by Steven Young
Coming into 2016, David Bowie fans eagerly anticipated his latest album, “Blackstar.” Tragedy struck the world a mere two days after the album’s release as the man of many personas died at 69.
Bowie’s latest album is certainly an oddity, in that it is simultaneously one of his most successful, yet least accessible records. His last hurrah sees him delving deep into the realm of jazz, rock and modern hip-hop. Is this album worth the listen, or is it too bizarre for most audiences? In my ears, it is a triumphant last note for Bowie and easily one of his better albums.
To begin with, it’s rather disturbing to listen to after his recent passing. On day one, most of the lyrics did not hit home as hard as they do now. The songs can drive even the most casual fan to tears. “Blackstar” touches the concept of death throughout the album.
The title track, in particular, is basically Bowie screaming that he doesn’t have much time left, and the song “Lazarus,” along with it’s music video, deal with passing on to another life, even showing Bowie essentially on his deathbed. The final track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” hits home hard, being perhaps the last song we will ever hear from the man. He is telling us that all he can give us is his music.
The music has a rather interesting sound. It starts modern, and by the final track sounds reminiscent of his late ‘70s experimental albums. This makes for a post-modern sound, but other production aspects reflect something from an electronic hip-hop album.
All this gives the album a bizarre, almost nightmarish tone. It’s relentless at times, which may turn some people off, but I feel everyone should give it a listen because the approach is executed well.
Bowie has always been able to successfully combine different genres and styles of music to make them sound current and relevant. “Blackstar” is exemplary of that.
For listeners new to Bowie, I recommend enjoying earlier albums before this, in particular: “Station to Station,” “Heathen” and “Low.”