“Blackstar” Open Thread

Bowie-Blackstar-film-gallery-4

A place for thoughts on the new single, speculations on the new album, general thoughts on Lazarus, what have you.

318 Responses to “Blackstar” Open Thread

  1. heynongman says:

    From the clips so far, I’ve been getting a very Outside-feel. Very ominous.

  2. Bob Whiting says:

    Surprised that ‘Sue’ & ‘Whore’ are 2 of the 7 tracks. I wonder if they’ll be new reworked versions? From the track list I’ve seen, it also looks like the Lazarus songs are gonna be here too?

    I mean I’m still excited don’t get me wrong! Just a little surprised.

  3. I was particularly struck by all the astronaut imagery in the trailer – first the jewel-encrusted (?) skull sitting in the space helmet, then the final shot of the space suit lying on the alien world. Could this be the third instalment in the Major Tom series? (OK, fourth if you count that Pet Shop Boys cover.) Even if our astronaut friend isn’t namechecked, the link is implicit. Hoping for lots of weird symbolism to dig into!

    • Erik Avilez says:

      Yep, kinda “Gods from Outer Space” vibe. Maybe now the Astronaut is the god for that new race. Birth (Space Oddity), death (Ashes to Ashes) and ressurrection (Blackstar). The classic messiah package.

  4. stuartgardner says:

    At 4:10 PM (EST) the accompanying film will be viewable here:
    http://smarturl.it/blackstar_video
    I’m quite exited, as I’ve been while awaiting every new Bowie album from “Heroes” on.

  5. Phil Obbard says:

    Makes sense that Bowie gets all new musicians/band and has an all-new sound (according to the Mojo piece) — that’s sort of his pattern forever, isn’t it? A real change from TND, which used most/many of Bowie’s crew from the 2003-2004 era.

    I haven’t heard any more of BLACKSTAR than others here but it does seem (based on the tracks/snippets we’ve heard) that it will be a much bigger departure from TND than TND was from REALITY. It also reinforces/reminds me of my belief that TND was, in many ways, the LP Bowie would have made back in 2004/5 had he not been forced off the road early.

    • Vinnie says:

      I feel like TND was “unfinished business.” Bowie had a good vacation, the songs had a sound in his mind, and this is the first ‘new’ sounds we’ll really be hearing. The Arcade Fire collab as well – they did the “Fashion Rocks” live EP together, and his inclusion on Reflektor was, once again, finished business.

  6. Phil Obbard says:

    Also, what are the chances Bowie is timing this release just to keep the blog from coming to an end (if even a temporary one)? Are you out there, Mr. Jones??

    • col1234 says:

      it’s funny: it does play havoc a bit with the blog’s wind-down. “Sue” and “Tis a Pity” were slated for December at some point, but might make sense to hold off til past Jan 8 to see if there are new versions on the album.

      • Vinnie says:

        You’re locked in for life (thumbs_up emoji)

      • Alon Shmuel says:

        Why won’t you just revise the entry if needed and finish the blog in 2015? More info on these songs will probably be released during 2016 anyway.
        BTW, I can’t believe that Bowie will include Tis a Pity in its demo form, it was too sub-stand even for a B-side

      • col1234 says:

        i don’t know yet. just seems a bit foolish to write an entry that could be out of date within weeks if there is indeed a remake on the new album. Thinking more for “Tis a Pity”; pretty sure “Sue” (if it’s on the album at all) won’t change.

      • leonoutside says:

        Very, Very good thinking sir. 10 months on, that looks like good thinking. Looking back from here: it looks extraordinarily well judged and astute for you to have made that decision then. I tip my hat. Nice one.

  7. lockingcaps says:

    I’m rather excited for this as I only really got into Bowie this fall (yes, I’m young, shh), so this is the first release I can properly be a part of, if you get what I mean!

    • Mark says:

      Discovering Bowie is like hitting the lottery! You have so many treasures to discover. From Hunky Dory to Blackstar, being young is a great thing! Shhh!

  8. So looking forward to this.

  9. Vinnie says:

    OK – Yes

    – Drums
    – Atmosphere
    – Synth & strings combo

    I expected Thom Yorke to jump out and sing, “Everything. In it’s right place.”

    Did Bowie go ahead and make a Kid A/Amnesiac? Fuck – did Bowie go ahead and make an album to compliment Radiohead’s (best/)most experimental period? (And Radiohead love Scott Walker too, dontchaknow)

    “Sue” “Tis A Pity” are jazzy (which Radiohead went ahead with, mostly on Amnesiac/b-sides). The electronic elements mixed with strings too.

    I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but (assuming) Bowie made a downtempo electronic experimental jazz record this late in his career, I’m excited.

    RE: Kid A/Amnesiac argument

    If everyone isn’t acquainted, I suggest listening to 2000’s Kid A (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvet_E4JgLo) and 2001’s Amnesiac (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xagBSgRAu3k).

