I'm Afraid of Americans

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"I'm Afraid of Americans"
Single by David Bowie
from the album Earthling
A-side Versions 1–4 (12")
B-side Versions 5–6 (12")
Released 14 October 1997
Recorded March – August 1996 at Looking Glass Studio
(New York, New York)
Genre Industrial rock
  • 5:00 (album version)
  • Various (single version)
Label Parlophone
David Bowie singles chronology
"Pallas Athena" Tao Jones Index
"I'm Afraid of Americans"
"I Can't Read"

"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[1] 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 homogenized 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.[2]


"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, in large part because of the accompanying video, leading to its appearance on the retrospectives Best of Bowie and Nothing Has Changed.

The song also appears on the Complete Soundtrack for the TV series Person of Interest.

The song also appears in the 2014 comedy film The Interview.

The song also appears at the end credits of the 2016 action horror film The Purge: Election Year.

Music video[edit]

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.[3] 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 Jonny fires an imaginary assault rifle that inflicts severe damage on the taxi. After the shootout, Bowie stands back up next to the undamaged taxi, and witnesses Jonny 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.


Chart Peak
US Billboard 100 66
Canadian Singles Chart 14[4]
US Billboard Alternative 27
Lithuania Singles Chart 5

Track listing[edit]

Virgin / 8 38618 2 (US)


  1. I'm Afraid of Americans (V1) – 5:31
  2. I'm Afraid of Americans (V2) – 5:51
  3. I'm Afraid of Americans (V3) – 6:18
  4. I'm Afraid of Americans (V4) – 5:25


  1. I'm Afraid of Americans (V5) – 5:38
  2. I'm Afraid of Americans (V6) – 11:18
CD promo
Virgin / DPRO-12749 (US)
  1. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V1 Edit) – 4:30
  2. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (Original Edit) – 4:12
  3. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V3) – 6:06
  4. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (V1 Clean Edit) – 4:30

Personnel (V1)[edit]

Live versions and covers[edit]

Sonic Youth performed the song together with Bowie at his 50th Birthday Bash in New York City in January 1997.

David Bowie performed the song at the Howard Stern Birthday Bash 1998.

A version recorded at GQ Awards, New York City, 15 October 1997, was released on LiveAndWell.com in 2000.

Another live version by Bowie, recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre, London, on 27 June 2000, was released on the bonus disc accompanying the first releases of Bowie at the Beeb in 2000.

A live version by Bowie recorded in Dublin, Ireland in November 2003 was included on the DVD A Reality Tour, released in 2004, as well as the A Reality Tour album, released in 2010.

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.

Swiss band MIZAN covered "I'm Afraid of Americans" on their second album, AVRASYA.

We Are The World also covered the song in for We Were So Turned On: A Tribute to David Bowie (2010).

The track was also recorded in Vienna in 2008 by industrial hip hop group Tackhead for inclusion on their "ShareHead" album, which was scheduled for internet-only release in 2012.[5] It was later placed on their album For the Love of Money, released on 10 January 2014.[6]

Nine Inch Nails have covered the song live numerous times since the band first played the song at the Cruzan Amphitheatre in Florida on 8 May 2009.


  1. ^ "David Bowie: The FI Interview" by J.D. Considine, Fi magazine, October 1997, pp 36-41
  2. ^ "''Earthling'' press release". Teenagewildlife.com. 25 June 1999. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  3. ^ "David Bowie — "I'm afraid of Americans [remix]"". mvdbase.com. 6 October 1997. Retrieved 10 May 2009. 
  4. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/artist/david-bowie-mn0000531986/awards
  5. ^ "Sharehead is in the Area!". Tackhead.com. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Discography: For the Love of Money". tackhead.com. 2004. Retrieved 1 October 2014. 

External links[edit]