January 8, 2016
Despite being a lifelong Bowie fan, I was in no rush to listen to Blackstar in its entirety. For days I avoided it, mostly out of fear. Fear that the album would somehow disappoint, or that it would be too emotionally taxing to get through in one sitting. Post-listen I can tearfully confirm that the latter is almost true.
Of course I'd never attempt to make light of something as destructive as cancer, but I am thankful for one thing - that Bowie was given the foresight to create this last work before he left us, and that we as listeners are now able to enjoy it as his parting gift. It's a rare occasion that an artist gets that kind of closure, and it’s especially powerful in the hands of one as prolific as the Thin White Duke.
Though it consists of just seven tracks, Blackstar clocks in at a respectable 41 minutes. Evidently, Bowie opted for quality over quantity, and took precious time to thoroughly craft a small but extraordinary collection of final songs.
The title track, as well as the single, Lazarus, stand out as the most haunting on the already poignant release. Also worth extra attention is Dollar Days, a particularly soulful, sax-driven ballad that’s a touch reminiscent of his hits from decades past.
Blackstar is innovative, dark, and strange in a way that is just so thoroughly Bowie. The theatrical elements that have been present throughout much of his career are still apparent here, now paired with an unusual blend of influences, most notably jazz and industrial. This isn’t a heritage album in the traditional sense, but it could be considered one in that, true to form, David Bowie took the opportunity to reinvent himself one last time.
It still seems a little surreal, doesn't it? We followed this man through 50 solid years of evolution, and now the chronicle has closed with this worthy final chapter. Blackstar is a heart wrenching farewell from a visionary facing the unknown, and a man with too much left to say, but not nearly enough time to say it.