Single Review: David Bowie – Blackstar

By on Monday, 14th December 2015 at 12:00 pm

So it’s that time of the year again when musicians start to surprise release what they’ve been working on. These albums are generally more enjoyable and (I use this term in the loosest sense) honest than other comeback albums that have been drip-fed to us via screenshots, studio bants and snippets for months. Take Beyoncé’s 2013 self-titled album. It was far more engaging and enjoyable than ‘4’, or ‘Sasha Fierce’. Part of this was down to the out-of-the-blue nature of it release. David Bowie has announced he is releasing his 25th album next year called ‘Blackstar’.

So far, all we have to go on is the title track. Even by Bowie’s standards, this is a little out there. ‘Blackstar’ is Bowie going back to art rock and avant-jazz avenues, as he tells an ad hoc story for just under 10 minutes. There are flourishes of jazz, rock, pop, drum and bass and Gregorian chants. The video is equally out there, featuring astronauts, priests, women with tails and bizarre rituals involving jewel-encrusted heads.

The main problem with ‘Blackstar’ is that it sounds like two half-finished ideas stapled together under the guise of the avant-garde. While this is all speculation, as I have no idea about Bowie’s inner workings, the single does feel like a slightly rushed job, or he had the idea for the video and wanted the music to reflect back on the video somehow. Overall as a song, it doesn’t feel cohesive, and the transition from the first part to the second is a bit jarring and could have been smoother.

While ‘Blackstar’ sounds more exciting and vibrant than 2013’s ‘Where Are We Now?’, it still comes across as stagnant, somewhere between a desperate mix of Philip Glass, Lou Reed’s changeling ‘Lulu’ album and recent work by Scott Walker. In the past, Bowie was known a game changer, but because he’s not pushing himself now, it appears that he’s just copying someone else’s style and ideas rather than try and push the envelope himself. Sadly, it’s coming off second-rate, as what he’s copying is something so good and original in the first place. If this was any other artist, we’d happily accept this, but as it’s Bowie, the man who sold the world, we expect a bit more. We expect fully formed ideas and concepts rather than improvised, makeshift studio shenanigans. Go away, David, and come back when you know what you’re trying to say.


‘Blackstar’, the new single by David Bowie, is out now. His new album of the same name will be released on the 8th of January 2016 on RCA.


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