    A Radiohead primer of the sound/feels, if you’re not interested in listening to full albums:
    – “Kinetic” (b-side) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IpWsn7VO-LM — bonus – samples Miles Davis!
    – “Life In A Glass House” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtkZxqTH9tE
    – “Pyramid Song” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zbKQPqs-cqc
    – “Everything in its Right Place” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onRk0sjSgFU

  10. gcreptile says:

    Looks like Bowie is having fun in his new role as “eccentric old doomsayer” whose prophecies have found a jolly new urgency with the approaching end of the prophet’s life.
    That drum line of Blackstar, of course, reminds me of Nine Inch Nails’ Closer – which was itself inspired by Iggy Pop’s Nightclubbing. Circles within circles…

  11. gcreptile says:

    Also,

    imablackstar.com

  12. ric says:

    found a theme running from TND;

    http://tesco.scene7.com/is/image/tesco/213-6376_PI_TPS1291975?wid=2000&hei=2000

    we’ve had the square, and now the star..

  13. Vinnie says:

    Also, album art – Bowie doing another “Non-Bowie’s Face” jacket ala TND? If so, bah humbug. The Thin White Duke is as handsome as ever in those photos. We want Bowie, not shapes!

    • Galdo says:

      This is the first time since ‘Buddha’ and second overrall he isn’t in the album cover in any form (pictured, painted, covered by a blank square, etc.), if I’m not wrong.

      • Vinnie says:

        True.

        I still think TND was a poor design choice. It generated a fair amount of praise for design concept from Jonathan Barnbrook, but that’s the novelty. I doubt anyone will think back to TND in 5, 10, 20 years as a killer piece of album art. (It’s certainly no Station to Station or Aladdin Sane). The delicate line between novelty/quality – I think TND is novelty. Whereas, the image of Bowie in a hat (http://cdn2.pitchfork.com/news/49069/b9886365.jpg) is stronger and more direct. “David Bowie is older! And handsome! And look at him!” Dress him up a little bit – a hat, maybe – and you’ve got all that needs to be said.

        Buddha of Suburbia‘s original album art, I believe, was a rush-job, probably in-house at the BBC. This is pure speculation. on my part. Every reissue of Buddha, however, has featured much more dynamic artwork, and looks much better (and similar to BTWN, which isn’t a bad thing..)

        If those geometric shapes are indeed the album art, it’s a goddamn hack job. Once again – Bowie! Out there. No need to kill a good trend. Give a pretty crop job on this image – http://factmag-images.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Screen-Shot-2015-11-19-at-14.25.45.png – and you’ve got something far more iconic than a one-color print with some basic geometric doodling.

        I assume the music will make up for it.

      • fantailfan says:

        The US release of Buddha had a Sitting Bowie cover.

  14. col1234 says:

    a word on links.

    1) if you put one in your comment, your comment gets automatically held in suspension until I approve it (spam protection, basically). So it might take some time before you see your comment show up. And if it happens after I’m asleep or away from the computer, it won’t show up for a while.

    2) please do not do a direct YouTube dump, which will clutter up the thread and slow everyone’s computer down (including mine). use link HTML, which is easy to find online if you don’t know it.

    HERE’S HOW IT SHOULD LOOK

    3) take a second & be sure it hasn’t already been linked to. chances are, if it’s any sort of Blackstar promo, it has.

    best
    c.o.

  15. I wonder if this album is continuing the story of Outside. Blackstar (a minute of it, anyway) carried the sound of Outside. Then there’s the “it’s happening now” tag, and Bowie’s character looks like he’s part of that world. It may just be wishful thinking on my part, and I don’t expect it to come true, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all.

  16. I’m not sure what to think about Sue and Tis A Pity being on the album. As much as I love that single, it seems a little unusual to include something that was released well over a year ago on an LP of new material. That said I’m still not 100% clear with regards to the Mojo source either so I guess we’ll see what happens.

    Everything he has released since 2014 has been fantastic. While I enjoyed much of TND, this material is closer to how I imagined an out-of-the-blue David Bowie comeback would sound.

    Definitely looking forward to these next few months. Definitely looking forward to this video. I don’t know a single person with Sky so I guess I’ll just have to keep my eye on the web this evening. (Oh David, why must you reward those who line Murdoch’s pockets?)

    • Oh my God that was fantastic. I did not expect it to go all Young Americans in the middle there but it works perfectly.

      Surprised no one has yet acknowledged the Gertie patch on “Major Tom”‘s spacesuit.

      • Michael says:

        Ah, great spot!

        Must be nice to get a little reference from Dad.

      • Phil Obbard says:

        I didn’t catch the Gertie patch! Will watch again.

        “Where Are We Now” was also a reference to “Moon”. Guess Bowie is pretty proud of his son.

      • Galdo says:

        I thought the file was the reference without acknowledging the patch.

      • On closer inspection, the patch isn’t quite Gerty – its mouth isn’t squashed up close to its eyes the way Gerty’s is, and it lacks Gerty’s pronounced cheeks. It’s actually closer to the Watchmen smiley face.

        Still, it’s probably meant as a Moon reference, even if the props department didn’t nail the details.

  17. ragingglory says:

    So excited about this, ever since I heard about it. And the dense imagery is very intriguing as well. Bowie is about the only muso I give a damn about now.

  18. Bob Whiting says:

    Holy shit, what a song.

