Background and Vocal Summary: +++Catherine “Kate” Bush is an English singer-songwriter. One of the most distinct presences in British music over the last forty years, Kate’s eccentric performances matched with her unique idiosyncratic vocals have solidified her as one of the most innovative songwriters in recent memory. From 1978’s The Kick Inside (Kate’s widely acclaimed debut album) it was clear that she was a proficient songwriter who has since had a widespread influence on an eclectic array of musicians. +++Kate is a clear example of a soprano, being very comfortable singing in her head voice in the fifth octave. From early on, Kate’s voice displayed a number of unusual vocal quirks, polarising listeners; she sung in distinct (southern) English accent in songs like “There Goes a Tenner” and would occasionally sing with more of a rough edge to her voice in tracks like “Get Out of My House” and “Violin”. Kate’s voice was also notably subject to a number of vocal changes over the years – in the seventies, her songs would be very high-focused, with Kate’s tone sounding particularly piercing and shrill at times, especially on songs like “Kite” and “Wuthering Heights”. Further into the eighties (and the nineties), Kate’s tone would mellow out significantly; Kate was still being a very distinct singer, but was much less rough around the edges. By Hounds of Love in 1985, she would opt to sing more in her chest voice, singing more frequently in the fourth octave than the fifth and more frequently dipping into her smooth lower register. In the significant break between 1993’s The Red Shoes and 2005’s Aerial, Kate’s voice had again mellowed significantly. Affected by years of smoking, Kate began to gain a new strength in her lower register by the 2000s, though she would struggle to reach up to her iconic blissful head voice. Despite these changes, Kate’s voice still stands as one of the most captivating and iconic in popular music, being capable of pulling off faster-paced art rock tracks and melodramatic emotional performances.
As part of The Range Place forum, we have extensively kept track of Kate’s singing from B3 below and C5 above. Here’s a brief overview of the results with a link to the complete thread.
This is a representation of Kate’s range on a piano. Her highest note, F6, and lowest note, B2, have been labelled red. C4 (or Middle C) is noted by grey.
Vocal Timeline (1973-2016): 1973-1979: Throughout the Phoenix Demos, The Kick Inside and Lionheart, Kate displayed a unique comfort in her upper register, reaching easily into the upper fifth and sixth octaves frequently with her head voice. She sang in a piercing, almost witchy styling to her voice, turning some listeners off her music. Her voice being that of an obvious soprano, Kate had a somewhat weak and infrequently used lower register (though able to reach C♯3, it was a very weak one-off occasion, with her second lowest note in this period being a F♯3), and would very rarely sing in the third octave because of this.
1980-1981: Kate’s voice shows no significant changes, still being immensely comfortable in her upper register (as displayed on Never for Ever, in which she would reach her highest known note) though her tone showed some signs of mellowing out, with the previous “witchy” styling starting to fade. Kate would occasionally opt to sing much more harshly, with songs like “Violin” and “The Wedding List” showing a nice grit and power in her voice.
1982-1983: 1982’s experimental The Dreaming had Kate explore her voice further, employing a number of different vocal techniques from smoother low singing in “There Goes a Tenner” to the harsher singing in “Get Out of My House”. Kate’s voice began to clearly transition into being somewhat more rounded – while on tracks like “Sat in Your Lap” she would still exhibit a rough edge to her voice in the fifth octave, some of her voice’s signature quirks began to become slightly less predominant.
1985-1989: With the release of Hounds of Love and The Sensual World, Kate showed that her tone had mellowed out significantly from her early days. Kate began to take a different approach to singing, writing more of her songs for her warmer mid range in the fourth octave. She could still sing lovely, effortless high notes (“Reaching Out”, “Waking the Witch”) and was still evidently a soprano, though her tone became much more accessible for most listeners who had been previously turned off her music, something perhaps obvious by comparing the two respective versions of “Wuthering Heights” in 1978 and 1986. Kate would now also experiment much more in her lower register, more frequently dipping into the third octave while still maintaining the ability to reach effortless higher notes.
1990-1996: Kate’s voice is still largely the same, though her lower register began to sound even more developed and comfortable than previously on songs like “And So is Love”. Kate’s upper register in this time was somewhat underutilised, with Kate resorting to belting in her upper register instead of using her much softer head voice.
2002-2007: Following a relatively quiet period in Kate’s life, she emerged with a number of live performances and Aerial in the early 2000s. Her voice has lowered significantly, perhaps due to age or years of smoking (which she had supposedly given up in the late nineties). Kate’s voice still had the same charm and warmth as it did in her “Hounds” phase, though her tone was much more rounded overall, still being capable of reaching up to G♯5.
2011-2016: Kate’s voice seems to settle as an aged soprano here. She displays she is still able to reach higher notes (the reworked version of “Lily” on Director’s Cut, for example) but her voice is much more comfortable dipping into its lower register, with Kate reaching most of her lowest known notes in this time. In interviews, she admitted in this time that performing her older songs, she’d have to transpose the key down to be able to comfortably reach them in her now lower-placed voice. Her tone here is a stark contrast from her singing in The Kick Inside, sounding significantly lower than ever before. Surprisingly, though, her voice is still capable of pulling off powerful belted notes, with Kate’s range still being a hefty three octaves.
Top Ten Vocal Performances:
This list was decided upon by members of The Range Place forum, and thus, is subjective.
1. Get Out of My House (1982)
2. Sat in Your Lap (1982)
3. Violin (1980)
4. The Wedding List (1980)
5. Breathing (1980)
6. The Big Sky (1985)
7. Rocket’s Tail (1989)
8. Wuthering Heights (1986)
9. This Woman’s Work (1989)
10. Reaching Out (1989)
About the researcher:
Joining the site in 2016, Alex61 is the responsible for a large proportion of the site’s female singers. He appreciates the work of female singer-songwriters like Björk, Kate Bush and Regina Spektor, and generally prefers more unique voices over those more technically proficient. If you wish to contact him regarding any of his work, feel free to send him a private message after registering at http://therangeplace.boards.net.