David Bowie – Blackstar Review

Blackstar is the twenty-fifth studio album from David Bowie, released on his birthday on January 8th and almost two years after his surprise twenty fourth album The Next Day. That was an album that split the opinion of many with some claiming that the acclaim was mislaid in the shock and delight of his return after a decade-long hiatus. So it is not like Bowie has nothing left to prove despite his experience. People want to be challenged again by Bowie’s music as they were throughout the Seventies, but how easy is it for someone to come up with something new with success after such a long and inventive career?


The marathon single that is the title track features eccentric and soft instrumentals and whirring vocals. The song then shifts towards a neo-soul direction with nudging bass-lines and shimmering production and this sound eventually merges back into the initial sound by the songs end. It is a haunting and unnerving song with Bowie’s whirring vocals resonating throughout the track in it’s various guises. Most of these guises are rather open and expansive, so accentuating Bowie’s vocals in a subtle unison. Though it is a lot to take in at first, it begins to make more sense with further immersive listens. ‘Lazarus’ is a piece of experimental jazz music that features the slow, dropping bass line, the light percussive beat and the Saxophones. On top of this, however are the ragged, distorted guitar parts that energise the song in a whole different way. The song remains solemn and bold simultaneously and the musical environment suits Bowie’s vocals much more. As the song rises towards a peak, his vocals rise to the challenge too. All in all it is a cool and effortless track which is leaps and bounds ahead of what he had produced two years previous musically and lyrically.


With ‘Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)’ he continues to bend the Jazz rules and applies a metal bass line and wild moments of electronica to the standard elements that are reshuffled themselves. The song moves back and forth between peaks of heavy handedness and more expansive moments. The deliberately ill-fitting lyrics compliment the song for the most part as some kind of anti-harmony to the music. It’s undoubtedly strange, but it ultimately works. ‘Girl Loves Me’ is another haunting track with the interplay between Bowie’s distant and unsettlingly close vocals. The music steadily trudges into a progression and Bowie throws in some unexpected rhymes into a meandering lyrical order. The track ends with an electronic flourish. We find ourselves in more traditional Jazz territory with ‘Dollar Days’ but Bowie adds a theatrical delivery into the mix here. ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ is a Electronic environment that suits Bowie’s vocal style and ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore’ is perhaps one of the hardest songs to function with due to the unrelenting, though impressive rise of the instrumentation, which again take a Jazz formation with Electronic features.


This is without doubt an improvement on The Next Day and not only that, but Bowie has seemingly challenged himself with this album and the experimentation on the album has worked here. It is indeed arguably his most Experimental album as he shakes up genres and pitches seemingly un-matching genres together and making it sound good. The production and lack of it is in perfect proportion and the arrangement is too for the most part. Bowie has crafted these songs whilst tailoring them to his current vocal limits which he failed to do two years ago. A positive start to this year of music.


David Bowie – Blackstar = 8.5/10


Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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