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Music / Amused to Death

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"The human race has civilized itself."

Amused to Death, released in 1992 through Columbia Records, is the third studio album by English Progressive Rock musician Roger Waters. Initially conceived as a sequel to his 1987 sophomore album Radio K.A.O.S., the album underwent a radical change in concept after the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in 1989 and the outbreak of The Gulf War the following year, with Waters becoming particularly disconcerted with how media reporting on the latter seemed to characterize it closer to a sporting event than a war.

Having developed under similar conditions as his last album with Pink Floyd, 1983's The Final Cut, and with Waters having staged a live performance of The Wall in 1990, the record consequently saw Waters move away from the synth-heavy style of Radio K.A.O.S. in favor of expanding on the sound that he'd developed both with his old band and on his solo debut, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, returning to the elaborately produced Arena Rock that had characterized his latter-day Pink Floyd work while expanding on its blues elements.

Though the album was influenced strongly by armed conflict and Waters' antiwar views, the album is more opaque than The Final Cut in its discussion of the topic, instead leaning more closely into the influence of mass media in the context of the Gulf War. Taking influence from Neil Postman's 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, the album loosely revolves around an ape watching television and switching channels at random, providing various glimpses into a society deep in the thrall of media-fueled complacency and decay. Postman himself, while indifferent towards Waters' work, would express appreciation for the way that the album elevated his image among younger listeners.

Furthering Waters' longtime interest in surround sound experimentation, the album was mixed in QSound, a type of software that attempts to emulate surround sound through stereo speakers. Like the Holophonic mixing on The Final Cut, Amused to Death utilized QSound for a variety of atmospheric effects throughout the album. Furthering this, the album would eventually receive a 5.1 mix in 2015 on both Super Audio CD and Blu-ray, together with a slightly Re-Cut remaster of the original 1992 QSound mix on CD and digital platforms.

Upon release, Amused to Death reached No. 8 on the UK Albums chart, marking the first UK top 10 album of his solo career and his highest chart position in Britain since his days with Pink Floyd, and No. 21 on the Billboard 200, later being certified gold in Australia and silver in the UK. The 2015 remaster, meanwhile, would top the Dutch Albums chart and peak at No. 10 in the UK.

Amused to Death was supported by three singles: "What God Wants, Part I", "The Bravery of Being out of Range", and "Three Wishes". Although Waters initially didn't support the album with a tour, he would eventually include material from it in his 1999-2002 world tour In the Flesh, titled after the supporting tour for Animals that gave birth to The Wall.


  1. "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" (4:20)
  2. "What God Wants, Part I" (6:00)
  3. "Perfect Sense, Part I" (4:14)
  4. "Perfect Sense, Part II" (2:51)
  5. "The Bravery of Being out of Range" (4:44)
  6. "Late Home Tonight, Part I" (4:01)
  7. "Late Home Tonight, Part II" (2:12)
  8. "Too Much Rope" (5:47)
  9. "What God Wants, Part II" (3:39)
  10. "What God Wants, Part III" (4:08)
  11. "Watching TV" (6:06)
  12. "Three Wishes" (6:52)
  13. "It's a Miracle" (8:30)
  14. "Amused to Death" (9:06)

The troper and the admin took the keyboard from its hook, the monkey in the corner wrote the trope down in his book:

