50 Words for Snow

50 Words for Snow is the tenth studio album by English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. It is the second album released on her own label, Fish People.[3][4] It was Bush's first all-new studio album since Aerial (2005). A single, "Wild Man", was released as a download.

50 Words for Snow
Kate Bush - 50 Words for Snow
Studio album by
Released21 November 2011
StudioAbbey Road Studios, London
LabelFish People
ProducerKate Bush
Kate Bush chronology
Director's Cut
50 Words for Snow
Before the Dawn
Singles from 50 Words for Snow
  1. "Wild Man"
    Released: 11 October 2011


50 Words for Snow was released on 21 November 2011, Kate Bush's second album of the year after Director's Cut. The album consists of seven songs "set against a background of falling snow" and has a running time of 65 minutes.[3][5] The songs "Lake Tahoe" and "Misty" are the two longest songs in Bush's catalog and her only songs that are over ten minutes long - without considering the multi-part 42 minute-long epic "A Sky of Honey" from her 2005 album Aerial.

A radio edit of the first single "Wild Man" was played on BBC Radio 2's Ken Bruce Show on 10 October. The single, featuring both the radio edit as well as the album version, was released on 11 October. Andy Fairweather Low guest stars on this story of a group of people exploring the Himalayas who, upon finding evidence of the elusive, mythical Yeti, out of compassion cover up all traces of its footprints. Priya Elan in the New Musical Express greeted the single with enthusiasm, saying: "For those of us who have been secretly longing for a return to the unflinchingly bizarre and Bush's ability to conjure up strange new worlds, 'Wild Man' is a deep joy."[6]

In an interview with the American radio station KCRW, Bush said that the idea for the album's title song came from thinking about the myth that Eskimos have 50 words for snow, which led her to make up increasingly fantastical words herself, such as "spangladasha", "anechoic", "blown from Polar fur", and "Robber's Veil".[8] The album's songs are built around Bush's quietly jazzy piano and Steve Gadd's drums (she had just started working with him and praised his "brilliant drumming"[8]), and utilize both sung and spoken word vocals in what Classic Rock's Stephen Dalton calls "a...supple and experimental affair, with a contemporary chamber pop sound grounded in crisp piano, minimal percussion and light-touch electronics...billowing jazz-rock soundscapes, interwoven with fragmentary narratives delivered in a range of voices from shrill to Laurie Anderson-style cooing."[9] Bassist Danny Thompson also appears on the album.

On the first track, "Snowflake", in a song written specifically to use his still high choir-boy voice,[10] Bush's son Albert sings the role of a falling snowflake in a song expressing the hope of a noisy world soon being hushed by snowfall. "Snowflake" drifts into "Lake Tahoe", where choral singers Stefan Roberts and Michael Wood join Bush in a song about a rarely seen ghost: a woman who appears in a Victorian gown to call to her dog, Snowflake. Bush explained to fellow musician Jamie Cullum in an interview on Dutch Radio[11] that she wished to explore using high male voices in contrast to her own, deeper, voice. "Misty" is about a snowman lover who melts away after a night of passion, and after "Wild Man", Elton John and Bush as eternally divided lovers trade vocals on "Snowed In at Wheeler Street", while actor Stephen Fry recites the "50 Words for Snow". The quiet love song "Among Angels" finishes the album.[12]

Two stop-motion animation videos were released online to promote the album, one to accompany a section of "Misty" (called "Mistraldespair"), the other to accompany a section of "Wild Man". "Mistraldespair" was directed by Bush and animated by Tommy Thompson and Gary Pureton,[13] while the "Wild Man" segment was created by Finn and Patrick at Brandt Animation.[14] On 24 January 2012, a third piece called "Eider Falls at Lake Tahoe", was premiered on her website and on YouTube. Running at 5:01, the piece is a black-and-white shadow puppet animation that NPR's Dan Raby calls "...beautiful in its simplicity — emphasizing small subtle movements over big extravagance... The stark contrast between the black figures and the white world makes each set piece seem mystical."[15] Directed by Bush and photographed by award-winning British cinematographer Roger Pratt, the shadow puppets were designed by Robert Allsopp.[16]

