On a Monday night this past month, it was announced that David Bowie, a British musical legend known for great works like “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars,” “Hunky Dory,” “Let’s Dance,” and more, had passed away after an 18 month battle with cancer.
Just three days before his death, he had released his twenty-fifth studio album, “Blackstar” (stylized as ★). While the album itself was already great prior to his death, with that in mind it brings a whole new dimension on how I look at the album.
Songs like “Lazarus” have a whole new meaning, as it deals with impending death. The opening line “Look up here, I’m in heaven” is extremely eerie knowing that Bowie made this album with his impending death in mind.
In general, the album is a fantastic swan song for Bowie, as he seemingly goes all out with what energy he has left. The jazzy instrumentation, influenced by the fantastic Kendrick Lamar and his last album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” fits extremely well over Bowie’s aged voice.
Because of this instrumentation, this might be Bowie’s most experimental release since his Berlin Trilogy back in the 1970’s. While many of his contemporaries like Paul McCartney or Bob Dylan have played it safe regarding new music, Bowie was still willing to experiment and take on modern influences like Death Grips for this album.
Not only was Bowie taking a risk with the music for this album, he was risking his health as he was battling cancer. According to his biographer, Wendy Leigh, he had six heart attacks while making his album; but somehow, he powered through and finished this masterpiece.
Because I’m writing this on the day of his death, I’m still trying to process everything, but in general, I highly recommend this album. It’s a somber affair from beginning to end with the fantastic “Blackstar” track to “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” but this album shows that David Bowie truly was an artist in everything he did. Rest in peace you wonderful alien, we didn’t deserve an artist as great as you.