano-only version of "This Woman's Work". The new version of "Deeper Understanding" was released as a single, with an accompanying video.

The live version of "Never Be Mine" was included on her live album Before the Dawn, released in 2016. Although the song had not been performed before an audience, Bush included the live version in the recording.

In November 2018, Bush released box sets of remasters of her studio albums, including The Sensual World.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[7]
Los Angeles Times[8]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[13]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[14]
The Village VoiceB[15]

"While Bush's famously fey voice would probably be enough to hold the disparate strands of The Sensual World together, the album takes its cue and colouring too from the hypnotically sinuous sway of the pipes on the title track," wrote Robert Sandall in Q. "There are some strapping power chords to be despatched here and there, most notably on Love And Anger, but the dominant mood is of Oriental reverie, similar in feel to that achieved latterly by Japan. And in fact the last track on side one, Heads We're Dancing, reproduces that mysteriously sproingy bass sound favoured by Mick Karn."[12]

In 1990, Bush received two nominations at the 10th Brit Awards in the categories Best British Producer and Best British Female.[16] At the 33rd Grammy Awards held the following year, The Sensual World was nominated for Best Alternative Music Performance.[17]

Slant Magazine ranked The Sensual World at No. 55 on its 2012 list of the best albums of the 1980s, writing, "Blessed with one of music's most wildly expressive voices, Bush takes each song further than she has to, resulting in an album that forms its own unique world."[18]

Comments from other musicians[edit]

In December 1989, Robert Smith of the Cure chose "The Sensual World" as his favourite single of the year, The Sensual World as his favourite album of the year, and included "all of Kate Bush" in his list of "the best things about the Eighties".[19]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by Kate Bush

Side one
1."The Sensual World"3:57
2."Love and Anger"4:42
3."The Fog"5:04
4."Reaching Out"3:11
5."Heads We're Dancing"5:17
Side two
6."Deeper Understanding"4:46
7."Between a Man and a Woman"3:29
8."Never Be Mine"3:43
9."Rocket's Tail"4:06
10."This Woman's Work"3:32
Bonus track on CD and cassette editions
11."Walk Straight Down The Middle"3:50
Total length:45:57


Credits are adapted from The Sensual World liner notes.[20]



Certifications and sales[edit]

Certifications and sales for The Sensual World
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[41] Gold 50,000^
France (SNEP)[42] Gold 100,000*
Japan 20,010[43]
United Kingdom (BPI)[2] Platinum 330,000[44]
United States (RIAA)[3] Gold 500,000^

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

The Sensual World: The Videos[edit]

The Sensual World: The Videos
Video by
Length16 minutes
LabelCMV Enterprises
Kate Bush chronology
The Whole Story
The Sensual World: The Videos
The Line, the Cross and the Curve
Professional ratings
Review scores

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Interview" – 0:36
  2. "The Sensual World" – 5:15
  3. "Love and Anger" – 4:43
  4. "This Woman's Work" – 6:31


  1. ^ "Dusting 'Em Off: Kate Bush - The Sensual World - Consequence". 3 December 2011. Archived from the original on 1 May 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2016. The Sensual World amplifies Bush's penchant for writing delicately complex material while maintaining her progressive pop edge
  2. ^ a b "British album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". British Phonographic Industry. 20 October 1989. Retrieved 8 August 2021.
  3. ^ a b "American album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Recording Industry Association of America. 27 October 1993.
  4. ^ Littlejohn, Maureen. "The Sensual Woman". Network magazine. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Official UK Download Chart Book" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 January 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2007.
  6. ^ Wilson, MacKenzie. "The Sensual World – Kate Bush". AllMusic. Archived from the original on 2 June 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  7. ^ Kot, Greg (26 October 1989). "Kate Bush: The Sensual World (Columbia)". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 7 April 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  8. ^ Hochman, Steve (5 November 1989). "A Grown-Up Kate Bush Veers Closer to Earth". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 22 April 2021. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  9. ^ Sutcliffe, Phil (June 2011). "A Magnificent Obsession". Mojo. No. 211. pp. 82–83.
  10. ^ Quantick, David (21 October 1989). "Let Them Eat Kate". NME. p. 38.
  11. ^ Hewitt, Ben (19 January 2019). "Kate Bush: The Sensual World". Pitchfork. Archived from the original on 1 March 2021. Retrieved 19 January 2019.
  12. ^ a b Sandall, Robert (November 1989). "Wiggly". Q. No. 38.
  13. ^ Considine, J. D. (2004). "Kate Bush". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 122–123. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  14. ^ Sheffield, Rob (1995). "Kate Bush". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. pp. 62–63. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  15. ^ Christgau, Robert (13 March 1990). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 4 January 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Kate Bush". Brit Awards. Archived from the original on 9 October 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  17. ^ "Kate Bush". The Recording Academy. Archived from the original on 16 December 2021. Retrieved 15 January 2022.
  18. ^ "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 26 March 2019. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  19. ^ "Robert Smith [interview]". Melody Maker. 23 December 1989. p. 23.
  20. ^ The Sensual World (CD booklet). Kate Bush. EMI Records. 1989.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  21. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Albums: Issue 6687". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  23. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  24. ^ "European Top 100 Albums" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 6, no. 44. 4 November 1989. p. VIII. OCLC 29800226 – via World Radio History.
  25. ^ Pennanen, Timo (2006). Sisältää hitin – levyt ja esittäjät Suomen musiikkilistoilla vuodesta 1972 (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Kustannusosakeyhtiö Otava. ISBN 978-951-1-21053-5.
  26. ^ "Le Détail des Albums de chaque Artiste". InfoDisc (in French). Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2022. Select "Kate BUSH" from the drop-down menu and click "OK".
  27. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in German). GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  28. ^ センシュアル・ワールド/ケイト・ブッシュ [The Sensual World / Kate Bush] (in Japanese). Oricon. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  29. ^ "Classifiche". Musica e dischi (in Italian). Archived from the original on 6 March 2023. Retrieved 30 May 2022. Select "Album" in the "Tipo" field, type "The Sensual World" in the "Titolo" field and press "cerca".
  30. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Hung Medien. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  31. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  32. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  33. ^ " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  34. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  35. ^ "Kate Bush Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  36. ^ "Official Albums Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 21 June 2022.
  37. ^ "Top 100 Albums of '89". RPM. Vol. 51, no. 8. 23 December 1989. p. 14. ISSN 0033-7064 – via Library and Archives Canada.
  38. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Album 1989" (in Dutch). Dutch Charts. Retrieved 5 October 2023.
  39. ^ "Topp 40 Album Høst 1989" (in Norwegian). VG-lista. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  40. ^ "Year End Albums" (PDF). Record Mirror. 20 January 1990. p. 42. ISSN 0144-5804 – via World Radio History.
  41. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Music Canada. 7 November 1989.
  42. ^ "French album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in French). InfoDisc. Retrieved 8 August 2021. Select KATE BUSH and click OK. 
  43. ^ Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  44. ^ "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Chartheaven. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  45. ^ "Kate Bush: The Sensual World (The Videos) – Cast, Reviews, Summary, and Awards – AllRovi". Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2011.

External links[edit]