David Bowie died on January 10, 2016. I have been a fan of his for some time, although I could not say that I followed all his music. Two of my uncles were fans, so I grew up listening to Bowie’s work. My uncles were almost two decades apart in age. The older one favored Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust work while the older favored what Bowie called his “Phil Collins years.” Those would the mid 1980s, particularly around the album Let’s Dance.
I listened to those songs and loved them, but I somewhat forgot about Bowie until I saw the film Se7en. The film ended his song The Hearts Filthy Lesson, and brought back my interest in Bowie’s music. (Interesting side note: Brian Eno produced this song and the album it came from, Outside. I notice that several of my favorite songs or albums were produced by Eno, including two of my three favorite U2 albums.)
I bought a few albums here and there and again Bowie slipped my mind until 2014. One of my friends mentioned a documentary about Bowie called David Bowie – Five Years. After watching it, I dug up my Bowie cds. It was weird rediscovering music I already had. What made it more enjoyable was my cousin, godson, and my godson’s friends falling in love with the music, particularly the album Young Americans.
My friend and I were talking about Bowie on Saturday, wondering if he would release another album. It took Bowie ten years to release his previous album The Next Day (which I still have not gotten). This is a Sade schedule, so we were having a bit of a laugh about who would release an album first. After the conversation, I checked and noticed not only did Bowie have an album coming out, but he had released two singles.
I bought Blackstar and I knew when I listened to it what it was. Firstly, I knew it was a masterpiece of music. It is so rare to get an album. What I mean is something where each song is cohesive and follows a general theme. This used to be common, but in our increased singles market it is gone. Older artists, both in terms of age or longevity, are more likely to present such an album (U2 and Dr. Dre did this with their last albums). This is what you get from Bowie — seven songs thematically driven by morality, recognition, regret, and good dose of humor.
Secondly, I knew it was Bowie’s last album. The opening song gives that away. But rather than feeling sad, I marveled at Bowie’s talent. Now that I know he was suffering from cancer, I am even more impressed with the quality of music that he produced. This is a perfect album, and it is not the first time he has made one. Yet to make one while battling cancer and to make it fresh and modern and forward-looking while retrospective and introspective is insane.
It is as if Bowie took pieces of all his eras and personas and genres and gave a taste of what should come next. You can hear the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s influences, yet it is never dated or derivative. It is no different than what he did with Young Americans or Let’s Dance. He took those concepts, played with them, and gave us something new from his perspective.
This is Blackstar. Continue reading