By Harry Ballmann
10th January, 2016. The exact day that light slowly bled into the darkness. The enigmatic king of pop was lost into space, consumed by the vacuum, leaving us all emptier. David Bowie’s death marked the cataclysmic start of a year consumed by darkness, the deaths of many: from George Michael on Christmas Day, to Gene Wilder and Carrie Fisher…the list does go on, regrettably.
Having lived with Bowie’s last album for a year now, I feel that I have finally begun to understand it, and, with the incredibly strange year that 2016 has been it feels appropriate to offer another poignant tribute to Bowie, and a further reflection of Blackstar.
Putting the vinyl into the sun reveals its unassuming beauty. Indeed, everything is black throughout the album, but once subject to sun parts of the album glistens like a galaxy. On the surface therefore, it is the aesthetics that attract the most attention. A glossy star on a matt black background. Bowie: a world-super star amongst a world where he is obviously different and very special. A glossy star in a world that doesn’t understand him, his works are his attempt at showing small glimpses of light throughout the world. He is the light that has bled into the darkness of Blackstar. His mystery has only been heightened by his death, nobody will know the purpose of Blackstar. I for one believe that it is far more than an album describing his mortality. I feel that it is an album reflecting Bowie’s life as a whole, perhaps best summed up by Oscar Wilde, where life has truly imitated art.
Aesthetics are the starting point to the Blackstar journey, just as the many costumes of Bowie are a starting point to the man himself and his artistic journey. There is no denying the darkness of the album is a metaphor for his death; that much is obvious, Blackstar marks the end of his journey and his mission to entertain the world.
The album itself is a masterpiece, although best looked at as if Bowie was not its architect, but merely, the reason for the album. This is perhaps best portrayed by the slow, melancholic and deathly groove of the title track:
I can’t answer why (I’m a blackstar)
Just go with me (I’m not a filmstar)
I’m a take you home (I’m a blackstar)
Take your passport and shoes (I’m not a popstar)
And your sedatives, boo (I’m a blackstar)
You’re the flash in the pan (I’m not a marvelstar)
I’m the great I am (I’m a blackstar)
For me personally, this is the verse which proves my point about the entire album. He describes what he is not, rather, how he doesn’t wish to be remembered. He is a multitude of people, the only apt way to describe him appears to be, ironically, a space oddity; a mysterious man who has given himself to space, leaving the world hanging on, almost arguing to try and justify his existence. Who is ‘the great I am’? This is the reason that we need to distance ourselves from the belief that Blackstar was simply composed by Bowie. Instead, we should treat the album not as a metaphor for his death, but a metaphor for his life in stardom; it is a piece of art, just as Bowie was himself.
At first, the album was certainly melancholic, the listener couldn’t rid themselves of Bowie’s death encompassing the entire album, ruining its essence. Just as the stars glisten in the vinyl, the album should be looked at as a beautiful thing, a celebration of a life which has touched the souls of many. I believe that the dying wish of Bowie is reflected in the last lines of his album, he cannot give anything away, and he shouldn’t give anything away. It’s almost a blessing that he died without explaining the album, as it would ruin the purpose of it. Just like any piece of art, it should be completely open to interpretation. Indeed, his life was complex, multifaceted and artistic, but there was no reason for it, it simply was. David Bowie and Blackstar are the shining example that life has the potential to imitate art, and there is nobody more capable of being able to do so. Rest in Peace, Starman.