Blackstar by David Bowie: Album Review

Yes, it’s true. If you haven’t heard already, the one and only David Bowie released a new album. Even though this is his 26th album, yet again Bowie has shown how artistic and ahead of his time he is. Released on Friday, the album itself only has seven songs, all accompanied by Donny McCaslin’s Experimental Jazz band.

My first tip for listeners is: don’t try to understand the lyrics unless you are an avid Bowie fan or have a few days to spare for contemplation. My second tip? This sort of music is not for the average listener. Since it is highly experimental, many of the familiar sounds of pop are not there, or are there very little. But if you’re keen and enjoy a challenge, go for it! This is the sort of music for you!

The title track of the album goes for ten minutes, so strap yourself in for an interesting and spacey ride. You don’t get a strong feel for the beat until the second verse (there’s no chorus in between so it doesn’t leave you displaced or uneasy for too long), and after that the music is almost trance-like. The only elements that stop you from going into daze are the interesting drumming and jazzy chords, especially after 5:30.

‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore uses some New Orleans Jazz undertones with some heavy breathing from Bowie (again, don’t try to discern the meaning of the lyrics or the breathing unless you really truly want to). I didn’t particularly enjoy the instrumental hook in Lazarus that ended every melodic phrase. To me it was a little too repetitive and grated on my nerves. However, I loved Bowie’s classic wavering tone. It complemented the music well.

Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) was probably my favourite track on the album. This may be because it was more familiar to me (can’t really say experimental Jazz is my jam), as it used some cool guitar hooks at the end and sounded more Prog Rock than the rest of the album. It also followed into the next song really nicely, using the same lyrics (and what I think may be the same key or a related key). Girl Loves Me was a cool song but I didn’t understand any of the lyrics. All I got from it was that Bowie was confused about where his Monday went and that a girl named Gina (don’t quote me on the name) loves him. That’s it. That’s all I got. If any of you fabulous readers understood more than me please feel free to comment and enlighten me (and other readers like me).

It wasn’t until Dollar Days that I heard the familiar sound of an acoustic guitar. I was surprised when I listened to it because I realised he hadn’t used the instrument yet which is strange because it’s such a staple instrument. Even so, the piano and sax parts in this track are INSANE. Seriously. Take a listen, you won’t regret it. The last track, I Can’t Give Everything Away had much more of an eighties feel to it, with some familiar computerised sounds in the background. Also there’s a harmonica. Which, given the rest of the album and the individual song, is a weird but kind of cool choice. AKA typical Bowie.

All in all, this is a great album. It won’t be for everyone, but I tend to rate music not on what’s trendy or what’s accessible but just for what it is, and this is excellent for what it is. I’m giving it 9.5/10.


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