David Bowie • Blackstar • Columbia • Release Date: 1.8.16
After reviewing David Bowie’s Blackstar for Starpulse.com, Yours truly thought it would be interesting to rank the seven songs from the album in order of best to worst. Blackstar never misses the mark, so understand that all seven songs are well written and performed by the late, great musician. This is subjective, but hopefully there’s enough objectivity that the arguments for each song’s placement are justified. Here goes nothing!
“Blackstar” is the most ambitious song on the album; Bowie truly outdoes himself. Characterizing it as both dark and enigmatic would be an understatement. Despite its utter blackness, “Blackstar” has a beauty about it, constructed by its Middle Eastern musical cues coupled with elements of jazz and soul. It’s a delightful 10 minutes by all means.
Following Bowie’s surprising passing (to fans), “Lazarus” comes over as more of a foreshadowing of Bowie’s demise, which makes it equally more intriguing and more foreboding. Throw in the unsettling music video, and things get creepier, yet more epic. “Lazarus” like “Blackstar” is radiant, but in a morbid, twisted sort of way. The key lyrics in this Biblical allusion: “I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen…”
Tie-3. “Sue (Or In a Season of Crime)” and “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore”
“Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)” and “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” are pretty even. Both, arguably, could also sit right behind crowning achievement “Blackstar.” Why can these two be lumped together? Both are based upon a risqué 16th century play (‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore) and both capture the eccentricity and risqué nature of that work via musical representation.
Notable about “Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” is the way that Bowie’s voice sounds, particularly on the highest iteration of the titular line, making the listener imagine the olden days and a member of the kingly court (or king himself) making such a proclamation. On “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime),” it’s the exceptional combination of jazz and rock with a dash of crazy that makes it superb. Also helps there’s an element of murderous rage to fuel the fire.
5. “Girl Loves Me”
Yes, “Blackstar” is the most epic and ambitious number from Blackstar, but “Girl Loves Me” definitely is close second/has a piece of that ambition. Written in A Clockwork Orange language coupled with London gay men’s slang, without engaging in “Girls Loves Me,” the listener might characterize it as a cluster f*ck. Maybe it is, but if it is, it’s a musically stimulating one featuring an exceptional music backdrop, thrilling vocals, oh and some f-bombs courtesy of Bowie (“Who the f*ck’s gonna mess with me?”)
6. “Dollar Days”
“Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” are both respectable, though don’t quite compare to the glory of the five songs that precede them on the album. Still, “Dollar Days” may slightly edge “I Can’t Give Everything Away” as Bowie seems to cry out against the underrated, less fortunate, etc. It’s not a definitive statement about the aforementioned – concreteness doesn’t seem to be Bowie’s M.O. here – but inferably, when Bowie says, “I’m dying to / push their backs against the grain / and fool them all again and again,” he sees blood.
7. “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
Personally when reviewing and first listening to “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” I thought it was beautiful like much of Blackstar, but clearly not a favorite. It’s the happiest song in regards to key scheme, but definitely not triumphant thematically. Obviously, given Bowie’s death, it can be interpreted as something of a final goodbye, which actually elevates the stock and favorability of this song. It’ll never supplant heavyweights “Blackstar” or “Lazarus,” but don’t write it off by any means.
Favorites: “Blackstar,” “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” “Lazarus” and “ “Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)”