Released: January 15, 2016
Peak: 11 US, 13 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU
Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.45 UK, 1.9 world (includes US and UK)
Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.
All songs written by David Bowie unless noted otherwise.
Total Running Time: 41:14
3.967 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)
Quotable: “The final breath of one of the world’s greatest artists.” – Far Out magazine
Awards: (Click on award to learn more).
About the Album:
David Bowie released his 25th album, Blackstar on his 69th birthday – and then died two days later, leaving “one of his most daring collections of music.” UD “The album is challenging, thrilling, and very much a testament to Bowie’s visceral creative life.” AV “Rock’s original chameleon” UD remained “adventurous to the end, eschewing his rock roots and delivering an exploratory jazz-fusion record that became the perfect farewell to five decades’ worth of history-making music.” UD
He wrote and recorded the album after finding out he had liver cancer AMG so it is “a brutal reflection of a life we will all eventually lose.” FO “It’s a confessional record that sees Bowie open up about death, the fear of it and the idea of rebirth.” FO His producer, “long-time collaborator and creative foil Tony Visconti,” AV said “He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift…His death was no different from his life – a work of art.” RS’19 “From its daring music to its perfect title, from its stunning artwork to its startling videos, Blackstar was a magnificent farewell to his audience.” PF “It is a courageous piece of artistry and one that confirmed Bowie’s ultra-legendary status like no other disc before it.” FO
“In keeping with his celebrated practice of blending self-commentary, cerebral philosophizing, and ribald showmanship, Blackstar coalesces as a commentary on the artist’s impending death while also covering a wide variety of other topics.” SL “Bowie’s remarkable achievement with Blackstar is how it’s an album about mortality that is utterly alive, even playful.” AMG It “never feels remotely gloomy or grave.” SL “An essential sense of hope is ingrained in the album’s tone, which manages to sound both apocalyptic and optimistic, a final vanishing act which allows music’s most famous extraterrestrial to disappear with his dignity, mystery, and panache all intact.” SL “Bowie felt free of obligations, able to explore and experiment to his art’s content.” PF This “is the sound of a restless artist feeling utterly at ease not only within his own skin and fate but within his own time.” AMG
“Bowie pour[s] everything left of him into his best album since his 70s hot streak.” GU “The album was recorded with a quartet of jazz musicians: saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana, and pianist/keyboardist Jason Lindner. As a result, Blackstar sounds like little else in Bowie’s extensive catalog. (he one major exception might be 1977’s Heroes, which shares a similar penchant for moody textures and leisurely experimentation.” AV
“The music – which gently veers from warm synths to skittering percussion to avant-jazz cacophony – is as chameleonic as ever.” BB “The album mostly unfolds like it’s shrouded in chilly, gray fog: Ruminative elegies peppered with mournful saxophone give way to spurts of frantic percussion, midnight-dark keyboards, and contorted vocals, with a few electrified bursts.” AV It sometimes recalls “the hard urban gloss of ‘70s prog – Bowie’s work, yes, but also Roxy Music and, especially, the Scott Walker of Nite Flights – and sometimes evoking the drum ‘n’ bass dabbling of the ‘90s incarnation of the Thin White Duke.” AMG
“Cannily front-loaded with its complicated cuts (songs that were not coincidentally also released as teaser singles), Blackstar starts at the fringe and works its way back toward familiar ground, ending with a trio of pop songs dressed in fancy electronics. This progression brings Blackstar to a close on a contemplative note, a sentiment that when combined with Bowie’s passing lends the album a suggestion of finality that’s peaceful, not haunting.” AMG
“The luxurious ten-minute sprawl of Blackstar,” AMG “stitched together by string feints and ominous saxophone,” AMG “extends the exoticized mysticism of Lodger.” SL The song is marked by “a tender joy in the latter half.” BB It also sets the tone for the album, suggesting “Bowie isn’t encumbered with commercial aspirations, but Blackstar neither alienates nor does it wander into uncharted territory.” AMG
“Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” / “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”
“Unlike its predecessor, 2013’s The Next Day, Blackstar doesn’t carry the burden of ushering a new era in Bowie’s career. Occasionally, the record contains a nod to his past – two of its key songs” AMG the “stormy, prog-tinted Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” AV and “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore, were even aired in 2014 as a supporting single for the Nothing Has Changed compilation (both are revamped for this album) – but Bowie and…Visconti are unconcerned with weaving winking postmodern tapestries; now that they’ve shaken free their creative cobwebs, they’re ready to explore.” AMG
With its appropriate allusion to rising from the dead, “Lazarus” served as Bowie’s final top-40 hit. The accompanying video sent chills up anyone’s spine who’d heard the album before he died and couldn’t believe they’d missed the references to his impending death. The song included what New Musical Express referred to as a “goosebump moment” in which Bowie offers his “devastating farewell with a wink as he sighs: ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now.’” NME
“Girl Loves Me”
Throughout the album, Bowie “spliced the itchy drum’n’bass and industrial moods that fascinated him in the 90s with terrifically freaky jazz, symphonic balladry and – on Girl Loves Me – authentically heavy rap. ‘I’m dying to push their backs against the grain / and fool them all again,’ he sang. And he did.” GU
“I Can’t Give Everything Away”
The album “concludes with a note of acceptance” AMG and “unusually sweet candor” BB on I Can’t Give Everything Away. The song “samples one of Low’s more upbeat transitional tracks,” SL with “the harmonica texture from…’A New Career in a New Town.’” PF
“Yes, there are better Bowie albums but none are so arresting or painful for a Bowie fan.” FO
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First posted 12/18/2020; last updated 5/1/2022.