The album's closing track, "Among Angels", was included in the setlist of Bush's Before the Dawn concerts in 2014. In 2015, a remixed version of "Wild Man" was included on The Art of Peace − Songs for Tibet II compilation album celebrating the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama.[17]

Critical and commercial reception

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic4/5 stars[19]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[20]
Entertainment WeeklyA−[21]
The Guardian5/5 stars[22]
The Independent5/5 stars[23]
Los Angeles Times3.5/4 stars[24]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[27]

50 Words for Snow received general acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 85, based on 35 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[18] On 27 November, 50 Words for Snow entered the UK album charts at #5, making Bush the first female recording artist to have an album of all new material in the top five during each of the last five decades.[29]

On 14 November 2011, NPR played the album in its entirety for the first time. In her accompanying review of the album, NPR music critic Ann Powers writes: "Each song on Snow grows as if from magic beans from the lush ground of the singer-songwriter's keyboard parts. The music is immersive but spacious, jazz-tinged and lushly electronic – the 53-year-old Bush, a prime inspiration for tech-savvy young auteurs ranging from St. Vincent to hip-hop's Big Boi, pioneered the use of digital samplers in the 1980s and is still an avid aural manipulator. This time around, drummer Steve Gadd is her most important interlocutor – the veteran studio player's gentle but firm touch draws the frame around each of her expanding landscapes. But Bush won't be restricted. Like [Joni] Mitchell on Don Juan's Restless Daughter [sic], she takes her time and lets her characters lead." Powers chose 50 words for the new album, describing it as "Powdery fantasia. Contemplative. Winter matins. Playful. Opium reverie. Grounded. Ghost story. Sensual. Artistic recalibration. Unhurried. Drummer's holiday. Quiet. Ode to the white keys. Imaginative. Exploration of the lower register. Floating. Mother-son duet. Solitary. Snowed-in erotica. Collaborative. Joni Mitchell answer record. Inimitable. Supernatural space odyssey. What we'd expect from Kate Bush."[30] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis notes that "For all the subtle beauty of the orchestrations, there's an organic, live feel, the sense of musicians huddled together in a room, not something that's happened on a Bush album before."[31]

Will Hermes in Rolling Stone writes: "[50 Words for Snow is] an LP that finds a universe of emotions in its wintery theme – a sort of virtual snowglobe ... the music ... is full of plush, drifty ambience. The vocals sound nothing like the fierce cyberbabe on her 1982 LP The Dreaming, or the strange angels on Hounds of Love, but they are no less sublime ... she sounds utterly at home defining her own world. It's an amazing place."[32] Everything Entertainment Central's Tim David Harvey says: "The album begins with the beautiful fall of a song called 'Snowflake', before getting operatic, strange and even more sublime with 'Lake Tahoe' which is as deep and decedent as the place itself, it's that kind of picturesque music," and goes on to call the album "unique, concise, cohesive classic."[33]

The Quietus' Joe Kennedy compares 50 Words for Snow to the work of such artists as Michael Nyman, Brian Eno and Scott Walker, writing "Snow brings about a state of exception in which there's no pressure to exert ourselves on the outside world: instead, it invites contemplativeness and the prioritisation of personal and domestic relationships over professional ones. Bush's habitual provocations to abandon day-to-day concerns while cultivating romantic, internal landscapes have always felt slightly like the work of someone gazing from a window into a blizzard. This, one senses, is her natural territory...Where her past work has often been heavily-layered and breathless, 50 Words for Snow uses negative space to impressive effect; much of the album features little more than voice and flurrying passages of piano which gust across the stave, changing pace and melodic direction as if they're suddenly hitting updrafts."[34] Other critics take exception to some of Bush's choices, greeting the album with skepticism. Ludovic Hunter-Tilsley in The Financial Times warns that despite "slow eddies of piano chords and gentle percussion … wintry piano, atmospheric orchestral arrangements and an intimate, torch-lit vocal from Bush, who, at 53, has acquired a warm huskiness to her voice … the album wobbles with the hammy Elton John duet "Snowed In at Wheeler St", and topples over on the title track in which Bush invites Stephen Fry to dream up 50 terms for snow … 50 Words for Snow elucidates its wintry theme with flashes of brilliance but the odd treacherous icy patch too";[35]

