Sadly, this Monday we woke up with devastating news: one of the biggest artists ever, David Bowie, has passed away.
Only a few hours before, we had finished this review of the one that ended up being his last album. Last October, it was announced that David Bowie was releasing new material on his birthday (Jan 8), and that date finally arrived a few days ago: “Blackstar” is the album title, and it’s been recognized as one of his best jobs of the last times.
Prepare yourself to take this magical trip with us, we recommend you to use headphones so you don’t miss a single detail of the mystical sounds of the biggest icon of glam rock, and if you’re not a fan already, maybe you’ll understand why he’s still, and will always be one of the best artists ever. Let’s start.
1. Blackstar: The main single, released in November 2015. With some irregular drums and a dark sound, the opening track is already telling us how experimental this album is. Blackstar is the longest track of this album, (nine minutes long). This dark sound – featuring dark lyrics as well – fades at the middle of the song, starting something more psychedelic, like Bowie’s oldest jobs, this change of sound is so drastic it almost feels like it’s two different songs. The line “Something happened on the day he died” has been speculated to be about Major Tom, a character of his first hit “Space Oddity”. The melodic part is very contrasting with the lines “I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar”, sung between lines. After an instrumental break, in a majestic mix where both parts of the song collide, we go back to the first melody, leaving us with an almost magic feeling, in expectation for more.
2. ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore: Originally a B-side from 2014, the trumpets are on point here, it could be the most crucial part of the tune. A strong and constant bass carries the whole song, very sticky, you could find yourself moving your fingers to its beat, along with the drums it gives a strange dirty feeling. Bowie plays with gender, referring to a girl’s masculinity in his own particular way. We must mention this song takes its name from a Jon Ford play, the 1629 tragedy “‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore”.
3. Lazarus: Second single, a very sad, melancholic track. In this ballad, still playing with magistral saxophone notes and keeping the strong bass, we are slowly transported to old times, reminding some of Bowie’s best songs. It feels like going up, instrument by instrument, and after the song’s climax, it starts going down again, down in the best way possible, giving shivers and deep feelings. “Just like that bluebird, oh I’ll be free, ain’t that just like me?”
4. Sue (Or In a Season of Crime): A single from Bowie’s 2014 compilation “Nothing Has Changed”, this song seems to tell the same story as Jon Ford’s tragedy “‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore” (being also linked to track 2), just changing the character of ‘Anabella’ to ‘Sue’. A story of marriage and murder, it has a more electronic sound, but also dark and mystifying.
5. Girl Loves Me: Has anybody here read Antony Burgess’ classic “A Clockwork Orange”? Well, fun fact: most of this song lyrics are half Nadsat, the language used in that book -one of Bowie’s favourites-, and the other half are in Polari, a slang from London gay clubs during the 70’s, so it’s easy to get confused from the first verse (“Cheena so sound, so titi up this malcheck say, party up moodge, nanti vellocet round on Tuesday”). Bowie’s yodelling-influenced vocals take control all the time, with a more simple instrumentation than past songs on this album. A very, very interesting track to listen to.
6. Dollar Days: Slow and charming. A very jazzy track. It really feels like a delicious trip through the wind, you could only close your eyes and let the music take you to another world. It’s amazing how David’s voice hasn’t changed, still sounding like he did in the 80’s, and when it starts to fade it’s simply shivering. “Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you, I’m trying to, I’m dying to”. And when it looks like the song just finished, a catchy beat starts, making the big entrance for the album’s final track.
7. I Can’t Give Everything Away: First, the harmonica from the beginning is taken from David Bowie’s 1977 track “A Career in a New Town”. The harmonica notes remain along the song, accompanied by Bowie’s soft vocals during this soft-pop song with some new wave influence, also, the saxophone that featured the whole album decorates the track to give it, even more magic, later replaced by a guitar. Mr. Bowie’s albums are always a trip, and this one couldn’t be the exception, the closing track is an excellent farewell.
There is no doubt why David Bowie keeps his prestige in the music industry after four decades, one of the greatest, forever and always.