David Bowie may be the one with the birthday, but we are the ones getting the present.
Bowie has long been an eccentric and controversial figure in the world of pop and rock. Love him or hate him, there is one thing you cannot deny:
There is no one else like him.
Over the years, Bowie has continued to experiment musically. From his folk-pop origins to being a frontrunner of the 70s glam rock movement. From his 80s pop-rock albums to far more experimental, radical music projects, and even flirtations with alternative rock. Many artists are berated by their fans and critics for releasing the same album over and over again. That is hardly a problem with Bowie; each album is a brand new story and experiment.
Blackstar, released on January 8, 2016 (Bowie’s 69th birthday) is his 25th studio album of original material, and his most recent release of original songs since 2013’s The Next Day. By this point in time, Bowie has established himself as being anything but conventional. This fan did not know what to expect from the new David Bowie album, because this fan NEVER knows what to expect from David Bowie (not necessarily a bad thing!)
So, what is Blackstar? Is it worth your time if you are a fan? It has been 50 years since Bowie released his first studio album, and he has come a long way from those early days as a folksy singer. Blackstar is not a commercial effort in the least; Bowie has never really been a “critic's darling” by any stretch of the imagination. The new record represents Bowie at his most experimental and ambitious, and longtime followers of the legendary performer are bound to be enthralled by what he unleashes on this record.
When you have an opening track that is nearly ten minutes in length, it is clear that this record was not made to appease the critics by any means (and more power to Mr. Bowie for this). Throughout the album, listeners will hear an odd mix of electronic, ambient noise, saxophone solos, guitar solos, drum machines, funky beats, and just about everything in between. From slow and more melodic stretches and songs to all out instrumental cacophony, this is a difficult record to review because there is nothing to compare it to. Bowie has made his musical statement to the world, though what said statement means to the individual critics and fans out there is going to differ substantially. This long time Bowie fan, however, was more than impressed with what he heard on this disc.
The greatest thing about the record, alongside its sheer unpredictability and boldness, is Bowie’s vocals. At 69, you would think the aging performer would be showing his age. But Bowie’s vocal performance on Blackstar proves that age is just a number. He is still giving the performance of his life, whereas men far younger are struggling to stay in the game.
Blackstar is not going to be for everyone, but then again, Bowie is not exactly a man who has ever set out to please the masses. This fan was impressed by Bowie’s musical boldness and experimentation, and the fact that he shows no signs of letting up. There are twists and turns around every corner in this unpredictable release, and longtime fans of this musical innovator are sure to be pleased by the wild music they hear here. Highly recommended!