Did his death impact the way you appreciated this album? If so, did it do so on a critical level?
I ask because I feel that context is an understated element can add to the impact and therefore ultimate enjoyment of an album.
I've listened to it about 15 or 20 times.
I think sonically it is a 8.5 or 9/10
But when you add in the context of his death, how close he was to his subject matter, and how he was able to capture the feeling of death, it becomes a 10.
Either way it is solid, but every album is better when it is understood on an emotional level and a sonic level.
I think it depends on the permanence of the context. Like if an album is dependent on a particular social or political event or situation, then it can become dated and may even sound tacky years down the road. But in Blackstar's case, David Bowie's never coming back to life, so the album's connection to his death will continue to maintain resonance.
Context matters a ton for me. There's no point in trying to separate the album from the circumstances of its creation- doing so cheapens the music, and its genesis, I think.
Anyway, I loved Blackstar before his death, and I love it even more in context of what it actually was saying. A solid 9 for me, and one of my top 5 Bowie records.
>Like if an album is dependent on a particular social or political event or situation, then it can become dated and may even sound tacky years down the road.
This is so true. A great example of this would be Straight Outta Compton. Musically, at least to me, the album is incredibly weak, but the context of the album and what it achieved is such that I really couldn't say it isn't a classic album.
I listened to it non-stop from when I got the good leak last Thursday night. I also listened to the singles since they were out a ton and really had it all in my head when I heard he died. I was actually listening to the album when I saw the news.
The context did change how the album was interpreted, but it was really exciting new music as far as I was concerned and I was really looking forward to what he had coming next.
The album is now bittersweet for me, every time I hear of it I think of Bowie saying goodbye. ;_;
context always matters. You won't be able to understand how to completely appreciate plenty of records if you weren't aware of the year it was recorded, the means of recording, themes/references. Context is important.
True enough. Hunky Dory came out a time when showtunes were still a big thing and artists like Paul Williams ruled the Earth from the shadows. Piano singalongs were still a pastime for many then.
I'd still argue that an album, or any work of art, can't be so beholden to its own time and place that it can't stand on its own merits in another time or place. There need to be universal qualities at play too.
Interesting analysis of streaming and the public demand for Bowie's music.
I listened to Blackstar a good week before Bowie died when the vinyl leaked and thought it was amazing.
It was experimental, interesting, and it felt like Bowie was keeping up with the trends rather than falling back.
Looking back now and at more recent listens I appreciate the album much more but the rating remains the same. It's a great record and the fact that it's a concept album about his own death is amazing. It deserves the praise it gets.
I think it's the difference between incidental context and relevant context.
Taking another ones of his as an example, station to station. Incidental context about how he was living, and the politics of the time may give you an understanding of why the album is like it is, but it doesn't add anything to the album. The character Bowie inhabited during this album,The Thin White Duke, is relevant context, as it is part of the text of the album, so to speak.
In blackstar's case, how, when, where he died is incidental, but his death itself is part of the narrative of the album, and ignoring it is not looking at the album as a whole.
>his death itself is part of the narrative of the album, and ignoring it is not looking at the album as a whole.
I fully agree with you, but to carry that on, isn't this then an element of the album that is undeniably important, but in 20-30 years time, will be totally underappreciated and will at best be a footnote on the relevant information at hand for the album?
In the case of blackstar, i'm not sure if the context will ever be shaken, just because of how people value death.
In general, I guess it's a risk you have to accept if you want to make performance part of your album. The more essential it is the more likely it is to hang on, I would assume.
I think it's true to an extent. There are too many what ifs and I think time is just too vital, it's hard to imagine that music exists outside of time. Imagine putting some of the type of hip hop out today and lets say it came out in the 90s. Even in that situation, would that music be swept under the rug or would it resonate with people to the same extent as it does today?
What it did was force me to listen to the album more than once and thus fall for its songs.
I love Blackstar, Lazarus, Girl Loves Me, Dollar Days and I Can't Give It Away.
The rerecorded songs to me are awful and feel alien to the alubm. Don't care for them.
I don't usually go for this stuff. Even with artists I like it can seem like "oh so the guy who sang about dying constantly died/offed himself spoiler alert". Lazarus really got to me though even as someone who never knew a lot about Bowie. Some of the people I love and need the most are creeping into that age where I'm going to lose them no matter what happens and I can see them in that video. It's the inevitability of it -these people love life but it's going to happen and soon, and I'm just going to have to deal with it.
I almost never get sentimental for things, but my mom has cancer. It's a slow kind, and she still has a decade or two, but that fucking final shot in the Lazarus video of him shaking and shuffling back into the closet never to be seen again... I can't stop crying.
Does the video for Lazarus make anyone else wish their life was more dangerous/likely to be cut short by something sudden? I can imagine accepting it right away if I had to but the idea of sitting around trying to write something to leave behind terrifies me.
Yeah. My mum's hitting her mid 60s and already had a couple of scares that turned out to be nothing but when I think how the last 15 years have flown, it's not some distant thing I can laugh off anymore. Those shots of him fretting at his desk hit hard.
Absolutely. The lines between concept and reality are totally blurred when you come to realize that Bowie didn't write this album as some nostalgic, vague lamentations on his own passing. He was confronting death head on and knew he didn't have much time left. This drives the emotional character of this album home with some intense organic ferocity. The themes of desperation and melancholy and sense of ultimate release is real because he was actually experiencing all of it.
I listened to it after he died. I cried like a bitch to the last song, "I cant give it all away." I feel like I still could if I listened to it again. Even if he didnt die, I think we could all tell that there was something serious and different about this album compared to his other ones.
When Blackstar the single was released, I did find it strikingly philosophical. Normally Bowie is already very philosophical, but this song seemed far more specific as to what it was attempting to ask. Now we know why.
People do not realize how great a 10 is because they choose to rate many things 10's based on their feelings, even though it is actually impossible for something to be 10/10 perfect. If somebody finds an album that he loves, rates it 10/10, then eventually finds another album which he enjoys more than that album, is it still 10/10? No, because there is there is another which is better. But, he might not change the rating of the first album because he still really likes it. If he finds a third album which he thinks is better than those two, then all three will likely still be considered a perfect ten. Many more albums later, all of the numbers before 10 have lost significant value because he chooses to keep all of his favorite albums in the highest ratings, 8, 9, 10. Even the number ten uses value because it has labelled so many albums previously. Overrating things has been a common practice, and lowers the quality of other things, making the person less satiable.