David Bowie has always stood outside the lines. In the last decade or so, every album release came as a surprise of sorts: no media circus or worldwide promo tour. Each release showed Bowie slipping into his older years with something more stable stylistically. Here on his 69th birthday we get his 25th album, Blackstar. In an almost complete lack of concern about what others may think, he released his most complete work in years so neatly stamping a mark to act as a coda for his career, and incidentally his life.
The title track begins things with possibly the most clear nod to his abstractions with many different movements within its 10 minute running time. The clattering opening rhythms morph into hypnotic sax which eventually drifts into an almost soulful chorus. All of these things feel completely in line with the song structure and convey an emotional heft with Bowie's resonant vocals lying on top. Continuing his urge towards abstractions we get "'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore". The song has a heavy drum'n'bass rhythm with languid sax on top slowing and speeding up into a melange of cacaphony, eventually loosening up with a soulful movement into the initial statement of the chorus before speeding into abstract jazz styles again. Bowie really leans into the drama on this one: his vocals sway and manifest beyond the early song's calmness into a wooing, excitably beautiful mess.
These songs act as a lead up to the incredibly emotional "Lazarus". In context, this feels like the most clear farewell one could hope for, acting as an almost autobiographical song to tie a bow on everything else. The moaning sax matches his resonant emotional vocals expertly. Everything else is merely there to seemingly frame those two major pieces. The interaction between Bowie's tenor with the sax is as emotionally resonant as anything else on the record.
That is merely the first three songs on a short tracklisting of 7. These songs are representative of the stylistic turns on the album. Bowie's vocals overall carry an emotion that always seemed beyond him when in character. This feels personal, more so than ever. These things would make the case that Bowie intended this record as a farewell. In true Bowie fashion, he made something with lasting merits – something different, yet very much his own.
8.7 / 10
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