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David Bowie Cover of the Week: “I’m Afraid of Americans,” by Dread Parade

Dread Parade describes its style of music as “outsider metal,” bringing things full circle for Bowie with their cover of “I’m Afraid of Americans.”

Though usually not recognized as such, Bowie’s third album, The Man Who Sold the World (1970), was heavy metal. Many of the songs resemble the styles of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath from around that time rather than “Changes” or “Life on Mars?” Released before Bowie was widely known, this album was released the same year the term “heavy metal” first appeared in print to describe a type of rock music. Even though the term wasn’t common enough to have been applied to his album at the time, Bowie was at the forefront of this genre as well.

Fast forward to 1997 and Bowie’s Earthling album. If The Man Who Sold the World came out before he was a star, Earthling was part of Bowie’s long slog back from the late ’80s. Despite creating great music in the ’90s, Bowie had moved away from his stadium-filling heyday of the previous decade. Most of his ’90s albums didn’t produce singles that feature prominently in current tribute shows, but “I’m Afraid of Americans” might be an exception.

“I’m Afraid of Americans” is one of Bowie’s most notable songs from the 1990s, characterized by significant chart performance, critical acclaim, and cultural impact. It reached number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 and stayed on the chart for 16 weeks, also performing well internationally. The song received positive reviews, was included in several Bowie compilations, and earned a nomination for Best Male Video at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. The music video, featuring Trent Reznor, received heavy rotation on MTV, enhancing its cultural significance. Bowie’s frequent live performances of the song underline its popularity and lasting impact. Compared to other Bowie songs from the 1990s, “I’m Afraid of Americans” stands out due to its multifaceted success and resonance with audiences.

Dread Parade amplifies this song by turning it into a metal piece—though their metal style is more contemporary than that of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, or The Man Who Sold the World. Their rendition ties the song to an earlier Bowie style and a modern offshoot of that style Bowie himself never pursued. Their unique approach infuses the song with a fresh intensity, bridging the gap between classic and contemporary metal influences.

Dread Parade has a limited online presence. They describe themselves on their “Buy Me a Coffee” page as “music/horror nerds that pretend to be a real band on YouTube. Our performances are just the songs; we don’t sell anything.” I can relate to that—I’m not selling anything on this blog either. They produce real music and have several videos.

However, “videos” might be misleading. They have several songs on their YouTube page, illustrated by static AI-generated images of a young Goth woman. It seems the people behind this act prefer to maintain some distance. Maybe they’re afraid of Americans…

As always, there were many other new Bowie covers posted over the past week. Some I found to be notable are below. Click the bolded song title for links to the videos:

Moonage Daydream by Agatha Poison. The performer here translated the song into Finnish, a language she doesn’t speak. The effect is terrific!

Slow Burn by Judge Timbers. This is a guitar tutorial video that starts off with a solid cover of one of Bowie’s less-covered later songs, off Heathen. Nice job!

Kooks by Red Hot Chili Peppers. This apparent bootleg suffers from the common problem of such recordings— the sound quality is iffy and the audience sound interferes too much with the song. But I’m including it for its sheer weirdness — it doesn’t seem like a stretch that the Red Hot Chili Peppers cover Bowie, but the benign and somewhat obscure “Kooks” would not have made my top-ten most likely songs that they might choose. Anyway, it’s worth listening to and probably was great in person.

Rebel Rebel by CR’s Sonic Vibes. I give CR credit for taking a song distinguished by its intense energy and dialing it back. There’s no mistaking what this song is, but the slow-paced, relaxed rendition is something different.

The Man Who Sold the World. This is a well-done conventional cover of one of Bowie’s most-covered songs. It’s a real video, but despite that I’m not sure of the act is called “Band Substance” or Danny Musikk. Either way, I like it!

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