  • Alternate Album Cover: The 2015 remaster swaps out the original cover photo of a chimpanzee watching an eyeball on a CRT television in favor of new artwork depicting a human infant gazing at an eyeball on an LED monitor.
  • Alternate Music Video: "What God Wants, Part I" got three:
    • A standard Performance Video featuring Waters, Jeff Beck, and two backing singers in a studio that slowly starts to vibrate.
    • A montage of zoo animals and Stop Motion clips with the performance footage from the first video edited in.
    • An alternate version of the Performance Video with various video effects and select lyrics added on top, made to promote the 2015 remaster.
  • Anaphora: Parts I and II of "What God Wants" feature verses where almost every line starts with the phrase "God wants." Part III drops the pattern, but features a brief, second anaphora in verse two where four consecutive lines begin with "and the."
  • Animal Motifs: The "What God Wants" trilogy uses a variety of animals to represent the audiences and allies of corrupt churches, with a monkey being common among them as "a symbol for anyone who's been sitting with his mouth open in front of the network and cable news for the last 10 years." The monkey also carries over to "Perfect Sense, Part I" and the album cover (where it's portrayed by a chimpanzee, an ape). In order, the trilogy also mentions beetles, springboks, jackasses, hyenas, vultures, magpies, raccoons, and groundhogs (the last four of which represent those who use organized religion as a means of generating profit).
  • Armchair Military: "The Bravery of Being out of Range" discusses how under Ronald Reagan, America's military has reached the point where it can conduct battles remotely, depersonalizing war with the use of laser-guided missiles launched by buttons at desks in cozy buildings back in the US.
  • Ballad of X: "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard", which is not so much a ballad as it is an ambient soundscape scoring archival audio of World War I veteran Alfred Razzell.
  • Black Comedy: "Perfect Sense, Part II" uses this for the sake of satire by having sportscaster Marv Albert narrate a war like it's a basketball game.
  • Book Ends:
    • The album begins and ends with cricket noises and different halves of an interview with World War I veteran Alfred Razzell describing how he had to leave another soldier, Bill Hubbard, in No-Man's Land. In "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard", he describes the abandonment and how haunting it was being forced to do that, while in "Amused to Death", he describes the closure he felt after seeing Hubbard's name on a memorial during the 70th anniversary of the war's outbreak.
    • "Three Wishes" begins and ends with different halves of an interview with a woman describing an attempt she made at Murder-Suicide. The song opens with her describing the process and how it failed to kill her, while the end of the song sees her reveal that her kids died because of her actions, and that she regularly visits their graves as penance.
  • Bungled Suicide: The woman interviewed in "Three Wishes" describes how she attempted to kill herself by suffocating herself with a gas bottle, but could only afford a small one. She lived as a result... but it was enough to kill the children that she planned to take with her.
  • Concept Video: The music video for "Three Wishes" directly adapts the song's lyrics, depicting Waters as a man who summons a genie while lamenting lost love in a desert gas station.
  • Continuity Nod: The album features several homages to Waters' work with Pink Floyd.
    • The allegorical use of zoo animals as characters in the "What God Wants" trilogy and "Perfect Sense" duology nod back to Animals.
    • The Suddenly Shouting portion of the backwards message in the 1992 version of "Perfect Sense, Part I" is done in the Scotsman voice used on "Several Species of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together in a Cave and Grooving with a Pict" and throughout The Wall.
    • "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" includes the line "I looked over Jordan, and what did I see? Saw a US marine in a pile of debris," nodding back to the line "well, I've looked over Jordan, and what have I seen? Things are not what they seem" in "Sheep".
    • The heckler who shouts "Oui il veut des francs francais!" in "What God Wants, Part II" recalls the outro of "Not Now John", where the same heckler ironically rails against Waters for asking for directions in various foreign languages (including French).
    • "What God Wants, Part III" features musical nods to "Echoes", "Breathe", and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part I)".
