The Sensual World

The Sensual World is the sixth studio album by the English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. It was released in October 1989 and peaked at no. 2 on the UK Albums Chart. It has been certified Platinum by the BPI for sales of 300,000 in the UK,[2] and Gold by the RIAA in the US.[3]

The Sensual World
Studio album by
Released16 October 1989
StudioWickham Farm Home Studio (Welling, England) and Windmill Lane Studios
GenreArt rock, alternative Rock, progressive pop[1]
Length42:10 (LP)
45:58 (CD)
LabelEMI all territories except the US, Columbia (US)
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


Bush drew inspiration for the title track from the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. Bush realised that Molly Bloom's soliloquy, the closing passage of the novel, fit 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 movie 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 #3 on the UK download 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 in 2005–2008, 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 album.

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".

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 1991, The Sensual World received a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album.[6]

Bush was also nominated for two BRIT Awards in 1990 as Best British Producer and Best British Album of the Year for the album The Sensual World.

In May 2011, Bush released a new 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 in her live album Before the Dawn, released in 2016. The song was never performed in front of the audience, however, Bush decided to include the live version into the recording.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[8]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[9]
Los Angeles Times[10]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[15]
The Village VoiceB[16]

"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 the last track on A side, Heads We're Dancing, reproduces that mysteriously sproingy bass sound favoured by Mick Karn."[13] Slant Magazine listed the album at number 55 on its 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."[17]

Track listing

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


  • Kate Bush – producer
  • Del Palmer – recording engineer, mixing (11)
  • Haydn Bendall, Kevin Killen, Paul Gomazel – additional recording engineers
  • Tom Leader – assistant engineer (Trio Bulgarka sessions)
  • Andrew Boland – engineer ("The Irish sessions")
  • John Grimes – assistant engineer ("The Irish sessions")
  • Kevin Killen – mixing (1–10)
  • Ian Cooper – mastering


The Sensual World – The Videos

The Sensual World – The Videos
Video by
GenreAlternative rock, art rock
Length16 minutes
LabelCMV Enterprises
DirectorPeter Richardson, Kate Bush
Kate Bush chronology
The Whole Story
The Sensual World – The Videos
The Line, the Cross & the Curve
Professional ratings
Review scores
Track listing
  1. "Interview" 0:36
  2. "The Sensual World" 5:15
  3. "Love and Anger" 4:43
  4. "This Woman's Work" 6:31

See also


  2. "British album certifications – Kate Bush – Sensual World". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Type Sensual World in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  3. "American album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 
  4. Littlejohn, Maureen. "The Sensual Woman". Network magazine. 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. Cromelin, Richard / Hunt Dennis (11 January 1991). "Grammys—Round 1 : Pop music: Phil Collins' 8 nominations lead the pack and Quincy Jones sets a record with his 74th nod. The winners will be revealed on Feb. 20". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  7. Wilson, MacKenzie. "The Sensual World – Kate Bush". AllMusic. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  8. Kot, Greg (26 October 1989). "Kate Bush: The Sensual World". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  9. Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  10. Hochman, Steve (15 November 1989). "A Grown-Up Kate Bush Veers Closer to Earth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  11. Quantick, David (21 October 1989). "Let Them Eat Kate". NME.
  12. Hewitt, Ben (18 January 2019). "Kate Bush: The Sensual World". Pitchfork. Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  13. Sandall, Robert (November 1989). "Welcome back to the fey, pattery, indeed sproingy world of Kate Bush". Q (38).
  14. Considine, J. D. (2004). "Kate Bush". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. pp. 122–23. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  15. Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig, eds. (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  16. Christgau, Robert (13 March 1990). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 7 January 2012. Relevant portion also posted at "Kate Bush: The Sensual World > Consumer Guide Album". Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  17. "The 100 Best Albums of the 1980s". Slant Magazine. 5 March 2012. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 28 June 2016.
  18. " Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  19. "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 51, No. 8" (PHP). RPM. 23 December 1989. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  20. " Kate Bush – The Sensual World". MegaCharts. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  21. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste : Kate Bush". Archived from the original on 7 November 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011.
  22. "Album Search: Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 10 July 2013.
  23. "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1989" (in Italian). Retrieved 3 October 2011.
  24. "Highest position and charting weeks of The Sensual World by Kate Bush". (in Japanese). Oricon Style. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  25. " – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  26. " Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  27. " Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  28. "Kate Bush – The Sensual World –". Retrieved 8 August 2011.
  29. "Kate Bush > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  30. Allmusic – The Sensual World > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums
  31. "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1989". RPM. 23 December 1989. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 3 May 2011.
  32. "Complete UK Year-End Album Charts". Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 7 August 2011.
  33. "Canadian album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". Music Canada.
  34. "French album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique.
  36. Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  37. "British album certifications – Kate Bush – The Sensual World". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Platinum in the Certification field. Type The Sensual World in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  38. "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.
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