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Review: David Bowie - Blackstar

Bowie's tragic and untimely death raises many questions surrounding his final musical memento.

Review: David Bowie - Blackstar

David Bowie

Gwen Morgan

W!ZARD News Author

On 8th January, his 69th birthday, the legend that is David Bowie, released ''Blackstar''; an album consisting of 7 songs.

It was not publicly known at the time of release that David Bowie was suffering from a terminal illness, and sadly on the 10th January, only 2 days after the album 's release, he passed away after what was soon revealed to be an 18 month battle with cancer. This made ''Blackstar'' the final stamp on a heroic career.

To write about him is an honour. I grew up fondly watching the Jim Henson film ''The Labyrinth'', where Bowie starred as the fearful Goblin King. Not forgetting his introduction to the classic Raymond Briggs animation of ''The Snowman'', which no Christmas goes by without at least one happy viewing.

I would hear his music played around my home. This then meant such excitement for me when I was given the opportunity to see him live at the Isle Of Wight Festival in 2004. And from then on, I was hooked. His career spanned 5 decades, from ''Space Oddity'' released in 1969, with the following emergence of Ziggy Stardust in ‘72 when the 'glam-rock' era was in the height of popularity. He conquered America in 1975 with what he characterized as ‘plastic soul’, to then dabble with electronica. He became the face of reinvention.

This is all information I have learned over the years, through stories passed on by those who lived his music and imagery from the striking red hair and a painted face, to the smartly dressed blond man with slicked back hair and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

The release of ''Blackstar'' turned what was to be the 25th studio album into what is now to be seen as a harrowing message to his fans after his untimely death. I first listened to the album with a view to critique before he died. It was then a strange collection of songs which were accompanied by an even stranger video for the song ''Lazarus''. I was not instantly hooked, but then I would happily sit and listen to ''The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust'' and ''The Spiders From Mars'' on loop for days, and this is no Ziggy. This new album felt tired and attention seeking. Then I hear the news of his death and the album brings to light new meaning.

The song lyrics for ''Lazarus'' open stating ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven.’ It follows on to state ‘I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.’ It seems to create a narrative of his career, and a message where he possibly wants to show the pain he feels with his fight with disease. It is being suggested that the video ''Lazarus'' is him telling us, his fans, he is going to die. I find this a hard statement to disagree with, as he is pictured lying in a hospital bed with his eyes covered in bandages with buttons resting where his eyes should be. It was strange to first view, but now I feel an understanding. ''Lazarus'' is one song out of 7 all with a collective theme of despair.

All of the songs have an underlying tone of an unseen pain. He talks of being this ‘Blackstar’, the ‘star’s star’. It feels that he had something he wanted to say to his vast fan base as he was, a quietly suffering star. But that’s who he will always be, the Star man.


He actually says with the title of his closing song on the album, ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away.’ Was this his final testimony in life? What did he even have left to give? He was a man who when he tired, when he had pushed himself to the limit, he would disappear and swiftly return with a new face, a new sound. He was the king of reinvention, from the striking ways he presented himself, with painted faces and brightly styled hair, he created an icon to accompany each album. He had masterfully shown this through his iconic album art, which sadly ends with the white page and a black star.

It is difficult to know what exactly Bowie was thinking when he released this final album just days before his death. I listen to it carefully, trying - as I can only assume many others doing, trying to depict some greater meaning to the final words he has stamped on the world. He talks of pity and pain. He has said; ‘Don’t believe for just one second I’m forgetting you.’ Each song and every lyric sounds like a summing up of a very pained period in his life, which I think it’s natural to assume that this is referring to his silent battle with cancer.

Was this what he was planning? Was it to be his final album? In an interview, Bowie’s producer Tony Visconti is heard telling the BBC that this was not Bowie’s plan. He suggests that he had spoken on writing a further and final album. This being said, the album was recorded in secret, turning his own death into a piece of art.
 


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