David Bowie was an icon to the world of music, and like most people he was a personal hero to me. I eagerly awaited the release of Blackstar on 8th January 2016; little did we know that the Starman himself would pass away two days after.
The album garnered praise upon its release for being a reflective piece that factored in various facets of his genre-defying career. Yet a year after his death it has taken on a different form. Critics saw the album as somber yet dazzling, littered with allusions to mortality and for an artist pressing nearly 70 years that was seen as natural. However Blackstar has become something of a self-written eulogy. During its production Bowie was aware of his impending death and as such it can be seen that the album was a parting gift of sorts.
Yes, the album is dark and, at times, feels as though it is scraping away at your being, but that’s an emotive response. Regardless of knowing its inspiration or the artist’s mental state the true sign of a piece of art is if it can garner a raw emotive response. Bowie nailed it with Blackstar. In the opening track, also titled ‘Blackstar’ we are taken on a close to 10-minute journey through the mind of a dying man. Ghostlike imagery permeates the lyrics and drawn out synthesised tones with Middle Eastern percussion pave the way for Major Tom to meet his doom with the blackness of space as his company as the Star man becomes a Blackstar.
The foreshadowing for his demise continues within ‘Lazarus’, a track in which Bowie clearly states to the listener to “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. With hindsight its blatantly obvious as to what he was referring to but in such Bowie fashion he was somehow able make his death an artistic expression. Such acceptance and commitment to the craft is what makes him such a defining artist for not just the United Kingdom but also the entire world. Stating “everybody knows me now” is a sign of his understanding that his job was done, making way for the next generation of creativity. A metaphorical passing of the torch.
Not all is doom and gloom though; Blackstar is a celebration of the artist. It’s seven tracks referencing most of the characters and changes in styles that Bowie adopted. References to his years in New York City, alt rock romance and grappling with defining a sense of self are prominent throughout all tracks. With each listen of the album it’s given more and more to me. Both sonically and thematically it’s content grows with the listener.
One year has passed; but as time goes on the album will function not only as excellent send off from David Bowie but also as a testament to the life of an artist like no other.