Blackstar will go down as potentially one of the most heroic and sincere albums in David Bowie’s entire career. He has spent decades spawning innumerable alter egos, toying with the conventions of sexuality and being anything but transparent. Something happened, between the years of 2001 (upon the release of 2001’s Reality) and 2010 (where he began working on The Next Day), that propulsed Bowie to reexamine a more ‘real’ part of life. What resulted was a criminally short resurgence- a Renaissance of musical creation prior to death that began with the wonderful The Next Day and concluded with a dire cry for answers.
Blackstar will likely also remain one of Bowie’s grimmest albums. There is no coincidence here. Blackstar is rife with passages about death, questions about creative mortality, and the coming of the darkness. “Blackstar” is uninterested in charming the listener with melancholy hooks, as it drizzles seedy sounds throughout its lumbering 9 minutes. “I’m a Blackstar, I am the great I am” is matched with lyrics about being “a flash in the pan.” Bowie is begging for answers- bravely crying for a response from what rests at the bottom of this cliff.
“Lazarus” is weighted with thick instrumentation. Aside from an odd lyric about “wanting some ass,” Bowie is screaming with a very audibly worn cry. Part of the pain is felt, and knowing the real-world circumstances around the song, it’s made all the eerier. This could be partly a placebo effect. But, Bowie made sure the album’s instrumentation was as chaotic and troubled as his own voice. “Dollar Days” may be the only track here with a slight note of what would generally be called “uplifting.” But, Bowie can’t escape his own imminency. “I’m falling down, and it’s nothing to me.” But, you don’t believe it for a second.
Blackstar will never be removed from the death of Bowie that occurred just two days of its 2015 release. In many instances, this may deter the music- cause a distraction that cannot be overcome. In the case of Bowie, it is a very real haunt that drips upon every grated moaned lyric and every wail of the saxophone.