  • Cycle of Revenge: In "Perfect Sense, Part I", P.P. Arnold notes how "the Germans kill the Jews and the Jews kill the Arabs and the Arabs kill the hostages and that's the news," drawing a line of events from The Holocaust to the Arab–Israeli Conflict to the 1972 Munich Olympics kidnappings.
  • Darker and Edgier: The album continues the darkening tone of Waters' solo output. Whereas Radio K.A.O.S. was an uplifting story about an Inspirationally Disadvantaged boy who overcomes a troubled life and achieves world peace by using the threat of nuclear annihilation to make everyone understand how valuable life really is, Amused to Death is a bleak look into the ways that mass media has made humanity complacent and enabled the growth of increasingly depersonalized armed violence.
  • Dedication: The liner notes dedicate the album to Bill Hubbard, the killed World War I veteran discussed at the start and end of the album.
  • Disappeared Dad: The narrator of "Three Wishes" uses his third wish requesting that "when I was young, my old man had not been gone," referencing the death of Waters' father in World War II (which previously informed both The Wall and The Final Cut).
  • Epic Rocking: "What God Wants, Part I", "Watching TV", "Three Wishes", "It's a Miracle", and "Amused to Death" all meet or surpass the six-minute mark.
  • Every Man Has His Price: "Three Wishes" jokingly alludes to this trope in a Shout-Out to Bob Dylan, who influenced Waters' singing style on the album. However, as Waters had a known grudge against record producer and prior Pink Floyd collaborator Bob Ezrin (who was talked out of producing Waters' previous solo album in favor of working on the first Floyd album after Waters' departure in the middle of a protracted legal battle over the rights to the band name), he didn't mind if people interpreted it as a jab at him.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Nearly every song fades into the next one on the album; the only identifiable gap is between "The Bravery of Being out of Range" and "Late Home Tonight, Part I".
  • Full-Circle Revolution: "Watching TV" describes how Mao Zedong ousted "Chiang Kai-shek, that no-good low-down dirty rat, who used to order his troops to fire on women and children," before discussing the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre 40 years after that.
  • Genie in a Bottle: "Three Wishes" revolves around a man finding one and wishing for the end of the Lebanese Civil War, help with writing this song, and his dad to have been there for him during his childhood. The genie grants them, but the man realizes too late that he never got the chance to wish for what he wanted most: the love of his life to return. In the music video, which directly adapts the song, Waters accidentally rubs the bottle while grabbing some liquor from a shelf.
  • Gratuitous Panning: The album uses QSound mixing to provide a number of sound effects meant to surround the listener when heard through stereo speakers. The liner notes specifically single out the dog barks in "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" as something to look out for, saying that "if the dog barking at the beginning of the record doesn't sound like he's in the yard next door then your speakers are out of phase."
  • Greedy Televangelist: The "What God Wants" trilogy revolves around an "alien prophet" who uses scripture to promote whatever benefits him, even if it ends up being blatantly self-contradictory, so long as he makes money off of it. This is especially clear in "What God Wants, Part II", which opens with a mock commercial where another televangelist (played by Charles Fleischer) gives an increasingly unhinged rant about how his audiences can only be united in God by giving him money, after which the alien prophet preaches about God wanting large quantities of money from all over the world. The track immediately after, "What God Wants, Part III", hammers the point home by using Animal Motifs that compare televangelists to a variety of creatures commonly associated with thievery: vultures, magpies, raccoons, and groundhogs.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A running theme throughout the album, showing how much of humanity's hardships are caused by the wickedness of people in power and the resigned complacency of those below them.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads:
    • "Late Home Tonight, Part I" features the line "But that's OK, see the children bleed, it'll look great on the TV!"
    • "Watching TV" revolves around the idea of news media fetishizing the Tiananmen Square Massacre, being narrated by a man who fixates on and objectifies a protester whose death is captured on American airwaves and notes that she's different from every prior revolutionary simply "because she died on TV."
  • Let's Duet: "Watching TV" sees Waters duet with Eagles frontman Don Henley.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: The album closes with the Title Track, the only song to surpass nine minutes.