Australia's ABC Radio National declared 50 Words for Snow album of the week of 12 November 2011, calling the album "quiet, lush and otherworldly."[36] Mojo placed the album at number 5 on its list of "Top 50 albums of 2011"[37] while Stereogum placed the album at number 11, Pitchfork placed the album at number 36 and Uncut placed it at number 40 on their lists.[38][39][40]

The album debuted and peaked at number five on the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales of 49,812 copies, before dropping to number 26 the following week with a 63% reduction in sales; the album appeared in the top 100 section of the chart for nine weeks, and despite being released in the eleventh month of 2011 was the eighth best-selling vinyl album of the year.[41] It also peaked at number 83 on the Billboard 200 in the United States, while reaching number seven on the Independent Albums chart.[42]

Bush was nominated for 2012 BRIT Awards as Best British Female Solo Artist, but eventually lost to Adele. She also made her first official public appearance after 10 years, picking the South Bank Sky Arts Award in the Pop category for 50 Words for Snow, beating fellow nominees Adele, for 21 and PJ Harvey, for Let England Shake. The same three albums were nominated for the Best Album award at the 2012 Ivor Novello Awards, won by PJ Harvey.

Track listing

All tracks written by Kate Bush.

2."Lake Tahoe"11:08
4."Wild Man"7:17
5."Snowed in at Wheeler Street"8:05
6."50 Words for Snow"8:31
7."Among Angels"6:49
Total length:65:06


  • Kate Bush – vocals (exc. 1), piano (1–3, 5, 7), backing vocals (1, 4), bass guitar (1), keyboards (4–6)
  • Dan McIntosh – guitar (1, 3–6)
  • Del Palmer – bass guitar (1), bells (4)
  • Danny Thompson – double bass (3)
  • John Giblin – bass guitar(4–6)
  • Steve Gadd – drums (exc. 7)
  • Albert McIntosh – featured vocal (1)
  • Michael Wood and Stefan Roberts – featured vocal (2)
  • Elton John – featured vocal (5)
  • Stephen Fry (as Prof. Joseph Yupik) – featured vocal (6)


  • Produced by Kate Bush
  • Recorded by Del Palmer
  • Additional recording by Stephen W. Tayler
  • Mixed by Stephen W. Tayler
  • Assisted by Stanley Gabriel
  • Additional assistants: Jim Jones, Robert Houston, Patrick Phillips and Kris Burton
  • Mastered by Doug Sax and James Guthrie
  • Assisted by Eric Boulanger
  • Orchestral arrangements by Jonathan Tunick
  • Orchestra conducted by Jonathan Tunick
  • Orchestra sessions recorded at Abbey Road Studios
  • Recorded by Simon Rhodes
  • Assisted by Chris Bolster and John Barrett


