|GBI (German Bold Italic)|
|Single by Towa Tei featuring Kylie Minogue|
|From the album Sound Museum|
|Released||26 October 1998|
|Recorded||1996; Sangenjaya, Setagaya, Japan|
|Length|| 4:37 (Album version)|
3:31(UK Radio Edit)
|Kylie Minogue singles chronology|
"GBI: German Bold Italic" is a song by Japanese American music producer Towa Tei, featuring Kylie Minogue. It is the lead single from Tei's second studio album Sound Museum (1997), released by Arthrob in the United Kingdom. The song is a "minimalist" house-techno track with lyrics portrayed Kylie as a typeface called "German Bold Italic," with her vocals performed in a tongue-in-cheek style.
Many critics praises the song for its distinctiveness from Kylie's catalogue, with others notice the track as one of the important artistic moves that define her musical career. Commercially, the song was one of her least successful track on the charts. It peaked at number 50 in Australia and failed to reach top 50 in the United Kingdom with number 63. However, it was said to be a minor hit in Tei's home country, Japan.
The song's music video was directed by French director Stéphane Sednaoui and inspired by a mutual appreciation of Japanese culture between him and Kylie. It features scenes of Kylie dressing as a geisha throughout New York City streets.
The song was later added to Tei's first greatest hits album called Best (2001), and was later re-worked for inclusion on his eleventh studio album EMO (2017).
Background and composition
In 1996, coming back to a studio in Sangenjaya, Setagaya, Japan after going for drinks, Towa Tei received a hand-written fax that had "a picture of some sort" on it that said: "Music with you! Kylie. Call Me". She then came to perform in Japan and met Tei, they tried to make some songs for her album at Sangenjaya. The outputs from the session were "GBI (German Bold Italic)" and a demo of "Sometime Samurai".
"GBI" then made its appearance on Tei's second studio album Sound Museum (1997), while "Sometime Samurai" was later re-recorded by Kylie in 2003 and appeared on Tei's fifth album Flash (2005). Tei then shared that her vocal contributions was one of the things he's "happiest" about the album. "She is the ideal icon that appeals to both Japanese and Western people" says Tei. "She is very much a part of the club scene already, particularly among the gay community, and she looks amazing."
The song "GBI (German Bold Italic)" is about a typeface which shares the same name; in the music video, Kylie plays a Geisha called "German Bold Italic"
At the time, Kylie was attempting to break away from the Eurobeat genre. Kylie can be heard talking and giggling over a "minimalist" house-techno track. Kylie performed the song in "tongue-in-cheek vocals" singing the lyrics: "My name is German Bold Italic. I am a typeface which you have never heard of before."
The song opens with a sample from the introduction track of the album The Art of Belly Dancing by Bel-Sha-Zaar, Tommy Genapopoluis and The Grecian Knights, a sample that was also used on "Groove Is in the Heart", Tei's previous collaboration with his group Deee-Lite.
The Independent's Fiona Sturges got the feeling that Kylie is making use of Tei's "far-reaching" reputation, rather than the other way around. However, she also noticed a "significantly more exotic flavour" than Tei's "customary club anthems." Writing a review for Sound Museum, journalist David Bertrand Wilson from music site Wilson & Alroy's Record Reviews stated Tei "hits on a terrific hook" on the track. Writing in his book Playlisted: Everything You Need to Know About Australian Music Right Now, Australian music journalist Craig Mathieson claimed that before Kylie's transformation to "Can't Get You Out of My Head", "there's a fascinating precursor, a glimpse of what's to come" in the track. He also commented that "such definite specifications [of "GBI"] suited her." Sean Smith, the writer of Kylie's biography Kylie, said the track is arguably her "weirdest song" but pointed out that by the time of the single's release, Kylie had "moved on artistically." Mayer Nissim from Digital Spy called the collaboration a "completely barmy hook-up" and listed as one of Kylie's career-defining moments. The song was said to be the most "avant-garde" and "obscure" single in her catalogue. Robbie Daw from Idolator called the track one of Kylie's most "quirky" collaborations. But still, NME's Priya Elan called it one of her most fan-favorite collaborative works that are lesser known. Johannes Schardt from Germany design studio Precious listed the track at number 2 in his top 7 songs with typographic references in 2008. DJ Calvin Harris told UK music website Popjustice the song was his most favorite track from Kylie, he called it "fucking hilarious" and claimed: "It’s why I love Kylie, because she does exactly what she wants to do."
