When David Bowie’s “Blackstar” was released, no one thought that they would be listening to David Bowie’s final record. This is the record that will always be associated with Bowie’s passing, considering that it was released just days before his death. It’s a good thing then that this is a beautiful record and is a hell of a way to cap off an amazing recording career.
The record opens with the title track, an experiment in mixing dissonance and melody which lasts for almost 10 minutes. The first half of the song is quite reminiscent of Scott Walker’s latter work, with Bowie playing around with dissonance and off-kilter melodies to create a mood before the track reaches its second half that sounds like classic Bowie through and through.
The following track, “’Tis A Pity She Was a Whore” is something more along the lines of Bowie’s take on classy but off-kilter dance music complete with soaring melodies, beautiful horn parts and amazing drumming. One thing noticeable about the production is that there’s a sense of airiness with how everything was recorded, and it’s most noticeable in this track. Despite so many things going on, it’s like every instrument exists on their own space, giving each different part some room to breathe.
“Lazarus”, with its line of “Look up here, I’m in heaven” managed to be more poignant than intended following Bowie’s passing. With its somber instrumentation and death imagery, it proves to be the song that anchors the entire record. It puts everything into a context that was probably not initially intended.
David Bowie returns to the oppressive cacophony of “Blackstar” with the following tracks “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” and “Girl Loves Me”. “Sue” sees Bowie playing around with tempo and melody, and is further evidence that this is Bowie’s “free jazz” album. “Dollar Days” slows things down with its surprisingly tender arrangement, and gives us a glimpse of Bowie’s penchant for beautiful ballads.
The record ends with “I Can’t Give Everything Away”, with its drum machines and trumpets serving as the perfect accompaniment to Bowie’s emotive vocals. This track is right up there among some of Bowie’s best work, and is a great way to end this record.
David Bowie may be gone, but he has left us “Blackstar”, a beautiful album that pretty much sums up his legacy. It is a testament to Bowie’s vision that even before his death he managed to make something utterly beautiful. David Bowie may be gone, but we’ll always have his music. We will always have “Blackstar”, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.