David Bowie’s twenty-seventh album Blackstar was released on the popstar’s sixty-ninth birthday, 8 January – only two days before his passing. The album is quite short when compared to previous releases from Bowie, with just seven tracks (two of which are remastered, previously-released pieces) which make up about forty minutes.
Blackstar strays surprisingly far from Bowie’s archetypal pop/rock hits. Some songs, especially the title track, contain elements of techno or electronica that are reminiscent of Crystal Method’s work. When combined with the jazz accompaniment (most notably the saxophone), a remarkably unique sound is produced, which is not unusual coming from such a gifted musician as Bowie.
Eccentricity is reinforced by the often odd, albeit powerful, lyrics from Blackstar. ‘Girl Loves Me’ features particularly bizarre lyrics, the meaning of which are really anyone’s guess: “You viddy at the cheena/Choodesny with the red rot/Libbilubbing litso-fitso/Devotchka watch her garbles”. In a peculiar way, however, it’s best that some of the lyrics are quite vague: much meaning and interpretation is then determined by the individual listener, thereby creating a very personal experience. This being said, many of the lyrics are quite dark and foreboding, such as those from the single ‘Lazarus’: “Look up here, man, I’m in danger/I’ve got nothing left to lose”. Listeners and critics have taken these to directly relate to Bowie’s battle with cancer, which began about eighteen months ago. Furthermore, many have understood this album to be an intentional parting gift from the artist. Bowie’s final gift to the world of music is not lacking: it’s a progressive album with a good balance of slower, somber pieces like ‘Lazarus’ and fast-paced, drum-orientated tracks such as ‘Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)’, not forgetting, of course, some quintessential Bowie madness with ‘Girl Loves Me’, which fosters a surreal vibe with the distortion and echo implemented.
In all, Blackstar is another exceptional work from Bowie that only further establishes his incomprehensible creativity. It does not sound like anything he has done before: rather than a compilation album of his greatest hits, David Bowie has left us with something wholly new and inspiring.