  • Murder-Suicide: "Three Wishes" features a sample from an interview where a woman describes attempting to gas herself and her children to death.
  • New Sound Album: After the synth-rock of Radio K.A.O.S., Amused To Death went back in tone to the concept records of Pink Floyd and The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, but dived further into his blues influences and used QSound, a positional sound technique that was a precursor to bands creating 5.1 surround mixes in Dolby Digital or DTS.
  • "Pachelbel's Canon" Progression: "The Bravery of Being out of Range" borrows the Canon in D's chord structure for its verses.
  • Power Ballad: "Late Home Tonight" and "Watching TV".
  • Pun-Based Title: The "Perfect Sense" duology exploits the fact that "sense" and "cents" are homophones, with the choruses referencing "dollars and cents; pounds, shillings, and pence."
  • Rascally Raccoon: "What God Wants, Part III" uses raccoons as a metaphor for preachers who use the offertory system for profit, together with vultures, magpies, and groundhogs, other animals associated with wrongdoing.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The album was directly influenced by the Tiananmen Square protests and The Gulf War, with the former particularly informing "Watching TV".
  • Record Producer: The album was co-produced by Waters and Madonna collaborator Patrick Leonard, who previously co-wrote some songs on Pink Floyd's first album without Waters, A Momentary Lapse of Reason.
  • Re-Cut: Waters and sound engineer James Guthrie created a new mix (and for the first time, a 5.1 surround mix) of the album in 2015, featuring several changes to two songs. Specifically, "Perfect Sense, Part I" replaces the backwards message insulting Stanley Kubrick with the originally-planned (and freshly-cleared) sample, HAL 9000's dying words as Bowman is disconnecting him in 2001: A Space Odyssey, while "The Bravery of Being Out of Range" features newly-recorded guitar and Hammond organ parts by Jeff Beck and David Paich, respectively.
  • Religion Rant Song: The "What God Wants" trilogy is a "Hate the Leaders" variant, lambasting televangelism and organized religion as a whole for abusing scripture for its own benefit.
  • Sampling: Tying in with its Central Theme about the effects of mass media, the album samples a number of TV programs related to the content of its songs.
  • Sdrawkcab Speech: Waters intended to include a sample of HAL 9000's dying words in 2001: A Space Odyssey at the start of "Perfect Sense, Part I", but was turned down by Stanley Kubrick. In response, Waters inserted the following backwards message insteadnote :
    "Julia, however, in the light and visions of the issues of Stanley, we changed our minds. We have decided to include a backward message. Stanley, for you, and for all the other book burners...
  • Soprano and Gravel: Waters' rough voice contrasts with the soul vocals of P.P. Arnold on both parts of "Perfect Sense" and the smooth, pop rock-oriented voice of Don Henley in "Watching TV".
  • Special Guest: Loads.
    • Jeff Beck, who Pink Floyd initially considered to replace Syd Barrett as guitarist prior to hiring David Gilmour, plays lead guitar on "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard", "What God Wants, Part I", and every track from "What God Wants, Part III" to "Amused to Death". On the 2015 remaster, he also plays on "The Bravery of Being out of Range".
    • Procol Harum guitarist Geoff Whitehorn plays guitar on "What God Wants, Part I", "Too Much Rope", "What God Wants, Part III", and "Amused to Death".
    • Amen Corner frontman Andy Fairweather Low plays guitar on a large number of tracks and provides backing vocals on both parts of "Late Home Tonight".
    • Several Toto members provide guest roles:
      • Frontman Steve Lukather plays guitar on both parts of "Perfect Sense" and on "Too Much Rope".
      • Drummer and prior Pink Floyd collaborator Jeff Porcaro plays drums on "It's a Miracle".
      • The 2015 remaster features co-founder David Paich playing Hammond organ on "The Bravery of Being out of Range".
    • Sheng master Guo Yi and the Peking Brothers play dulcimer, lute, zhen, oboe, and bass on "Watching TV".
    • Prior Pink Floyd and Waters collaborator Michael Kamen provides orchestral arrangements on "Late Home Tonight, Part II" and "Too Much Rope".
    • Famed American basketball sportscaster Marv Albert provides the faux color commentary on "Perfect Sense, Part II".
    • Soul singer Katie Kissoon and Chanter Sisters member Doreen Chanter are among the female backing choir on several tracks.
    • N'Dea Davenport of acid jazz group the Brand New Heavies provides backing vocals on "What God Wants, Part I".
    • American soul singer P.P. Arnold provides guest vocals on both parts of "Perfect Sense".
