The release

‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ was first released on the Showgirls soundtrack on 26 September 1995.

The remake was the eighth song on Earthling, which was released on 3 February 1997.

I wanted variety on Earthling, industrial pop, drum ’n’ bass, an aggression. Techno and electronica [reminded] me of the German music of the mid-70s. My favourite song on the record is ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’, which is an unusual type of song for me to write, as it’s so literal, but I was sick of travelling the world and seeing a McDonald’s everywhere I went. US culture can be so reductive.
David Bowie
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

On 14 October 1997 it became the fifth and final single released from Earthling. The CD single was released only in the USA and Canada.

The song fared best in Canada, where it peaked at number 14 on the singles chart. In the US it reached 66 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming both Bowie’s first chart hit since ‘Day-In Day-Out’ in 1987, and his last in his lifetime.

The CD maxi single was unusual for not including the album version. Instead it had six remixes by Nine Inch Nails (NIN) and Photek, numbered V1-V6.

When it came time to consider it as a single, Trent got involved. Trent did his own version, which became the single version, which became partly the live version, which became a hybrid of the album and the Trent version. So that song went on quite a little trip.
Mark Plati
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

V1 was a remix by Nine Inch Nails. There were three versions: the standard 5:31 remix, and a shorter edit and a Clean Edit, both lasting 4:30. The remixes contained production and additional performances by NIN, and were mixed by Dave ‘Rave’ Ogilvie.

V2 (5:51), V3 (6:06), V4 (5:25), and V6 (11:18) were also NIN remixes; V3 had a guest appearance by rapper Ice Cube. V5 was a Photek remix lasting 5:38.

A video was released of the V1 mix by NIN, and the remix appeared on the compilations Best Of Bowie (2002), Nothing Has Changed (2014), and Legacy (2016).

Shot in New York in October 1997, the video featured NIN frontman Trent Reznor. It was directed by Dom and Nic, and nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.

‘Seven’ was released as a single from ‘hours…’ in July 2000. The second CD single contained ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ (Nine Inch Nails V1 mix) and ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ (video).

Earthling was reissued in two versions in 2004. The standard edition contained four remixes appended to the main album: ‘Little Wonder’ (Danny Saber dance mix); ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ (Nine Inch Nails V1 mix); ‘Dead Man Walking’ (Moby mix 2 US promo 12″); and ‘Telling Lies’ (Adam F mix).

There was also an expanded edition with a second disc, housed in digibook packaging. The bonus material included ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ (Showgirls soundtrack version), Nine Inch Nails V1 mix, and Nine Inch Nails V1 clean edit.

The 2021 compilation Re:Call 5, included with the box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001), included the Showgirls soundtrack version and the V1 edit remix.

In April 2022 the Brilliant Adventure EP was released on CD and 12″ vinyl for the annual Record Store Day. One of the four songs was ‘Johnny Downloader’, an early version of ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ recorded during the 1.Outside sessions and mixed in November 1994.

When Trent did the remix of ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ for the single the credit says it’s a “re-production”. Which it is. But the album version has a breakdown in it where I’m trying to underline the arena rock quality – like ‘We Will Rock You’. It goes down to drums and David singing, ‘I’m afraid of Americans…’ with massive handclaps. It was humour. Our problem was more one of sarcasm – how do we make this clear if people don’t get it. If they don’t get it, they shouldn’t get it.
Reeves Gabrels
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Bowie’s guitarist Reeves Gabrels had met The Cure’s Robert Smith at Bowie’s 50th birthday concert in New York on 9 January 1997. Gabrels later became a full member of The Cure, but his first recording with them was a guest appearance on their single ‘Wrong Number’, which was released a few weeks after ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’.

That song was actually one of the few times I pissed David off. I kept telling him that I was going to be on this track with The Cure, then it came out around the same time as ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’. The Cure charted higher in America than David’s song, so he was all [moody voice] ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ and I was like, ‘I told you, but you weren’t interested!’ It was actually great for me, since every clothing store and shop I went into in the US that fall in 1997 was either playing The Cure or Bowie, so it wasn’t bad for me. I still get a thrill hearing these songs on the radio – or whatever substitutes for radio now.
Reeves Gabrels, 2018
Previous song: ‘The Last Thing You Should Do’
Next song: ‘Law (Earthlings On Fire)’
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