Music Video | Blackstar by David Bowie

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Eric Cooper

It’s official: David Bowie has gone post-empire. Blackstar is the title track to Bowie’s upcoming album release set for January 8th, 2016 (his 69th birthday) and it is a track that could not have possibly appeared on his 2013 “comeback” album The Next Day.

What is “empire”? The Next Day. That was empire. The very idea of a “comeback” album, the “return-to-form”, that is so empire. A 10-minute track of Bowie howling over haunting ambient accompanied by a perplexing barrage of ritualistic imagery? That cannot be packaged. It does not have a catchy, sing-a-long chorus. It cannot be played on MTV. It is content crafted by David Bowie to express himself. It’s art for art’s sake. That is not empire.

The track opens with exotic and ominous wind instrumentation melodies accompanied by glassy guitar tones. The drums that come in play a rhythm that seems almost trap-music influenced. Bowie’s vocals are layered and chanting as he sings prophetic and repetitive lyrics. Halfway through the track, the ambiance subsides into a jazzy ballad in which Bowie sings hilariously as if he’s in a Broadway play. Processed voices howl “I’m a blackstar”. Then, the instrumentation returns to the ominous melody while retaining the jazz. Bowie’s incantations return until the drums slow and the track closes with random bits of instrumental noise.

Unsurprisingly, Bowie has cited Kendrick Lamar’s recent album and, wait for it- Death Grips, as influences for his upcoming album. Both of these artists have realised exactly what David Bowie has now realised. Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly has received rave reviews yet it is not traditional hip-hop by any means. As a result, Dead End Hip-Hop’s Feefo was disappointed that there were only a couple songs that he could “bump in the whip”. And Death Grips seems to care very little about its fanbase and the physical world in general. Both of these artists focused solely on the art, which is what an artist should do, and have received standing ovations for it. David Bowie is now doing the same.