David Bowie’s epic final album, Blackstar, will be one to remember within his extensive discography.
David Bowie first grabbed the world’s attention in the late 1960s with the release of his self-titled debut album, but it was the emergence of his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust in 1972 that really cemented his place as a British music icon. In addition to notable accolades such as Grammy and BRIT awards, he has also rejected a knighthood back in 2003, and even has a spider named after him. His latest release, Blackstar, which acts as a follow-up to 2013’s The Next Day, stands as his 25th studio album. Sadly as news of his death has materialised today it is also his final album.
The album is a mere seven songs in length, but it certainly makes an impression. It opens with the epic ‘Blackstar’, which is just 2 seconds shy of 10 minutes in length. A song of this magnitude is in danger of becoming tiresome, but with some clever instrumentation and dramatic pauses Bowie ensures that the duration of the song makes for a great listen. ‘‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore’ soon follows, the title of which was inspired by the John Ford play of the 1600s. This is the track on the album which most closely resembles some of his previous work, but in a way that is fit for 2016. ‘Lazarus’ has a haunting edge to it, especially with lyrics such as “Look up here, I’m in heaven I’ve got scars that can’t be seen,” which have even more resonance in light of the announcement of his death today. The chaos of ‘Sue (Or In a Season of Crime’ is balanced out by the more relaxed ‘Girl Loves Me’ and ‘Dollar Days’, where things take a more reflective tone once more. The album ends with ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’, which certainly has a jazzy edge to it, but with the title of the track alone Bowie hints at the fact that he is secretly suffering, which makes this an ideal song to finish the album.
The sad news of Bowie’s cancer diagnosis puts the album in a completely new light, and the themes of illness, death and the afterlife become even clearer in retrospect. Music producer Tony Visconti, who has collaborated with the music icon on a number of occasions, has suggested that “he made Blackstar for us, his parting gift.” Whether this is true or not, Blackstar certainly works as the perfect final album for such an influential and distinctive artist.
Blackstar is out now via Sony.
David Bowie, 1947-2016.