Weekly charts

Chart (2011–12) Peak
Australian Albums (ARIA)[43] 22
Austrian Albums (Ö3 Austria)[44] 26
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)[45] 18
Belgian Albums (Ultratop Wallonia)[46] 38
Canadian Albums (Billboard)[47] 39
Croatian Albums (HDU)[48] 25
Czech Albums (ČNS IFPI)[49] 41
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[50] 16
Dutch Albums (Album Top 100)[51] 10
Finnish Albums (Suomen virallinen lista)[52] 8
French Albums (SNEP)[53] 21
German Albums (Offizielle Top 100)[54] 7
Greek Albums (IFPI)[55] 51
Irish Albums (IRMA)[56] 12
Irish Independent Albums (IRMA)[57] 3
Italian Albums (FIMI)[58] 38
Japanese Albums (Oricon)[59] 49
New Zealand Albums (RMNZ)[60] 39
Norwegian Albums (VG-lista)[61] 13
Polish Albums (ZPAV)[62] 37
Scottish Albums (OCC)[63] 10
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[64] 13
Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)[65] 12
UK Albums (OCC)[66] 5
US Billboard 200[67] 83
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[68] 7
US Top Alternative Albums (Billboard)[69] 9
US Top Rock Albums (Billboard)[70] 13

Year-end charts

Chart (2011) Position
Danish Albums (Hitlisten)[71] 78
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[72] 88
French Albums (SNEP)[73] 188
UK Albums (OCC)[74] 93


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
France 20,000[75]
United Kingdom (BPI)[77] Gold 155,000[76]
United States 42,889[78]


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External links

Andy Fairweather Low

Andrew Fairweather Low (born 2 August 1948) is a Welsh guitarist, songwriter, producer and vocalist. He was a founder member and lead singer of 1960s British pop band Amen Corner, and in recent years has toured extensively with Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings.

Before the Dawn (Kate Bush album)

Before the Dawn is the second live album by English singer-songwriter Kate Bush, credited to The KT Fellowship. The album was released on 25 November 2016 by Bush's label Fish People, and is distributed in the United States by Concord Records. It was recorded in 2014 during Bush's sell-out 22-date residency, Before the Dawn, at the Hammersmith Apollo in London, which saw her return to the stage following a 35-year absence.

The album has been certified Gold in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry.

Before the Dawn (Kate Bush concert residency)

Before the Dawn was a concert residency by British singer-songwriter and musician Kate Bush in 2014 at the Hammersmith Apollo in London. The residency consisted of 22 dates; it was Bush's first series of live shows since her first tour in 1979, which finished with three performances at the same venue. A live recording was released in physical and digital formats in November 2016.On 21 March 2014, Bush announced via her website her plans to perform live. Pre-sale tickets were on sale for fans who had signed up to her website and an additional seven dates were added to the original 15, due to the high demand. Tickets were on sale to the general public on 28 March and were sold out within 15 minutes.With the program, Bush won the Editor's Award at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards; and was subsequently nominated for two Q Awards in 2014: Best Act in the World Today and Best Live Act but did not win either award.

Danny Thompson

Daniel Henry Edward Thompson (born 4 April 1939) is an English multi-instrumentalist best known as a double bassist. He has had a long musical career playing with a large variety of other musicians, particularly Richard Thompson and John Martyn.

For four years, between 1964 and 1967, he was a member of Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, led a trio that included guitarist John McLaughlin, and was a founding member of the British folk-jazz band Pentangle. Since 1987, he has also recorded four solo albums. He converted to Islam in 1990.

Del Palmer

Derek Peter "Del" Palmer (born 3 November 1952) is an English singer, songwriter, bass guitarist and sound engineer, best known for his work with Kate Bush, with whom he also had a long-term relationship between the late 1970s and early 1990s. He released his first solo studio album titled Leap of Faith in 2007, followed by Gift in 2010. His third solo album, Point of Safe Return, was released on 6 March 2015.

Director's Cut (Kate Bush album)

Director's Cut is the ninth studio album by English singer and songwriter Kate Bush that she released in May 2011. It contains no new material: it is only made up of songs from her earlier albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes which have been remixed and restructured, three of which were re-recorded completely. It was Bush's first album release since 2005's Aerial and the first on her own record label, Fish People.

Bush wrote all of the songs and composed all of the lyrics with the exception of lines referenced from James Joyce. The album has received mostly positive critical reviews. Praise has appeared from various publications such as Allmusic and The Scotsman.

