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Essential Listening: Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ reflects on his mortality, offers consolation to listeners

David Bowie’s Blackstar is often described as the final prayers of a dying man. Image courtesy of ISO records
David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ is often described as the final prayers of a dying man. Image courtesy of ISO records

David Bowie’s Blackstar, which was released a mere two days before the artist’s passing, is often described as the final prayers of a dying man. 

Over the course of his 26 studio albums, Bowie developed an eccentric style that made him easily one of the most influential rock artists who has ever lived. Despite this, Bowie remained humble and quiet about his personal life, right up through his death.

When Bowie was diagnosed with liver cancer and knew he had little time left, few people knew, making the influence of his final album much heavier than many people realize. Bowie, who was always vocal about his love for his fans and his equal hatred for the media, used Blackstar as an outlet to say goodbye to his audience and to report on the end of his life. 

This is what makes this 2016 album so historic. 

Themes of death are prominent throughout all aspects of the Blackstar, including the sound, tempos, instrumentation, and especially the lyrics, which are easily the darkest and most reflective out of any of Bowie’s works.

“Lazarus” is an especially jarring track because it is the first song on the album in which Bowie’s desperation is emphasized through his vocals, not just his lyrics. This being said, the track’s lyrics, which are mostly focused on the idea of “being free,” are nothing short of horrifying. 

The track opens with Bowie singing, “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen / I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen / Everybody knows me now.” This verse nails Bowie’s conflicting feelings surrounding the fate he knows he is facing. 

Bowie’s traditional anti-pop sound is still prominent in his final album, however, making it so he successfully ends his career drawing from the same vine he started it on. 

Many tracks on the album don’t stray far from Bowie’s chaotic cacophonies of mismatched instruments and melodical timings, just with much darker undertones than any of his previous albums. 

Putting aside the historical importance of the album’s symbolism, the rawness of Blackstar allows for an emotional connection between the album and any listener experiencing loss, which is something that has never before been achieved in rock music. 

The final lyric on Blackstar, and Bowie’s final message to the world, is “I can’t give everything away,” reflecting on everything Bowie has put into the world before his final departure.

Bowie changed music history throughout all of his unique music and artistic expression. But through Blackstar, he completed the seemingly impossible task of using his death as the ultimate work of poetry, making it one of the most historic albums ever released.

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About the Contributor
Aria Majcher
Aria Majcher, Entertainment Editor
Entertainment Editor Aria Majcher is a senior in her second year on the Purbalite. If she’s not spending all of her money at a record store, it’s probably because she’s spending all of her money at a concert. 
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