When Blackstar first came out, it wasn’t evident it would be David Bowie's last hurrah. Regardless, his final record proves that Bowie will always be remembered as one of music’s greatest artists, even beyond death.
Blackstar shifts and shuffles between jazz, electronica, art rock and noise to deliver one of his most complex and fulfilling records. The opening track, “Blackstar,” lays out the theme of mortality through an exquisitely cinematic track that pulls from Middle Eastern melodies to jazz-tronica. The metaphorical symbolism of the “black star” takes on a more literal and morbid meaning in its euphemism as a type of cancer lesion. Following that is a song couplet dedicated to the John Ford play, ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore. The eponymous track tackles the misogynist transgressions of soldiers during World War I, while the second one, “Sue (or in a Season of Crime)”, is a modern retelling of Ford’s narrative. Overall, these two take advantage of Blackstar’s jazz leanings the most. They’re progressive in structure with space and glam rock cutting in and out of the high-speed jazz breaks. In “Lazarus” and “Dollar Days,” Bowie is more candid about how he views his impending death: “look up here I’m in heaven” he sings on the former, “I’m dying to / push their backs against the grain / and fool them all again and again” on the latter. Closing track, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” is a true swan song. Subtle, Sinatra-esque balladry plays a part on his final sendoff. This track accomplishes what Bowie was known for throughout his career: giving his fans pieces of himself.
Blackstar is a sophisticated record that serves beautifully as a memorial to one of music’s most beloved icons. Watch his final music video for the track "Lazarus" below.