I had been listening to this album on repeat all weekend trying to piece it together. Lyrically this album was a little confusing to me as I could not pick up on everything that Bowie was trying to express on many of these tracks. That being said, I still was loving the album and was amazed by what an artist who was almost 70 was able to do. I got all my notes together for this review and decided that today I would write this up. Today, I woke up to the news that Bowie had passed away yesterday, after an 18 month battle with cancer. Once the initial shock had faded I quickly relistened to Blackstar and it all began to piece together. This album was intended to be David Bowie’s farewell to his fans and the world. All this being said, I have no idea how to really review this. This has not really ever happened before where we have gotten an album from a legend just days before their passing. I will try my best though to give this final album by one of music’s most legendary artists a fair assessment.
The first thing I noticed about Blackstar was its interesting sound. Using a New York City jazz combo fronted by Donny McCaslin, Bowie creates a sound that reminded me of something Radiohead might have put out for Kid A. This, in addition to some excellent percussion work which apparently LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy helped with, make this album unique and interesting without going too far away from what has always made Bowie great. It feels new as well as old at the same time.
Then, of course, there is David Bowie himself. Saying that he is fantastic here would be an understatement. Listening to this, you would not believe you were listening to the voice of a man who was approaching 70. While his voice was not able to hit the heights it could in his younger years, it is definitely excused all things considered. Even with the assistance of a few computerized effects, Bowie delivers incredible work that shows he was still an emotive presence and full of energy.
Finally, the aspect of this album that I did not think I would end up going into as much detail on, the lyrics. Starting from the captivating 10-minute title track all the way to the final song, all seven of the songs on this album are beautiful in their own way. On songs like “Dollar Days,” Bowie sings about possibly never seeing the English evergreens he is running too. He then talks about possibly cheating his own death later in the song. There are little things like this one many of the songs here that show how Bowie was viewing his inevitable death and it is heartbreakingly beautiful to listen to.
This is definitely most clear on the song “Lazarus.” The song starts out with Bowie singing “Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen” referring to his cancer. The song continues this personal feeling until the end when he says he will “be free/ just like that bluebird.”
Each of these songs is worthy to dissect because it is clear there was a reason David Bowie wanted them on his final release. If you are a Bowie fan, this is an album that you must listen to. It was made for you to enjoy and seems to give Bowie’s shocking death a little bit of closure. This is an absolutely incredible piece of art, that it seems only David Bowie could create. It seems only fitting that a man like him would be able to take his own death and make wonderful music from it. While it breaks my heart that this has to be the end, it is the most perfect conclusion to his career. This album is destined to be talked about for a long time, I just hope that it is known for more than just being his last album because it is truly great in many more aspects. I had not initially planned on giving this album such a high rating, but given the context of this and the fact that I probably have a slight bias, I do not feel like it is an undeserved rating. This was an amazing swan song from one of the best artists of all time. Rest in peace, David Bowie. If this album proves anything, it is that your memory will never die.