  19. Vinnie says:

    Mr. David Bowie, everybody!

    (Love it)

  20. ‘No self referencing.’, says Visconti. Then Bowie puts people on another planet worshipping the skull of Major Tom in the video. Bloody brilliant though.

  21. Well, Major Tom is dead (or so it seems). What a way to go though! Amazing song.

  22. Phil Obbard says:

    I did NOT see that middle section coming, and now I can’t get it out of my head. Fantastic.

    Pretty compelling video, too (coming from a man who generally doesn’t care for Bowie’s videos, with a few rare exceptions).

    Trivia: at 10:00 even, I believe it’s the second longest Bowie studio cut ever (not counting remixes), just behind “Station to Station”. (Right?)

  23. gcreptile says:

    Sounds like a new Station to Station.
    With Major Tom as the man who fell to Earth.
    And “David Bowie” is the black star.

  24. RLM says:

    Fantastic. Wasn’t wholly convinced by Sue, although loved that he was making interesting choices again. But this is the shit. Lots of detail to unpick, musically anyway. While clearly not a chart-topper (and not intended to be), it feels like it is somewhere near that Bowie specialty sweet spot between accessible and weird.

    Imagine if he’d come out of the blocks with this in 2013 instead of WAWN…

  25. bogl says:

    Fantastic. DB in full-on channelling C21st Scott Walker as only DB can. Good to see a bit of choreography from the great man too. He can still move.

    How many times will I have to watch this tonight before I can get to sleep?

  26. Galdo says:

    I liked very much. Not quite a departure from the 2014 singles, meaning they really opened a new era (maybe the same band played here?). I loved especially the first section and when the second section begins, it remind me of Scott Walker’s Tilt sound, I wasn’t expecting at all, but I got a bit disappointed because I wasn’t expecting that fairly standard version.

    About the video, putting a dead astronuaut and everyone thinking it’s the Dead Major Tom. Maybe it’s a too obvious self-referencing to be that?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Loved it. Absolutely loved it. That’s all I can say for now after a first listen.

  28. The deep dive into the “avant-garde” (Scott from Tilt onwards as guiding light) I thought this might be, (alas?) it is not. Inferior to Sue, to my ears. He’s not stuck in Scott’s cul-de-sac, though, fortunately. Will the album be like this, elastic plaintive verses, show tunes as middle sections, soft jazz stretches, sliding transitions? I can only hope for dissonance to appear, if he’s chosen to go that way. I hope for aching, un-ironic beauty. This seems to me (and my impression may just be wayward, wrong) closer to Loving the Alien than Outside, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But Outside had just that spark of the unpredictable I found missing here once that change set in. “Oh, it’s not full-on darkness”, I shrugged, no screeching guitars, no blackboard scraping Xenakis strings. Just too polite, too much flirtation with what it’s not: no Mr. Lawrence, no desperation. I think I just wanted it to be harrowing, to scream, to pack some real punches. But these are just disordered, first listen thoughts. It may well grow on me. And there is no way of knowing what the album will bring. I’m not disappointed yet, I just don’t trust it yet.

  29. roobin101 says:

    I love it but it’s such a strong audio-visual combo it’s hard to tell what I’m responding to. Vinnie is right, this sounds very much like Radiohead.

  30. roobin101 says:

    Audio-visual… silly me, this is the play coming through.

  31. SoooTrypticon says:

    Oh my.

    It’s beautiful.

    Some quick thoughts.

    It’s the longer version of Sunday I’ve always wanted.

    It’s the studio recording of his cover of “Oh Superman” I’ve always wanted.

    It’s the new take on “Sweet Thing” I’ve always wanted.

    It’s definitely channeling “The Gouster” and the “Candidate Demo.”

    It’s gorgeous.

    I’m not surprised… Just delighted (:

  32. Anonymous says:

    I thought it was excellent. Superior to Sue. I particularly liked the mid-section and his channelling of some of the old Bowie dance moves in the video. But the middle part did remind me melodically of another song I can’t quite put my finger on at the moment…

    • gcreptile says:

      The melody of that middle part… Janet Jackson’s ‘Together Again’? Not quite sure it was this one, but I’ve got a bit of the same feeling.

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        I did too!

      • gcreptile says:

        Or maybe the more fitting comparison is the verse melody of Bowie’s own Seven.

      • Anonymous says:

        I almost feel as though I should apologize for this, but I’m just gonna put it out there: This Ain’t a Love Song, Bon Jovi.

        I had to pause the video and sing to myself until I figured out what it reminded me of, because I hadn’t thought of that song in probably ten years, but there it is. That’s what I got.

        (I can also hear Together Again, when I think about it)

      • gcreptile says:

        Ah, nice! Yes, it’s a bit of the same in that Bon Jovi song. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that all these songs were inspired by some little-known Motown number.

      • Maj says:

        Well, actually, when Bon Jovi started to sing (I never heard this before btw) it instantly reminded me of the verses of Stay With Me Baby.

      • Anonymous says:

        à propos middle part: anybody noticed the harmonies? very clearly mr. mann: …. davy…is…on…the…road…again… ! funny!

