Review: David Bowie - Blackstar

David Bowie: Blackstar
9/10


From the very first listen, Blackstar's main theme seemed to be death. Looking at it on this day, however, it is nothing less than a parting gift, a farewell album.

Released just two days before Bowie's death and on his 69th birthday, Blackstar is almost like Bowie's tribute to his own life and music, embracing life and lived moments while wistfully accepting, perhaps at times even welcoming, death. It is the perfect album to complete the musical legacy he leaves behind and as Bowie's last record, it is exactly how it should be; Bowie is a few steps ahead as always, saying goodbye to the world before they even realise it, telling listeners to “look up here, I'm in heaven”.

Far more interesting than his 2013 album The Next Day, or indeed much of Bowie's earlier work, the ominous Blackstar seems more personal, feeling complete at a mere seven tracks (but a full 41 minutes). Working with producer Tony Visconti again and stepping away from pop to jazz, blues, hip-hop and more experimental music, Bowie seems to be standing more firmly on his own feet than perhaps ever before.

In many ways, the album seems to be a collection of things close to Bowie, not just musically and thematically, but also in the details: 'Girl Loves Me' features vocabulary from A Clockwork Orange's Nadsat language as well as gay slang Polari. Indeed, the numerous characters and themes on the album all appear to relate back to Bowie himself, and everything between the opener 'Blackstar''s “This is all I ever meant / that's the message that I sent” and the haunting album closer 'I Can't Give Everything Away' seems to compile a constant narrative.

The latest single off the album, 'Lazarus', is a majestic portrayal of hope and relief: “Oh I'll be free / just like that bluebird / Oh I'll be free / ain't that just like me?” Its jazzy sound makes it mysterious and heavenly in the word's most literal definition and it stands out in a way that makes it almost seem like a title track. 'I Can't Give Everything Away' follows on these steps, but also echoes Bowie's more ambient, melancholy tracks from 1977's Low, such as 'Warszawa' and 'Art Decade'.

If Blackstar's message hasn't become clear yet – to the point it can without Bowie giving everything away - 'Dollar Days'' “I'm trying to / I'm dying to” changes to “I'm dying, too”: a message that seems to be impossible to deliver believably if you are David Bowie. If Bowie doesn't come back in four days like Lazarus, it is obvious to all that he has been made immortal through his music, already decades ago, and Blackstar merely reaffirms this.