by Warren Buchholz –
There are some people in this life that you expect to live forever, like some kind of god holed up in the castle in the air, spending their days creating art and music until the rest of us die. Forgotten but not forgotten; we just expect them to always be there. David Bowie was one of these people.
Instead, he was as human as the rest of us, and the shock that ripples through this reality turns the meaning of mortality upside down. Our heroes die too, and we have to be okay with that. Bowie made this clear, especially in his final album, Blackstar. He is not what everybody expects him to be. He was just human.
Blackstar is Bowie’s best in years, and it deserves the 10+ replays needed to dissect the detailed layers of his melancholic yet hopeful tryst about his life, his career, and the death that slowly creeps upon him. The tracks are avant-garde at its finest, ensnared with jazz undertones and bluesy-electronic rhythms that sound busy but have purpose. It’s functional-dysfunctional, as ruminating about life before death should be. The album is still in control, even if you think it’s not, just like Bowie wanted his life to be.
The album is a cinematic treat for the ears; a condensed opera that starts off fractured in sense and tone, but then leads into a complete change of rhythm and melody and lyrics that will get stuck in your head. “Blackstar” epitomizes this. And like the drastic shift in tone in “Blackstar”, his lyrics follow suit: “Something happened on the day he died. Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside. Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried (I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar.)”
Bowie understands what is happening, and he scribes it eloquently. He interweaves thoughts of his life and death through “Lazarus”, another song that is packed with layer of meaning and mythology.
Great creativity and pure passion are qualities in a person you want to have around for as long as possible to curb the sadness and grief that comes from the world itself. Blackstar fulfills all expectation in the 45 or so minutes of melody. And with “I Can’t Give Everything Away” being the last track of Bowie’s career, I’m appreciative of it, even if I am greedy and want all the Bowie.
I do not handle death well, even if it happens to someone I do not know personally, yet I look up to them as some kind of hero. David Bowie was a hero, and he was a figure for the late 20th century Queer America—proving that you can be who you want to be, no matter who or what says otherwise. And while many replicas will come and go, there will only be one David Bowie, and I’m glad I got to share the world with him, but I am still saddened there will never be another Bowie. But it’s through his music and his art and his films that he will live on forever, and perhaps then, that is what makes him a god in the castle above.