By: The Busted Amp Staff
Rest in peace, David Bowie.
I can't believe he's gone. One of the most inspirational figures in modern music, David Bowie was a giant. He was a legend. He was immortal. And this album is a chilling reminder of that. Blackstar is the brainchild of a carefully orchestrated and (in typical Bowie fashion) flawlessly executed farewell to his fans. It's hard for me to look at this album from a non-emotional standpoint, so I'm not going to try to. I'll leave that part to Derek.
To me, this album is a wonderful reminder of just how great David Bowie really was. I was hooked from the opening line of "Blackstar" to the close of "I Can't Give Everything Away" especially with this album taking on new meaning now that we have the unfortunate context. "Lazarus" is chilling now, with the opening line of Bowie's last single forever resonating. "Look up here, I'm in heaven." Wow. It brings me to tears inside. The music video for this song is equally powerful, featuring David Bowie on a hospital bed as he says those immortal words.
Listening to this album was a unique experience. Initially, I went into it depressed, because I went into it knowing he was gone. I went into it thinking this was going to be the last music we'd hear from Ziggy Stardust. But, as the album went on, I came to the realization (with the help of Ziggy of course) that we'll always hear this great musician. Bowie has inspired as many artists as anyone over the years, and as long as artists like Lorde and Beck exist, The Thin White Duke will live on. David Bowie is immortal, and Blackstar is David Bowie's successful attempt to remind us of this wonderful fact. I love this album. I can't deny that. Bowie's 2013 album The Next Day was easily his best work in 30 years, and while I don't think this album is quite as good as that one, it also isn't trying to be. That's one of the things I loved about him. He wasn't trying to "live up to" his legacy. He simply just loved music. And it showed in the fact that he was working with it all the way up to a couple days before his death. In the end, Blackstar accomplishes exactly what it was trying to be: a farewell to the fans. It is an emotional listen right now, but one I strongly recommend any fan of his to find the courage to take. Godspeed, Mr. Bowie.
My Number: 9/10
David Bowie, always a showman on his own terms, seems to have written his own artistic epitaph. Blackstar, released coincidentally only two days before his death is memorable not only because of the timing, but also because of the thematic elements present throughout the album. This is the final album from one of the most prolific artists in the last hundred years, and what many will call his last goodbye to friends, family, and scores of fans around the world (and beyond).
The most striking song on this album is definitely the lead single, "Lazarus". Those haunting saxophones (and a trombone), the abrasive guitars, the atmospheric swelling as the song progresses, and of course Bowie's singing. I think one of the most astounding things about this song was that it was incredible even before it gained new meaning posthumously. The backing musicians on this song, and the entire album, are outstanding and compliment Bowie's purpose perfectly. Their purpose was not to create a rock album, but instead his jazz influenced crew transcends the normal sonic boundaries of rock with ease, creating the immersive, expansive experience Bowie wanted from start to finish.
Even in his failing health, Bowie did not produce a safe album. That would be anti-Bowie, who spent his life constantly changing his persona and evolving his music. Change is inevitable with Bowie, and I think he knew that change was coming, well, permanently. Bowie brings insight to his own mortality, channeling his cosmic abilities one last time, with a self-awareness that this would be his final journey with us. By exploring this deathly theme at length, he transforms the entire album into a theatrical art project surrounding Bowie himself. We saw hint of this leading up to the album's release when actor Michael C. Hall performed the song "Lazarus" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert instead of Bowie.
This album is a difficult listen, thematically, lyrically, and emotionally, but I'd argue that all seven songs are worth the listen. It was an honor to have you, sir.
My number: 7/10
Watch the live performance of "Lazarus" performed by Michael C. Hall on The Late Show below.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.