Elton John

Sir Elton Hercules John (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight, 25 March 1947) is an English singer, songwriter, pianist, and composer. He has worked with lyricist Bernie Taupin as his songwriting partner since 1967; they have collaborated on more than 30 albums. John has sold more than 300 million records, making him one of the best-selling music artists in the world. He has more than fifty Top 40 hits, including seven consecutive number-one albums in the United States, 58 Billboard Top 40 singles, 27 Top 10 singles, four which reached number two and nine which reached number one. His tribute single "Candle in the Wind 1997", rewritten in dedication to Diana, Princess of Wales, sold over 33 million copies worldwide and is the best-selling single in the history of the UK and US singles charts. He has also composed music, produced records, and has occasionally acted in films.

Raised in the Pinner area of London, John learned to play piano at an early age, and by 1962 had formed Bluesology. John met his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, in 1967, after they had both answered an advert for songwriters. For two years, they wrote songs for other artists, including Lulu, and John also worked as a session musician for artists, such as the Hollies and the Scaffold. In 1969, his debut album, Empty Sky, was released. In 1970, John's first hit single "Your Song", from his second album, Elton John, reached the top ten in the UK and the US. After decades of chart success, John has also achieved success in musical films and theatre, composing the music for The Lion King and its stage adaptation, Aida and Billy Elliot the Musical.

He has received five Grammy Awards, five Brit Awards – winning two awards for Outstanding Contribution to Music and the first Brits Icon in 2013 for his "lasting impact on British culture", an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award, a Disney Legends award, and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2004. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him Number 49 on its list of 100 influential musicians of the rock and roll era. In 2013, Billboard ranked him the most successful male solo artist on the Billboard Hot 100 Top All-Time Artists, making him third overall behind the Beatles and Madonna. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, is an inductee of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and is a fellow of the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He was knighted by Elizabeth II for "services to music and charitable services" in 1998. John has performed at a number of royal events, such as the funeral of Princess Diana at Westminster Abbey in 1997, the Party at the Palace in 2002 and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert outside Buckingham Palace in 2012.

He has been heavily involved in the fight against AIDS since the late 1980s. In 1992, he established the Elton John AIDS Foundation and a year later, began hosting the annual Academy Awards Party, which has since become one of the highest-profile Oscar parties in the Hollywood film industry. Since its inception, the foundation has raised over US$200 million. John, who announced he was bisexual in 1976 and has been openly gay since 1988, entered into a civil partnership with David Furnish on 21 December 2005, and after same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in 2014, he married Furnish on 21 December 2014. On 24 January 2018, it was announced that John would be retiring from touring and would soon embark on a three-year farewell tour, which began in September 2018.

John Giblin

John Giblin is an internationally renowned British double bassist and bass guitarist, noted for his versatility spanning jazz, classical, rock, folk and avant-garde music.

While best known as a London studio musician, recording film scores and contemporary music, Giblin has also performed live, and recorded with Peter Gabriel, John Martyn, Elkie Brooks, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins, pop-rock group Simple Minds, and has been closely associated with artists, ranging from Kate Bush, David Sylvian, Jon Anderson (Yes), to experimental group Brand X, and more recently the avant-garde recordings by Scott Walker (including the album Tilt).

In recent times Giblin has moved further in the direction of acoustic bass, and current projects include among the musicians, drummer Peter Erskine (of Weather Report), and pianist Alan Pasqua (of Tony Williams Lifetime).