      • sparkeyes says:

        “some little-known Motown number”?
        How about Someday At Christmas – Stevie Wonder?

      • Patrick says:

        Stevie Wonder is a black star.

      • Snyder says:

        A bit late, but it reminded me a bit of “I’ll be there” by Jackson 5. I can definitely see the Bon Jovi though.

  33. Michael says:

    Oh. Oh my.

    I had tears in my eyes. I was open-mouthed in wonder. I kept turned the volume up and up.

    I almost dare not listen again in case it was a trick of the light. Or of the night.

    I can’t apply much critically to it, I’ll need 50 more listens to even begin.

    Thank the Lord.

  34. zak says:

    With a nod to both ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and ‘Labyrinth’?

  35. Thoroughly enjoyed it, and found the middle section quite moving. Did the shaking dancers remind anyone else of the vibrating demons in Jacob’s Ladder?

  36. deleted says:

    I see some Fame dancing going on here

  37. Momus says:

    I’m staggered by how good this is. It’s Bowie in his epic storytelling mode; it somehow took me back to The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud, but also, of course, symphonic tracks like Sweet Thing and Station to Station. Amongst the best things this astonishing artist has ever done, and he’s done… the best things.

  38. MC says:

    First impression: what a song. Not remotely what I expected. And the video…wow…what a fantastic death abyss.

  39. WAIT WHOA HOLD ON does he actually sing “I’m not a porn star” in the background at some point?

  40. ofer says:

    Oh, yeah! Creepy track, but also very funny – a combination bowie at his best always knew how to pull of, and a major reason why it takes about half a song to realize this truly does rank with the greats.

  41. Gozomoto says:

    The unusual character who pops up around 8:50 is very Flying Spaghetti Monster. Overall, pleased with both song and video (especially those mid-song bustamoves!!) … On viewing #5.

  42. After a few listens I’m finally getting closer to perceiving what it actually sounds like instead of just a cloud of my own prejudices and expectations and… it is great. Riveting.

  43. Simon Kaye says:

    This is… very very good.

    I’m hearing a bit of Sunday and Heathen, a little touch of Outside, and big dollops from the Low and Heathen B-sides.

    But the important thing here is that this is the most unpredictable 10 consecutive minutes of music that Bowie has released for a *long* time. It’s like he’s tamed the experimentalism of ‘If You Can See Me’, ‘Sue’ and ‘Tis a Pity’ (which I really loved) in order to arrive at this point.

  44. I love the imagery of the skeleton floating towards the sun, a visual pun for the sperm heading towards the egg, death seeking birth. Definitely one of Bowie’s most religious feints, the crucifixtion, the Christ/spaceman holy relic, the preacher with a new bible.

  45. Pat Kelly says:

    Nice!Now that’s a bit of me!!!!!!!

  46. Anonymous says:

    Anyone play the MMO The Secret World? Very similar imagery.

  47. Tim Speaker says:

    I expected to be fascinated by whatever might be released today, but I’m totally and utterly gobsmacked. It really can’t be overstated how magnificent the Blackstar song and video are. If this is any indication for the direction of the album, then we are truly lucky to receive such a gift of grandeur.

    Once again, Bowie makes every “artist” in todays musical landscape look amateur by comparison.

  48. alex says:

    I can’t believe how good this song is. If anyone of any age at any time made this, they’d have my attention. It feels SO GOOD to like Bowie for what he’s doing RIGHT NOW and not just for keeping on keepin’ on.

    Outside by way of Young Americans. Great great great, and yet all pointing forward to the future. New tricks. Nothing tired here.

    I’d put this with Sunday and Bring Me the Disco King as his third Great Song of the millennium.

  49. Robert says:

    “At the center of it all” from “Slow Burn” popping up, curiously.

  50. humanizingthevacuum says:

    The “I’m a black star!” refrain is annoying after 20 times. The froufrou bits at the five-minute mark are by far the best ( “I’ve got game”? “I”m a porn star”?), and, yeah, they work best when video and music complement each other. Shrewd echo of his spooky oooooohhs from “Subterraneans.” A 7/10.

  51. Phoenix York says:

    first thoughts..
    wow
    nothing but a single
    multi part song.. Diamond Dogs era sort of
    will watch it again

  52. I wasn’t so hot on TND, but this is fucking fun!

    I was skeptical at first–the beginning is so amelodic, which I think is a bad habit in Bowie’s recent work–but once it hits that transition in the middle, I have a smile plastered on my face until the end of the song. The saccharine turn at 4:40 got a laugh out of me (in a good way), and then that HIP JUT at 5:47! Hell yeah, Ziggy ain’t dead! David hasn’t shown this much swagger in a decade.

    I’m really glad that middle portion is in there; it livens things up dramatically. Because of the middle bit, it feels satisfying instead of rote when it returns to the atonal stuff at the end.

    Also: Bowie’s looking fine as hell in this video. I’m glad he’s embracing the silver hair. It’s time to be a beautiful, foxy old man instead of a sad old man.

  53. stuartgardner says:

    What’s the best transcription of the lyric so far, and where is it, please?
    Thanks.

