Let’s unpack “Bowie ’95,” the new song from Kite

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Photo credit: Milkdrop Studio

Swedish synthpop masters Kite have officially released their second collaboration with post-industrial wizard, Blanck Mass, a song called “Bowie ’95.” I’ve been fascinated by the title since Kite announced it a month ago.

You can find “Bowie ’95” on Spotify and other streaming platforms.

The song hovers on top of a throbbing, sinister beat accompanied by Kite’s shuffling analog synths. It practically explodes when Blanck Mass’s swirling buzzsaw electronics arrive. Nicklas Stenemo, who has the most distinctive voice on the planet, is slightly unrecognizable at first, singing in a lower register that eventually transforms into his typical singing style. It’s fantastic.

I’m still digesting the lyrics, and I often have trouble understanding Nicklas’s words because of the way he wraps his startling voice around syllables. The song opens with the line, “Supposed to know politics when you’re 46,” and goes on to list a number of other things he thinks he’s supposed to be. Nicklas, who is indeed 46 years old this year, responds, “I am some light years away from this.”

On the chorus, it sounds like Nicklas alternates between “I’m nothing like her” and “I’m nothing like him.” It’s not clear who he’s singing about. At one point, I think I hear him singing something like “I can’t terrorize the world.”

The title is undoubtedly a reference to iconic artist David Bowie, whose influence is broadly felt across the post-punk and synthpop landscape. That said, the lyrics never explicitly name Bowie, so I’m not entirely sure what the connection is. David Bowie was already a legend by 1995, the year he released his 19th album, Outside, and teamed up with Nine Inch Nails for a world tour.

But I’m not convinced it’s actually about Bowie.

Kite continues exploring their formative years

Kite has been on a nostalgia kick lately. They returned from a years-long hiatus last year with “Tranås/Stenslanda,” a song celebrating childhood and named after the small villages in Sweden where Nicklas and his cohort in Kite, Christian Berg, grew up.

Earlier this year, Kite released “Teenage Bliss,” their first collaboration with Blanck Mass, which jumped ahead a few years to cover the formative teen years. The rather hilarious music video features joyous, wide-eyed teens grinding their teeth in a nightclub.

I believe “Bowie ’95” is the next stop on the timeline. Nicklas would have been 21 in 1995. Kite tells Clash magazine that the song addresses “both the feeling of guilt of not being more part of making the real world much better, but also the acceptance that music and escapism have an important role to play in people’s lives.”

What is Kite’s “Bowie ’95” about?

With all that in mind, here’s my take on “Bowie ’95”: It’s a song about that thrilling, pivotal moment in everyone’s life when you discover that music is so much more than a catchy song you heard on the radio. It’s transcendent, it has the power to change the world, transform lives, and help people cope with the madness that’s going on around them.

That generally happens to most people when you discover an artist with an impact as big as Bowie’s, and I imagine Nicklas as a young man in Sweden listening to Bowie for the first time in 1995. For me, my “Bowie ’95” moment was “Robert Smith ’89.”

For the record, I think Nicklas is selling himself short. Kite’s music is transformative for me and many other fans. He may not be Bowie (who is?), but he is something like him.

Kite hasn’t said yet if they’ll continue working with Blanck Mass. When the partnership was announced, they promised two songs that have both now arrived. Kite typically releases EPs instead of albums, and there’s no word yet if these songs will appear on a forthcoming EP or if this is is a one-off collaboration with Blanck Mass.

Kite’s “Bowie ’95” lyrics

(I’ve done my best transcribing the lyrics to “Bowie ’95.” There are a couple of lines I’m not convinced are accurate, and I’ll update this page if anyone sends me corrections.)

Supposed to know politics when you’re 46
Well I am some lightyears away from this
Supposed to have some children and tell them how to be
Well my kind of idiocy ends with me

I’m nothing like her
I’m nothing like her
I’m just crawling through the dancefloor to summarize the dirt

I’m nothing like him
I’m nothing like him
I just take it if I want it and terrorize the world

Supposed to save some money for a little safety
Well, I never understood economy
Supposed to be waiting on top of the career
When I am some lightyears away from here

I’m nothing like her
I’m nothing like her
I’m just crawling through the dancefloor to summarize the dirt

I’m nothing like him
I’m nothing like him
I just take it if I want it and terrorize the world

Supposed to know politics when you’re 46
Well I am some lightyears away from this

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