Kate Bush

Catherine Bush (born 30 July 1958) is an English singer, songwriter, and record producer. Bush came to notice in 1978 when, aged 19, she topped the UK Singles Chart for four weeks with her debut single "Wuthering Heights", becoming the first female artist to achieve a UK number one with a self-written song. She has since released 25 UK Top 40 singles, including the top-10 hits "The Man with the Child in His Eyes", "Babooshka", "Running Up That Hill", "Don't Give Up" (a duet with Peter Gabriel) and "King of the Mountain". She has released ten studio albums, all of which reached the UK Top 10, including the UK number-one albums Never for Ever (1980), Hounds of Love (1985), and the compilation The Whole Story (1986). She is the first British solo female artist to top the UK album charts and the first female artist to enter the album chart at number one.Bush began writing songs at 11. She was signed to EMI Records after Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour helped produce a demo tape. Her debut album, The Kick Inside, was released in 1978. Bush slowly gained artistic independence in album production, and has produced all her studio albums since The Dreaming (1982). She took a hiatus between her seventh and eighth albums The Red Shoes (1993) and Aerial (2005). She drew attention again in 2014 with her concert residency Before the Dawn, her first shows since 1979's The Tour of Life.

Bush's eclectic and experimental musical style with literary and unconventional lyrical themes has influenced a diverse range of artists. She has been nominated 13 times for British Phonographic Industry accolades, winning for Best British Female Artist in 1987. She has also been nominated for three Grammy Awards. In 2002, she was recognised with an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Music. In October 2017 she was nominated for induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Bush was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours for services to music.

Kate Bush discography

This is the complete discography (albums, EPs, singles and videos) of English singer-songwriter Kate Bush.

Lionheart (Kate Bush album)

Lionheart is the second studio album by the English singer-songwriter Kate Bush. It was released in November 1978, just nine months after Bush's successful debut album The Kick Inside. Lionheart reached no. 6 on the UK Albums Chart (her only album not to make the top 5) and has been certified Platinum by the BPI.

The first single taken from the album, "Hammer Horror", missed the UK Top 40. However, the follow-up single, "Wow", was released on the back of Bush's UK tour and became a UK Top 20 hit.

List of awards and nominations received by Kate Bush

This is a list of music awards and award nominations received by the English singer/songwriter Kate Bush.

To date Kate Bush has received 13 nominations for BRIT Awards throughout her career, but has so far won only once, in 1987.

List of songs about the September 11 attacks

This list contains songs which were inspired by or contain lyrics referring to the September 11 attacks.

List of songs recorded by Kate Bush

This is a list of songs recorded by Kate Bush.

Stephen W. Tayler

Stephen Tayler is a mixing and recording engineer, music producer, musician, composer and sound designer who has contributed towards many albums for artists including Kate Bush, Suzanne Vega, Peter Gabriel, Underworld, Duncan Sheik, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks, Milla Jovovich, Rush, Bob Geldof, Rupert Hine and Tina Turner. Stephen works closely with producer, filmmaker and artist Sadia Sadia. Starting with analogue and tape techniques, and subsequently an early adopter of synthesis, sampling and digital technology, he is based out of one of four long-term project spaces at Real World Studios in Wiltshire, UK.

Steve Gadd

Stephen Kendall Gadd (born April 9, 1945) is an American drummer, percussionist, and session musician. Gadd is one of the most well-known and highly regarded session and studio drummers in the industry, recognized by his induction into the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame in 1984. Gadd's performance on Paul Simon's "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover", "Late In The Evening" and Steely Dan's "Aja" are examples of his style. He has worked with popular musicians from many genres including Simon & Garfunkel, Steely Dan, James Taylor, Eric Clapton, Kate Bush, Joe Cocker, Grover Washington Jr., Chick Corea, Lee Ritenour, Paul Desmond, Chet Baker and Al Di Meola.

Wild Man (Kate Bush song)

"Wild Man" is a song by Kate Bush released as the lead single from her tenth studio album 50 Words for Snow. It was released as a digital download single in the United Kingdom on 11 October 2011, and peaked at number 73 on the UK Singles Chart. "Wild Man" tells the story of sightings of the Yeti in the wilds of the Himalayas, and of the efforts by the narrator and others to protect him from discovery.

Studio albums
Extended plays
Live albums
Compilation albums
Concert tours

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