I wrote this review a few days prior to the recent news of David Bowie’s death. I’m not really changing it, but I’m adding some feelings about Bowie right here. David Bowie is the definition of iconic. He is the end-all be-all living breathing statement of “just be yourself.” He’s been a major influence in my life as well as the lives of others, from ages 13 to 73. Age doesn’t matter in the love of Bowie. I give condolences to anyone who knew Bowie because I’m distraught, and I was only given the pleasure to listen to his music. Knowing him personally would have been too bittersweet for me to handle. I want to say thank you, David Bowie, for releasing one more piece of yourself into the world before you left. Thank you for staying humble. Thank you for simply being amazing, which is honestly an understatement. I could go on about my emotions towards Bowie, but crying in class is weird, so without further ado here are some thoughts on Blackstar.
January 8 is one of the coolest days out of the year. If you didn’t know, it’s Elvis Presley’s birthday. Let’s have a moment of silence to appreciate the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and another for Bowie himself (much love, Bowie). OK, the moment of silence is over, because guess what? It’s David Bowie’s birthday too. I know, two musical geniuses sharing a birthday sounds insane, but I’m not lying to you. And to make January 8 even more spectacular, this year Bowie decided to release his 25th studio album, Blackstar, on that day.
Blackstar was released on Bowie’s 69th birthday but despite his age, he still sings like a beautiful angel. His voice never lost its charm through time; in fact, nothing about Bowie has been or will be lost. David Bowie is some sort of extraterrestrial superhuman that keeps progressing with time, as evidenced by the obvious undertones of outer space injected into his music and personality. From dressing like a character on Star Trek to releasing songs like “Life on Mars,” “Space Oddity” and “Blackstar” – the first track on the new album – space and foreign ideas have always been a part of Bowie’s aesthetic.
Just 30 seconds into the first song on Blackstar, I was transported to a completely different environment. The drums collaborate with the piano, and visions of walking in a desert fill my head. The song keeps a slow and steady pace as Bowie labels himself a “blackstar,” which is an alternative to a black hole. “I’m a blackstar. I’m not a pornstar. I’m not a wandering star. I’m a blackstar,” he claims. The song continues with other eerie chants and each instrument starts to close out, leaving only the flute and R2-D2-esque beeps. It creates a celestial experience until everything falls silent.
“Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” the next track, escapes the spacey feel of “Blackstar,” giving the old Bowie a chance to shine through. The intro of the song sounds similar to that of “Immigrant Song,” by Led Zeppelin, but without the moaning voice. The instrumentals are in a higher tempo and Bowie starts to talk about an aggressive encounter with a woman, saying, “Man, she punched me like a dude.” It’s harsh and weird and sets up the diversity of Blackstar early on.
The third song, “Lazarus,” catapults you back into the space journey. The entire song is melancholy, and in the lyrics we hear Bowie shedding his hard exterior. He weeps, “Everybody knows me now. Look up here man I’m in danger. I’ve got nothing left to lose. I’m so high it makes my brain whirl,” admitting to the harsh effects fame has had on his life. Bowie makes himself vulnerable and allows us to reach a softer side of him, showing that even someone as wild and eccentric as himself can be cuffed by the world’s judgments.
Following that emotional jam, “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” starts off sounding like classic rock, but maintains the dark and lost feeling throughout Blackstar. “Girl Loves Me” is the follow up song and contains high notes that only Bowie could hit at his age, adding to the colorful sounds in this album.
The last songs “Dollar Days,” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” didn’t do anything special for me. They’re pleasing to the ears and showcase Bowie’s talent, but after being mesmerized by the almost ten-minute-long opener and their follow-ups, the final two start to lack charisma. The lyrics are repetitive, and there’s nothing prominent enough to leave an impression. They’re not very “Bowie” at all.
Aside from the ending, Blackstar is insanely good for being a 25th album released by a 69-year-old man. David Bowie is a legend, and his talent will never be forgotten. If you know anyone who was born on January 8, it’d probably be wise to support them, because who knows? They could be a great musical genius someday. Thank you for everything you’ve done, David Bowie. You’ll remain one of the brightest stars in our sky. Life on Mars? There is now.