Album Review: David Bowie—“Blackstar”

By Emily Powers

Marrying left-field synthesizers with brass jazz, Bowie once again delivers his genius in Blackstar, an album that is powerfully contemporary, yet instantaneously classic. The music hits us with heavy brass and fast key-changes that are ornamented with guitar and Donny McCaslin’s crooning saxophone. His album appears to resolve jazz itself, a genre famous for its unending nature. Bowie’s surprising lyrics mold poetics with culture through literary connections with John Ford’s play Tis a Pity She Was a Whore and the film A Clockwork Orange. Genres fuse, genders bend, and Bowie ties it all together again with melodic genius.


Album art for Blackstar

Blackstar is the first album of Bowie’s to not feature his picture on the cover. Instead we are given a dichromatic image of a black star, an image that has sparked much speculation. The star that cannot be seen in the night sky could symbolize an icon blackened with disease, as the Starman himself was dying of cancer at the time of its design. Critics have tied it to satanic imagery, but I have too much faith in Bowie’s creativity and foresight to agree.

Progressive, intelligent, and raw, Bowie truly commits to his statement that he has “nothing left to lose.” The album takes you through the Beat Generation’s ideals and borders nihilism unapologetically, touching upon the underlying brutality of humanity. In the music, you can hear a percussion and saxophone-heavy journey through the jazz influence of John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy.

Bowie spent his last years eluding the press, not explaining his art or promoting his releases, but truly living solely for the act of creation. In Blackstar, he sings, ”I’m dying to push their backs against the grain and fool them all again and again,” almost capturing the theme of his career – a lifetime of controversial and daring performances.

His death came as shockingly as his musical impact. Blackstar proves to be a haunting and oddly comforting goodbye gift to fans. It may be his last incarnation but this Lazarus will live on for generations to come. Bowie has truly sculpted an album designed to outlive the creator. Legendary is not a grand enough word to describe this man. Bowie will live on, this is one thing I am not afraid of. Because, after all, “look out your window, I can see his light.” (ISO)

Listen: “Lazarus”


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