DAVID Bowie has undergone some ch-ch-changes this decade, and his 25th studio album, Blackstar, is the most comfortable expression of his new sound yet.
Bowie is known for his transformations, so his recent darker, jazz-heavy releases should not surprise anyone. The English icon’s last studio album, 2013’s The Next Day, was a strong statement – melancholic songs with distressed vocals showing a more reclusive man reviewing life. It was a good album, but was not as cohesive as his latest release.
Blackstar brings the polish. We had a sneak preview of what was to come in November last year with the release of the title track, a 10-minute jazz/rock opera. Bowie sounds more comfortable with his sound now and the album is all the better for it. Lyrical and musical motifs permeate from start to finish, while the tracks fit together as if they were a continuation of the opening number.
Continuing the self-referential trend of The Next Day, Bowie starts the “Blackstar” video with the corpse of what must be Major Tom, the character he established and quickly killed off in 1969’s “Space Oddity“.
The skull also makes an appearance in the “Lazarus” video, sitting on Bowie’s writing desk.
The “Blackstar” video as a whole could have been lifted from a recent episode of Doctor Who, just without the annoying post-Twilight bits.
So far only the title track and “Lazarus” have video clips, but that didn’t stop Bowie’s label from uploading the entire album to YouTube. I have compiled the individual uploads into a playlist emulating the album’s track listing, which you can listen to at the top of this post.
Blackstar is thoroughly modern. Some songs, especially “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” (I’ve not had a chance to figure out if that song is slut shaming yet) and the latter half of “Blackstar” are reminiscent of several Radiohead releases, while jazz fusion-inspired King Crimson and Van der Graaf generator also come to mind.
Even the video for “Lazarus” is shot in Instagram’s 1:1 aspect ratio.
That’s not to say Bowie’s work is anything but original, rather it shares the same jazz-inspired prog and electronic base. Blackstar stands in its own right as an excellent album and a career highlight.
Blackstar is a great example of how well an album, and a new sound, can come together. Consistent, comfortable, logical. If you do listen, listen all the way through.Want more? Stay updated on Twitter and Facebook: