When the news of David Bowie’s death broke, it was difficult to realise exactly, the world and I had lost. I cannot confess to having heard more than a few of his songs- ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Heroes’, ‘Life on Mars’ and a few more essentials. He was the kind of artist I always felt under-prepared for. Sure, music can be heard as just a sort-of coming together of words and melodies, but I prefer for it to be more than just an aural experience. A person is never as open as when they’re sharing their art. It may be shrouded with metaphors and references but it speaks more about them than anything they’ve said themselves, and I think it my duty as a consumer of that art to be honest in experiencing it in all the ways they wanted it to be experienced. David Bowie was a very hard artist to do that for. Known for transcending genres and convention like very few artists of our time, he wasn’t called the Starman and the Alien for nothing. He fearlessly took on and shed personas and issues and influences at a speed that was difficult to comprehend. It’s hard for people to grapple with just the one personality they have, and then there was Bowie who owned all the roles he ever donned.
Basically, I wanted to be a smart listener, but he was always smarter. Hence, my sadness about his death came through the many people his art and music inspired, including all of my favourite musicians, most importantly people like Patrick Stump, Pete Wentz and Dallon Weekes, whose music is an inextricable part of my daily life. I understood his loss more through their eyes- he was to them what they are to me- and his loss suddenly became more relevant and cutting. David Bowie was more a character than a man to those who knew him through his art, and you never think of them as mortal. But they are, and it shakes your beliefs when you’re faced with that realisation.
It is with this sadness and the expectation of never fully comprehending his music that I sat down to listen to ? (called ‘Blackstar’), David Bowie’s 26th studio album. It’s as far away from pop on the spectrum of music genres as albums get. The eerie jazz, and surprisingly, hip-hop influenced album was always intended to be the artist extraordinaire’s ‘swansong’, with him battling cancer for a while. The references to life, death and the fragility of it all are hard to miss on the opening song ‘Blackstar’, the video for which will leave you feeling cold and questioning. With the album, the Starman has bequeathed this world another brilliant otherworldly piece of his mind and has proved that all that was mortal about him was his body.
Image Credits: express.co.uk