When “The Next Day” hit the scene in 2013, everyone was glad that Bowie had made his return – but it had hardly made a dent in the pop culture landscape. Bowie needed to go bigger and better for his last album, and against all odds he produced one of the greatest albums of all time with “Blackstar”.
This album is unlike anything Bowie had ever done before – you can clearly hear the heavy jazz influences (I would almost call the genre of this album “nightmare jazz”), and Bowie even cited “Death Grips” as a major influence. Various styles and sounds were expertly blended together to create one of the most unique album listening experiences I’ve ever had, and the beauty of this nightmarish record grows on me with each listen.
Tragically, Bowie passed away only a few days after “Blackstar” released, to the shock and horror of the world and the entire musical landscape. The whole planet knew that they had just lost an icon, a god of modern music, and his untimely death gave way to his final gift to us. How would I rank these exceptional songs?
You can check out some of my other Bowie lists below:
7 – Girl Loves Me
For a song as strange as this, it’s weird to me that it feels like the black sheep on the album. Perhaps it’s the frantic vocals, or just that I don’t really hear Bowie swearing on a track that often, but I’ve never really connected with this one as much as the others.
That being said, this is still a really good track. “Blackstar” is remarkably consistent, and the majority of tracks are insanely memorable and creative, so it’s no wonder that this album is considered one of Bowie’s best – and one of the greatest of the decade.
6 – ‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore
The drum work on this song – and the entire album as a whole – is nothing short of sensational, and the band that Bowie brought in for “Blackstar” did an excellent job making these zany song ideas work in the first place.
This is perhaps the vocal performance on the album where you can tell Bowie is struggling to get the words out – his aged vocals make “Blackstar” haunting and unique, but they feel especially strained here.
5 – Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)
People always call this the weak link on the record, and that the single version is better (in all fairness, that version is subdued and fantastic in its own right), but this version fits perfectly within the tone and vibe that Bowie was going for.
One of the craziest and nightmarish tracks of the bunch, the narrative that accompanies this one is one of Bowie’s best and most melancholy stories in decades.
4 – Dollar Days
I think the first couple of times I listened to this album, I had completely forgotten all about this gem (the follow up was enough to make me forget it). It was only on the third or fourth listen that I truly started to appreciate this underrated classic.
This might be the most sonically pleasant track on the album, from the virtuoso woodwind solos to the gorgeous vocals and lyrics. I always become entranced by the hauntingly beautiful vibe of “Dollar Days”, and it feeds into the final track perfectly.
3 – I Can’t Give Everything Away
The final track on the album, and the final blessing that Bowie gave the human race.
As last tracks go, this has to be up there with the greats – lyrically, this is Bowie’s sombre goodbye to his fans, and the chorus is one of the catchiest on the entire album. This is one of those songs where the aged vocals do it wonders, and the mixture of elation and profound sadness this track brings me every time is nothing short of sensational.
2 – Lazarus
I actually remember “Lazarus” on the radio when it came out – it had been hyped up as the new Bowie single (I wasn’t a huge fan at the time, just the hits I suppose), and even though I’d never listened to an album of his I was instantly hooked.
A few days after this single and the album released, Bowie tragically passed away. The lyrics to this song have become more profound as time goes on – and almost prophetic – and other than the title track, I can’t think of many other Bowie tracks that can consistently send shivers down my spine.
1 – Blackstar
When you first play this album, you might have some sort of idea what’s going to happen – Bowie was always known his his art rock, or maybe the gloomy single “Lazarus” was a hint that it was possibly a moodier album this time around, but I don’t think anyone was expecting one of Bowie’s best tracks ever – and one of the greatest songs of all time.
The “nightmare jazz” themes don’t get better on the album than on this opening track, and to be honest you’d have to go very far back in Bowie’s discography to find a song equal to this (“Let’s Dance” maybe? Or even “Ashes to Ashes” for pure creativity?).
This 10-minute epic mirrors “Station to Station” as an album opener, but the incredibly unique sonic landscape and vocal performance makes this a track that has to be experienced to be believed. I’ve revisited this masterpiece many times since, and I couldn’t think of a better song to kickstart Bowie’s final magnum opus – sheer brilliance from start to finish.
Aaaand that’s my list. Wow, what a ride! I’ve ranked and reviewed the tracks on every Bowie album (the main ones, anyway), and to be honest I’m a little sad that it’s over! I’ll have to think of another artist to cover, but until then you should check out my latest blog posts:
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