  54. BenJ says:

    This is a fascinating track, all the more so because of the faux-gospel break in the middle. Notably the only black stars in nature are collapsed stars, black holes from which nothing can escape. I’m not sure exactly how that ties in, but this does seem to be one of Bowie’s more sardonic singles.

  55. particledots says:

    watched the video a bit earlier…need to go back and watch/listen again

    there is one bit where he was dancing that kind of reminded me of boys keep swinging…would love to see momus do a mashup of young bowie (boys keep swinging) and old bowie (blackstar) in some way

  56. jeremy Earl says:

    Unbelievably amazing! It’s prog really. It’s a great time to be a Bowie fan…..

  57. SylvieD says:

    The “I am the great I am” line reminds me of Norman Spinrad’s book He Walked Among Us, which I have translated into French. It’s said by the main character — who is (or isn’t, it’s what the book is about), a sort of prophet from a bleak future.
    Loved it all, of course.

  58. Yes, very post-modern, very weird-for-the-sake-of-being-weird. The Gregorian chanting, the girl with the vestigial tail, Major Tom’s jewel-encrusted skull and Bowie singing slow and mournful as though he needs an (eclipsed) planet-sized Prozac pill. This is not a criticism by the way. Then about four and a half minutes in, and that fantastic middle section kicks in, and suddenly Bowie is mugging, poking out his tongue and pulling faces, not unlike a less bored Iggy Pop. Wow!Fantastic! Can’t wait for the album proper. Welcome back again David.

  59. dm says:

    Perhaps it doesn’t tie together and build as well as his previous epics, but I don’t really care. That middle section is so… bare and unhinged. I adore it. He doesn’t even care if he’s quite hitting the notes. He doesn’t need to. This feels more like “Bowie in 2015” than Next Day felt like “Bowie in 2012/2013”

  60. crayontocrayon says:

    From the promos I was expecting a 10 minute chant with a build in intensity in the Scott Walker vein – When that middle section hit, well it’s just impossible to describe. He played me like a fiddle.
    I really get a ‘(you make me feel like) a natural woman’ vibe from the beginning of the middle section – both musically and also the soulful way of singing (DAAAAA-AAA-AY he died!) and I like the mix of the familiar sounding chord progression and the jarring backing vocals. Then it twists again and we get the dark, mocking Bowie, and we get see see his humour.
    when it shifts back to the earlier structure, it sounds almost like Awaken by Yes for about 3 seconds (minus the soloing). Good luck unpicking it all, Chris.
    The video is strong but not quite a home run – the Komondor dog monster thing at the end was a bit out of nowhere, but maybe more will be revealed in time and it will fit into its place. The key scene is Bowie with the juddery dancers on what quite clearly is a stage just before we get to see the real Bowie in the middle section. Masks, crazy hair, weirdness – it’s all part of the act.

    and wasn’t the whole thing just so exciting?

  61. Anonymous says:

    Bet hedging. I still love it but, given there will be no live performance videos, as and when Bowie makes them, will be his performing art. This song is like a mini soundtrack. It may be impossible to sift the music from the images or event. This is neither good nor bad but a fact. Blackstar doesn’t come without the film.

  62. Momus says:

    I see CrayonToCrayon beat me to this! https://youtu.be/-VI7mym0mmE

  63. Anyone else wonder if the lyrics in “If You Can See Me” may have rough-drafted a seed of inspiration for Blackstar, song and video? Some similarities: IYCSM’s oversoul/demon/trickster/deity-narrator talks about seeing/observing a person/people, the taking and wearing of their shoes, suggests tribute by sacrifice, describes the gathering of young people toward light (bug reference implies the light is misleading, like a replacement for the sun) and stars of 4 directions (like the phases of the black star vector might imply), the problems “books” cause (Blackstarred bibles?), beasts stamping the ground, etc.

    “At the center of it all, your eyes” instantly reminded me of “If you can see me, I can see you” when the young woman winked back at Bowie, in acknowledgement of the seer being saw.

    Of course there’s also “African Night Flight”, his fevered son’s burning eye (while on vacation) and the Gerty smiley face on the spacesuit might be something thinking about.

  64. s.t. says:

    “Brett…Brett…It’s 2015 David Bowie. From the Blackstar video. Do I look freaky Brett? Does my double eye patch out-freak you?”

  65. MajorTomCat says:

    It’s Gnosis with an ironic twist, pure divertissement … a fabulous moment.

  66. King of Obllivion says:

    I stayed up way too late listening to this 10 minute song about 10 times. Last time I did something like that was probably around “Low”. It’s not everything I listen to Bowie for, but it’s a lot of things. The ironic mix of horror and humor hits perfectly for me. Yes, Major Tom is dead and the zombified Mr. Jones is hanging on for a few precious years (we hope!)

    Disappointed that Sue and Pity are included but if the Lazarus songs and others approach the strength of this piece, it could all begin to make sense.

    • Vinnie says:

      Am I the only person who isn’t disappointed with the inclusion of “Sue” and “Pity”?

      I like both songs, and yes – as Zak stated above – “He’s already sold a greatest hits package on the strength of (Sue).”