    • Charles Fleischer voices the televangelist at the start of "What God Wants, Part II".
    • Eagles frontman Don Henley duets with Waters on "Watching TV".
    • American R&B artist Rita Coolidge sings backing vocals on "Amused to Death".
  • Spoken Word in Music: The album features a number of archival and newly-recorded spoken word clips interspersed throughout its runtime, tying in with the concept of an ape flipping through TV channels.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Waters' backwards message to Stanley Kubrick initially starts off calm and quiet, only to segue into screaming bloody murder at the guy in Waters' Scotsman voice.
  • Take That!: It wouldn't be a Roger Waters product without this trope.
    • The "What God Wants" trilogy lambasts organized religion in the context of the televangelist movement and scandals.
    • The backmasked message in the 1992 version of "Perfect Sense, Part I" rails against Stanley Kubrick for denying the use of a sample of HAL 9000's dying moments in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since the 2015 remaster did manage to secure the rights, the hidden message is excised.
    • The 2001 sample in the 2015 version of "Perfect Sense, Part I" acts as a jab at David Gilmour, who took the reins of Pink Floyd following Waters' 1985 departure. The sample was originally envisioned for the song during its production, at the height of the Waters/Gilmour feud (note that the song was written in 1987, the year Pink Floyd released their first album without Waters), though in 2015 it was a moot point due to the two having been in the middle of a temporary détente at the time.
    • "The Bravery of Being out of Range" jabs at longtime Waters target Ronald Reagan, with the song arguing that his policies were directly responsible for The Gulf War.
    • "Late Home Tonight, Part I" criticizes Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 American bombing of Libya, and jabs at a 1985 Levi's 501 commercial.
    • The line "each man has his price, Bob, and yours was pretty low" in "Too Much Rope" was not written as a jab against Bob Ezrin, who co-produced The Wall and A Momentary Lapse of Reason (the latter after backing out of producing Waters' Radio K.A.O.S.), but Waters stated that he didn't mind if people interpreted it that way (in reality, it was simply a playful quip towards Bob Dylan, who influenced his singing style on the album).
    • The lines "qué sera, sera, is that your new Ferrari car? Yes! ...but I think I'll wait for the F50" in "Too Much Rope" jab at former Pink Floyd bandmates David Gilmour and Nick Mason, who bought twin Ferrari F40s in 1988.
    • "It's a Miracle" briefly vents against Andrew Lloyd Webber, who Waters accused of plagiarizing "Echoes" for the main theme to The Phantom of the Opera.
      We cower in our shelters, with our hands over our ears
      Lloyd Webber's awful stuff runs for years and years and years
      An earthquake hits the theatre, but the operetta lingers
      Then the piano lid comes down and breaks his fucking fingers
      It's a miracle.
  • Thieving Magpie: "What God Wants, Part III" uses magpies and their association with stealing shiny objects (including coins) as a metaphor for preachers who use the offertory system for profit, together with vultures, raccoons, and groundhogs, other animals associated with wrongdoing.
  • Three Wishes: One song on the album is flat-out named this, and revolves around a man being granted them by a Genie in a Bottle.
  • Vile Vulture: "What God Wants, Part III" uses vultures as a metaphor for preachers who use the offertory system for profit, together with magpies, raccoons, and groundhogs, other animals associated with wrongdoing.
  • Vocal Evolution: Waters' voice becomes far gruffer and lower-pitched than on both his prior two solo albums and his work with Pink Floyd, owed to him taking greater influence from Bob Dylan's singing style.
  • War Is Glorious: Scathingly lampooned in "Perfect Sense, Part II", which features sportscaster Marv Albert narrating a military battle as if it were a basketball game, complete with a pause for the attendees to sing "our global anthem."
  • War Is Hell: Not touched on as explicitly as in The Final Cut, but several songs reference Waters' antiwar beliefs and the idea of war being brutal and ignoble. This is most overtly displayed in the samples of World War I veteran Alfred Razzell, who describes the traumatic experience of having to leave the dying Bill Hubbard in No-Man's Land.
  • Wasteful Wishing: The protagonist of "Three Wishes" spends his second wish on overcoming his writer's block. While his first and third wishes were benevolent, he doesn't realize that he wasted the second until he decides to bring the woman he loved back and discovers that he already used up his last wish.