Review: David Bowie - Blackstar

Here is a review that I wrote of David Bowie's Blackstar on 11th January 2016, the day after Bowie's death. It was originally intended to be published in a magazine but for one reason or another it never made the final cut. I had forgotten all about this article until now so I thought I would share it now, on what would have been his 70th birthday. Better later than never, huh?


Bowie’s 25th record will forever be tainted with the knowledge that it was his last. Nevertheless, his creativity and talent did not slip towards his mortal end, instead he made magnificence to delight us all one last time. Bowie was diagnosed with cancer 18 months ago and he knew that his life was coming to an end, but what do you do when your days are numbered? Make an electronic-jazz fusion album of course.

The album, Blackstar, was released on 8th January 2016 - the date of Bowie’s 69th birthday - and it is both brilliant and bizarre. The title track is a mixture of electronic music, jazz and a lyrically complex ballad (and there’s only one man who could carry that off).

Eerie and unearthly; was the album a way of Bowie saying goodbye? The songs speak of illness, death and heaven - and offer intriguing insights about the man himself as he sings, “I’m not a pop star, I’m a Blackstar”. On first listening to the album, it was lyrically confusing but upon reflection, the lyrics can be viewed with a more insightful approach. I Can’t Give Everything Away, the album’s final track, is perhaps the most potent song to re-examine. “I know something is very wrong,” he begins, “The blackout hearts, the flowered news / With skull designs upon my shoes”. The sense that Bowie had an unhappy secret he desperately wishes he could share is reaffirmed in the chorus: “I can’t give everything away”.

There has been an outpouring of shock and surprise at his death, not least because, at 69, he was relatively young, but because people seemed to ascribe higher powers to him. As if this legend of the mortal world would have somehow negotiated a deal with the higher powers for him to never have to ride the pale horse.

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  1. I have this album and absolutely love it - I'll be listening to it today x

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