Today is David Bowie’s birthday, and to celebrate, the 69 year old rock star has released a new album, called Blackstar. The title track is just shy of 10 minutes long and is the most David Bowie song and video of all time. However, the seven-song album is filled with tracks that all sound totally different, but each is very much the classic Bowie that drew confused stares as well as rave reviews.
“Blackstar” is the first track, and uses cult-like chanting of lyrics along with a very space-age feel, which is, despite earlier claims, not about ISIS (one of the artists that Bowie worked with on the album claimed to Rolling Stone he said it was). A wailing saxophone and a faster tempo, along with a strange story of domestic violence makes up “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore,” a title that calls back to a John Ford play from the 1600s and is about the “raw violence” of World War I. Then, things mellow out.
The third track, “Lazarus” (which has another fairly disturbing video) slows down the album for a moment while Bowie reminisces about his past. “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime),” while not being entirely new (it was released on a compilation album two years ago), is another up-tempo, chaotic song about love and loss all at once. “Girl Loves Me,” the fifth track on the album, jogs us through more references to violence, all while wondering where Monday went. The sixth song, “Dollar Days,” is the lament of a dying man with little hope, or at least one who realizes there isn’t left he can do.
The final track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” is the best song on the track if you want something that sounds “normal” (a relative term – the lyrics are as Bowie as anything else on the album). It’s modern-sounding pop song with synthetic strings and harmonica over a drum machine’s beat with an accompanying live saxophone. Tying it all together is the regretful-sounding Bowie, sounding like things keep going, but he can’t give anymore to the world around him. It is tinged with regret, with the vaguest sound of hope coming from… somewhere.
One of the (non-ISIS) inspirations for the album was hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar, who’s creative use of phrasing, which deviates away from traditional hip-hop and uses live music and vivid imagery Bowie loved – after all, that’s his style.
Daivd Bowie’s Blackstar is out today, and if you are a music fan, you are doing yourself a disservice by not getting it.