I'm Afraid of Americans
|"I'm Afraid of Americans"|
|Single by David Bowie|
|from the album Earthling|
|Released||October 14, 1997|
|Recorded||Looking Glass Studio, New York City, US|
|Length||Ranges from 4:12-11:18|
|Label||Virgin — 8 38618 2|
|Writer(s)||David Bowie, Brian Eno|
|Producer||David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Photek (track 5)|
|David Bowie singles chronology|
"I'm Afraid of Americans" is a single by David Bowie from the 1997 album Earthling. The song, co-written by Bowie and Brian Eno, was originally written during Bowie's studio sessions for the 1995 album Outside but was not released until a rough mix appeared on the soundtrack to the film Showgirls, and was subsequently remade for Earthling.
Bowie describes the feelings behind the song:
It's not as truly hostile about Americans as say "Born in the U.S.A.": it's merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald's went up: it was like, "for fuck's sake." The invasion by any homogenised culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.
"I'm Afraid of Americans" originally appeared as a rough mix on the soundtrack to the film Showgirls (in which the chorus is "I'm afraid of the animals" instead of the later "I'm afraid of Americans") and was subsequently remade for Earthling. This version and two of the Nine Inch Nails remixes were released on the bonus disc of the Digibook Expanded Edition of Earthling in 2004. The song is sampled for a remix of Company Flow's "Patriotism" when El-P performs it.
A CD single for "I'm Afraid of Americans" was released in the United States. The single did not include the album version of the song; instead, it featured remixes of the track performed by Bowie's former tourmates, Nine Inch Nails, and drum and bass artist Photek. The (V1) mix became more popular than the original version, largely in part of the accompanying video, leading to its appearance on the retrospective Best of Bowie.
- Virgin / 8 38618 2 (US)
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V1) – 5:31
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V2) – 5:51
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V3) – 6:18
- Special guest: Ice Cube
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V4) – 5:25
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V5) – 5:38
- I'm Afraid of Americans (V6) – 11:18
- CD promo
- Virgin / DPRO-12749 (US)
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V1 Edit) – 4:30
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" (Original Edit) – 4:12
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V3) – 6:06
- "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V1 Clean Edit) – 4:30
- Lyrics by David Bowie, music by Bowie and Brian Eno
- All tracks: reproduced by Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor, Charlie Clouser, Keith Hillebrandt, Dave "Rave" Ogilvie, Danny Lohner)
- Except V5: remix by Photek
A Taxi Driver-influenced music video was produced for the "I'm Afraid of Americans (V1)" remix, starring David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Directed by Dom and Nic, it features Bowie being stalked through New York City by Jonny, a hostile American, played by Reznor. As Bowie continues to be harassed and becomes more and more paranoid, he witnesses (or imagines he witnesses) random acts of violence perpetrated by citizens on one another — but their hands are empty, as if holding invisible guns. The video ends with Bowie ducking behind a taxi while Reznor fires an imaginary assault rifle that inflicts severe damage on a vehicle. Bowie awakens later, only to witness Reznor carrying a cross in a procession which mixes imagery reminiscent of the Way of the Cross and Day of the Dead celebrations. The music video premiered on MTV Live, and later received a MTV Video Music Award nomination in 1998 for Best Male Video.
Live versions and covers
Sonic Youth performed the song together with Bowie at his 50th Birthday Bash in New York City in January 1997. A version recorded at GQ Awards, New York City, 15 October 1997, was released on LiveAndWell.com in 2000. Another version recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre, London, June 27, 2000, was released on the bonus disc following the first releases of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000. A version performed in Dublin, Ireland was recorded for the DVD A Reality Tour in 2003.
The American techno band Q covered the song for the 2003 compilation Spiders from Venus: Indie Women Artists and Female-Fronted Bands Cover David Bowie, a version which also featured on Hero: The Main Man Records Tribute to David Bowie (2007). The American metal band Fashion Bomb likewise covered it for the 2006 album .2 Contamination: A Tribute to David Bowie.
Nine Inch Nails covered the song during their encore at the Bell Center in Montreal on October 3rd, 2013, as well as several other venues during the 2013 "Tension" tour.
- "David Bowie: The FI Interview" by J.D. Considine, Fi magazine, October 1997, pp 36-41
- "''Earthling'' press release". Teenagewildlife.com. 1999-06-25. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- "David Bowie — "I'm afraid of Americans [remix]"". mvdbase.com. 1997-10-06. Retrieved 2009-05-10.
- "Sharehead is in the Area!". Tackhead.com. Retrieved 2011-08-26.