The song was said to be a "minor" hit in Tei's native Japan. Meanwhile, Kylie herself was going through a difficult point in her career - critics were praising her musical ventures on the Deconstruction Records, but the public were failing to warm to it, particularly the Impossible Princess album.
The CD single also features bonus CD-ROM programming including screen saver, the German Bold Italic font and sound bites from the song.
The Krust remix with another remix called "GBI (Latin Narrow Light)" by Uwe Schmidt (credited under his alias "Lisa Carbon") made their appearances on Tei's Japanese remix album Stupid Fresh (1997). This album was later released as the second disc to Sound Museum in Europe. The song was later added to Tei's first greatest hits album called Best (2001).
The font included as one of the bonus features on the CD single and the enhanced CD version of Sound Museum, and can be seen on the single cover. It was designed by Tei's long-time collaborator designing team, Tycoon Graphics for Graphickers. The font was available for download on Tei's and Kylie's official website. In 2015, American artist Cory Arcangel used the font for a merchandising sweatshirt of the group Wet. Claimed he has been "crazy" for the font since it came out. "It's a sick classic vector techno font, and super rare these days," he told The Fader. He then used it a few times for artworks, including some drawings at his 2011 exhibition at Whitney Museum of American Art. "I've always wanted to use it to make a shirt for a pop group... one pop group used to advertise the next."
The music video for "GBI (German Bold Italic)" was directed by Kylie's then-boyfriend French director Stéphane Sednaoui. Before shooting the video, Kylie and Sednaoui were often in Japan and were very into anime. Inspired by a mutual appreciation of Japanese culture, they created a visual combination of "geisha and manga superheroine" for the photographs taken for Kylie's sixth album Impossible Princess and the video for the track also. The low-budget video was shot in New York City with a "small video camera." Kyli told German publication Die Welt: "In Japan, all the kids ran with such cameras around the city. So we then did just the same in New York."
The video opens with Kylie in a bathtub, wearing a red bikini with a geisha headdress, asking viewers: "You will like my sense of style" It then follows her throughout New York City streets as she in a geisha regalia and make-up and towards the climax of which the singer was purple collared like a dog and carried by a Japanese man on a leash. The geisha outfit was said by Kylie as "insanely stressful" with her wig being called "a nightmare." "Everything was true to original. Only the stylist came from China." This concept was similar to Sednaoui's previous directorial work on the video "Sly" from the English trip hop group Massive Attack in 1994. Due to more international broadcasting, Madonna's and Kylie's video were left out of the compilation. Still today, the video has never been released commercially on any DVD.
The video is considered to be one of Kylie's most bizarre music videos in her career, however, it did garner some positive reviews: The Independent said that Kylie was "looking suitably sweet", while writer Sean Smith described the video was even more "surreal" than the track. "This was many years before Lady Gaga raided the dressing-up box and further proof of Kylie's groundbreaking work in the nineties". Journalist Craig Mathieson claimed the video might be her greatest performance in "a career plagued by lackluster acting."
Japanese graphic designer group Enlightenment, who created the icon illustration for the single cover, released a lyric video of the track in 2013.
An excerpt of the track appeared on her medley performance at the 25th Anniversary Mushroom Records concert held on November 14, 1998 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This performance later appeared on its live album called Mushroom 25 Live. The song was featured as a video interlude on KylieFever2002, where Kylie appeared on the screens with a pink wig on. This performance was included on the DVD release of the tour. During the "Sometime Samurai" interlude on KylieX2008, excerpts of "German Bold Italic" were interpolated into the performance.
Formats and track listings
UK CD single #1
UK CD single #2
UK cassette single
Australia and Japan CD single
Japan double 12" single
Credits and personnel
All credits and personnel adapted from the song's CD single liner notes:
- Towa Tei – songwriter, producer, arranger, editor, drum and keyboard programing, art director
- Kylie Minogue – vocals, songwriter
- Haruomi Hosono – vocals
- Fernando Aponte – mixing engineer
- Bobby Hata – mastering engineer
- Tycoon Graphics for Graphickers – art director, designer
- Hiro Sugiyama (Enlightenment) for Graphickers – icon illustrator