What a way to go. Of course Bowie essentially stage-managed his own exit from this mortal coil; we just didn’t know it was coming so soon after he dropped Blackstar and its amazing title track.
TSJ: Working with jazz musicians has clearly freed up Bowie; they give him the flexibility to take his music in any direction, which he most definitely does on “Blackstar.” There are snatches of ’70s funk, drum ‘n’ bass rhythms, sax blowing like Andy Mackay’s on golden-era Roxy Music records, interstellar-ish feels and synth pew-pews. Above it all is Bowie’s voice, beautifully recorded and treated by Tony Visconti, as he recently told Rolling Stone: “He sounds really good when we do this effect called ADT, automatic double-tracking. Then we fooled around with some rippling, repeat echoes. They’re all custom-made effects.” Sure, this isn’t a “single” in the traditional sense; it’s 9:57. But it’s pure experimental, boundary-pushing Bowie, on par with his Berlin trilogy. I love that he’s, for the most part, refusing to look back as he enters his seventh decade. This sounds nothing like I expected and everything like I might have hoped for.
He pushed himself right up until the end, and we should all feel grateful. I can still hardly grasp that within the first six months of the year we lost two of pop music’s greatest unadulterated geniuses of the past half-century. That said, “Blackstar” feels like such a perfect elegy.