      A friend, who recently got into buying music again, adored “Sue” and didn’t even know “Pity” existed. “Blackstar” opened a lot of minds on my Facebook feed, lots of people are excited. The majority of fans don’t go super deep, and probably haven’t heard many Bowie b-sides or oddities, so not wasting a good song might be what the Duke was thinking.

      As well: I don’t care if the arrangements differ from what we’ve already heard. One year ago, when the greatest hits package was released, Bowie was clearly in the midst of crafting what would become Blackstar. Maybe they’ll be different arrangements or versions of the songs – and hell, maybe they’ll fit in the context of an “album” well.

      I respect the argument of not wanting to repeat releases, however: “Sue” “Pity” and “Blackstar” are all great songs. We’ve got got 3/7 songs on the album that are great! Who can complain about that?

      • Phil Obbard says:

        I’m not disappointed. (For starters, I’m just happy we won’t have to wait 10 years for another LP after TND!)

        I’ll be honest, “Sue” didn’t do much for me last year. “Pity” I liked more — it sounded like a TND or Reality outtake that Bowie was still working out, and I liked that. I’d be surprised if “Sue” was reworked for the LP, but not surprised at all if we hear a very revised “Pity” on January 8th.

        Anyway: I made myself a mini-playlist of Blackstar-so-far (all 3 tracks), and one thing that jumps out at me is how much better “Sue” plays in proximity to “Blackstar” – it seems more natural and makes more sense. I can see it growing on me as part of the LP in a way it didn’t really do as the NHC compilation.

      • steven says:

        I love Kanye and he does this – Fantasy is his best album and almost half the tracks had been floating about in some form or another, but sounded different and better in the context of an album, and it was good enough to still cohere. So I’m not bothered, especially because I think Sue and especially Whore are amazing.

        I’d rather have a new Station to Station (i’m not joking, after Blackstar I think that’s what we might be looking at) than something really good that has been padded out with offcuts (umm… TND, bless it).

        Anyway, an amazing song, which I played on the megabus home. Happy to share this moment w/ you all :’)

      • Michael Breshears says:

        In an age where you can pick and choose songs to download and build your playlists, it seems the only purpose of an album anymore is to say “this is what i’m doing now”, “these are the sounds I’m making in 2015 (or whenever)”.

        Seen that way, including the two previously released songs make sense in that he’s packaging his current artistic direction into one body of work. Same sensibility, same musicians.

  67. billter says:

    I just realized that if you segue directly from “Heat” to “Blackstar,” it flows perfectly. So forget singles and bonus tracks, listen to your Bowie albums in sequence…”Heathen (The Rays)” goes into “New Killer Star,” “Disco King” into “The Next Day”…it all works somehow.

  68. brianaubsf4 says:

    Lyrics just posted on Bowies site:

    N THE VILLA OF ORMEN

    IN THE VILLA OF ORMEN

    STANDS A SOLITARY CANDLE

    AH AH AH AH

    IN THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    IN THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    YOUR EYES

    ON THE DAY OF EXECUTION

    ON THE DAY OF EXECUTION

    ONLY WOMEN KNEEL AND SMILE

    AH AH AH AH

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    YOUR EYES

    YOUR EYES

    AH AH AH

    AH AH AH

    IN THE VILLA OF ORMEN

    IN THE VILLA OF ORMEN

    STANDS A SOLITARY CANDLE

    AH AH AH AH

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    YOUR EYES

    YOUR EYES

    AH AH AH

    OO OO OO OO

    OOO

    OO OO OO OO

    OOO

    OO OO OO OO

    SOMETHING HAPPENED ON THE DAY HE DIED

    SPIRIT ROSE A METRE THEN STEPPED ASIDE

    SOMEBODY ELSE TOOK HIS PLACE AND BRAVELY CRIED:

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    HOW MANY TIMES DOES AN ANGEL FALL?

    HOW MANY PEOPLE LIE INSTEAD OF TALKING TALL?

    HE TROD ON SACRED GROUND HE CRIED ALOUD INTO THE CROWD

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M NOT A GANGSTAR

    I CAN’T ANSWER WHY

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    JUST GO WITH ME

    I’M NOT A FILMSTAR

    IMMA 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

    I’M A BLACKSTAR I’M WAY UP, ON MONEY, I’VE GOT GAME

    I SEE RIGHT, SO WIDE, SO OPEN-HEARTED PAIN

    I WANT EAGLES IN MY DAYDREAMS, DIAMONDS IN MY EYES

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    SOMETHING HAPPENED ON THE DAY HE DIED

    SPIRIT ROSE A METRE THEN STEPPED ASIDE

    SOMEBODY ELSE TOOK HIS PLACE AND BRAVELY CRIED:

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A STARSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I CAN’T ANSWER WHY

    I’M NOT A GANGSTAR

    BUT I CAN TELL YOU HOW

    I’M NOT A FLAMSTAR

    WE WERE BORN UPSIDE DOWN

    I’M A STARS STAR

    BORN THE WRONG WAY ROUND

    I’M NOT A WHITESTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    OO OO OO OO

    I’M NOT A GANGSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    OO OO OO OO

    I’M NOT A PORNSTAR

    I’M NOT A WANDERING STAR

    OO OO OO OO

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    I’M A BLACKSTAR

    IN THE VILLA OF ORMEN

    STANDS A SOLITARY CANDLE

    AH AH AH AH

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    YOUR EYES

    ON THE DAY OF EXECUTION

    ONLY WOMEN KNEEL AND SMILE

    AH AH AH AH

    AT THE CENTRE OF IT ALL

    YOUR EYES

    YOUR EYES

    AH AH AH

    • brianaubsf4 says:

      Ormen means “the Snake” or “the serpent” in Swedish & “the worm” in Danish & Norwegian, House of the serpent? Fallen angel, Lucifer maybe I dunno😛

      • andy says:

        Perhaps The Song of Norway again. Your eyes at the centre of it all? Hermione.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        Might as well mention that there’s a mediaeval text called the Ormulum, written by a monk called Ormin, from the Norse for “serpent-man”.

        I doubt that the text has anything to do with the song, but the name does support the idea of where “Ormen” comes from.

    • billter says:

      “I’ve got game”? Wow.

      • zak says:

        Or is it “I’m A Star Star”? (a possible reference to the coyly-titled Rolling Stones song on ‘Goat’s Head Soup’)

  69. Michael says:

    Apparently Q Magazine say that Sue and TAPSWAW are reworked for the album.

    Brief quote from user Justforoneday via BWW:

    “Sue reworked with ‘agressive distorted guitar….. utterly unnerving’.
    Whore re-recorded ‘with billowing clouds of sax”

  70. Reminds of the Outside sound; which is a very good thing! Both the song and short-film are amazingly dark, bizarre and totally Bowie!

  71. Im really truely blown away by the new video !!!!!!

  72. Mike says:

    Ambitious. Bizarre. Haunting.

    In other words, everything TND was not.

  73. Nijinska says:

    Ah, wonderful – I’ve spent the past day listening to virtually nothing else. But I do wish the old tightwad would get his wallet out and use a real string section for once instead of relying on whatever ‘orchestra’ settings are already programmed into the studio’s Yamaha. It would have elevated this track from quite epic to utterly epic. He never seems willing to pay for proper strings nowadays. He could afford it back in 1971 when he was completely skint – have they really got that much more expensive?!

    • SoooTrypticon says:

      Agreed on that front. The new Bjork albums this month are both so string heavy. Really gorgeous stuff.

      Would have loved to hear some deep reedy strings on this…

      But it’s still an incredible track (:

    • s.t. says:

      Even when he does use real strings, like on Heathen, he also uses those moody synths. Just a preference, I guess.

  74. djmac says:

    probably noted already here but I do love the way the instruments all wander off at the end much like they do at the end of Space Oddity. not saying there’s a connection but it is intriguing.

  75. Michael says:

    It sure is catchy for a 10 minute song, I’ve had various parts popping into my head over the last couple of days.

    I don’t know if it’s there or not, but in my head I keep doing a little segue from the middle part of Blackstar into the vocal melody of Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love.

    I’m trying to ration my listening, I’m scared I’ll wear it out and I don’t want it to become over familiar too soon. I’ve watched the video twice and listened once, all on headphones. Each time that middle section has brought a smile and I love the resolve back into the last section, works really well.

  76. Joe The Lion says:

    I’m late to this because I’ve been so obsessed with Blackstar since it came out I’ve forgotten to discuss it, beyond just telling anyone who’ll listen that Bowie is a genius and that I’m as excited by the sound of this as I was when I heard Low for the first time.

    God, I love this. Much as I’ve liked renaissance Bowie and TND, this has a looseness to it that was largely missing – it’s undignified and playful and terrifying, and (with very little hyperbole) the most enthralled I’ve been about music since those old early 90s days when I collected Bowie and heard albums like Diamond Dogs, Low and Station to Station for the first time.

    Cannot wait for the new album.

  77. Phil Obbard says:

    Lots of people have drawn the Scott Walker parallel. To my ears, the most direct for “Blackstar” is probably “Farmer in the City” (still a jaw-dropping track, 20 years on — it has aged as well as “The Electrician”).



    • heynongman says:

      I wish someone could explain to me the appeal of Walker. Besides Nite Flites and The Electrician, I just don’t get it. If Bowie is copying Scott Walker, he seems to be doing a better job at it than the original, but maybe I’m not sophisticated enough for Walker. What attracts you to his music?

      • s.t. says:

        For me, the recent Scott Walker stuff is an enthralling mix of emotions and sonic textures. He’s obviously influenced by the dark and serious experiments of Penderecki, and Nico’s solo work from “Marble Index” onward, but usually his work offers a mix of terror, disgust, longing, and some humor for absurd effect. I’d say the closest cousin to his music is Xiu Xiu, who are also quite polarizing. Not everyone’s going to want that type of difficult, sometimes even combative, style of music, but it really hits the spot if you’re in a certain type of mood.

        As for Bowie, he’s clearly been influenced by Scott, but “Walker Bowie” is by this point an established and canonical style within the Bowie repertoire, just like “Lennon Bowie” or “Newley Bowie.”
        And it’s distinct from Scott Walker’s actual work, often a sexier take on that dark theatrical style. Even Heat, which seems to go to great lengths to reference Scott’s work, is more sensuous and dreamlike than the “source.”

      • heynongman says:

        Thank you. I appreciate the insight.

  78. steven says:

    BTW, for anyone interested in the look of the skull, a book was published a couple years ago that I could well imagine made it onto an image board somehwere along the line for this- basically a collection of images of jeweled skulls as hagio-relics. Very cool.

    http://empiredelamort.com/mummies-2/rott-am-inn-germany-2-big/

    Gallery here has a few real-life examples of what the video shows of Tom…

  79. I got to see it in a proper theatre on Tuesday -proper sound, proper projection!
    It made me think of Prospero and The Tempest which seems rather apt for this time in his career.
    The skull-space helmet made me think of the way we plunder ancient burial sites for the sake of “research” .

    • steven says:

      The Tempest is a v good shout. Am personally taking the video as evidence that Labyrinth and the first two Hellraiser films share a canon.

  80. Chrysler Dodds says:

    I think the excitement of Bowie putting out a new recording has blinded some to the overall crappiness of the song. As for the video, its just occult nonsense. Disappointed.

    • col1234 says:

      I will just say this once. I really am not fond of the “emperor has no clothes” type of opinion. If you don’t like the song, say so and, if you’d like, say why. Don’t say that other people are “blinded.” It’s not a good look.

      • Chrysler Dodds says:

        OK fair enough I don’t like the song. But my point is that the excitement of Bowie returning means that maybe the song gets a kinder reception than it deserves. With TND I felt reviewers were giving Bowie an extra star just for returning after a ten year absence. When I said blinded it was not meant to insult anybody. Perhaps it was poorly chosen. Also in relation to the video though the technical aspects are admirable I think its one of those things where it appears all mysterious and intellectual but really there’s nothing there, all style and no substance.

    • There’s plenty of substance. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. First you condescend, then you condescend again, just because you don’t understand something. And if you don’t get it, well, everyone else must just be blinded by flash. That’s a very charming attitude.

      • col1234 says:

        let’s not attack each other for having differing opinions, please? Chrysler Dodds stepped back; you do the same.

  81. roobin101 says:

    I love these lines:

    I’M A BLACKSTAR I’M WAY UP, ON MONEY, I’VE GOT GAME

    I SEE RIGHT, SO WIDE, SO OPEN-HEARTED PAIN

    I WANT EAGLES IN MY DAYDREAMS, DIAMONDS IN MY EYES

    Straightaway it’s like we’re back to “once there were mountains on mountains…” It’s the same tightrope walk between brilliance and gibberish but also the man in the second half of Station to Station has renounced magic but is instantly nostalic for it, even though it was killing him. These new lines are as if the magic has returned, old fingers remembering what they once held.

  82. In case anyone is curious, “Ormen” in Swedish for “snake”

  83. And “villa” is Swedish for “illusion”… I think.

  84. Mr Tagomi says:

    As has already been remarked upon, when you put this together with Tis Pity and Sue in a playlist you’ve got half an hour of wondrous music that belongs together.

    I really love this stuff. The mixture of existential/spiritual angst and humour works really well.

    Easy to see where those advance hints about Gregorian chant came from too.

    The change on “I can’t answer why” is just so beautiful and so cool. And for some reason that whole middle section makes me think of mid 80s non-album Bowie, particularly When the Wind Blows.

    And as was said above, it does feel somehow that it follows on from If You Can See Me. Not that I have any specific notions about what exactly either song is saying.

    • Michael says:

      I’m looking forward to how it will hang together.

      I like Tis Pity a lot and am keen to hear a fully realised production. Hopefully unfounded, and who am I to judge, but the way the reworked version of Tis Pity is described as having ‘billowy sax’ (iirc) worries me a little bit (as much as one can be ‘worried’ about a song).

      I’m not a huge fan light, airy sax and I hope perhaps that the sax on Tis Pity is more reminiscent of that on The National Anthem on Radiohead’s Kid A.

      We shall see, and who am I kidding? I think I’m gonna love it come what may.

  85. The Smileyface on the astronaut is reminiscent of the smileyface for the computer in his son’s film “Moon”…

  86. Mr Tagomi says:

    The bejewelled skull of – let’s face it- Major Tom reminds me of the famous calcite- encrusted Neanderthal skull of altamura man, the sight of which I always find disturbing.

  87. Michael says:

    Day three, listen number four.

    I’m just blown away. I’m sorry that I’m not adding much to the conversation but I just feel the need to share this experience of listening with kindred spirits.

    There’s something in the bass in the very last few seconds that’s reminiscent of another Bowie song, but I can’t place it just yet.

    I just love it so much. The vocal melody in the mid-part especially is just so affecting.

  88. Mike F says:

    I like it. It sounds like Mr. B finally tapped into a fresh source of inspiration. Visconti is still in the producer’s chair but he is using jazz musicians this time around.

  89. the melody in the middle section is the best Bowie’s had since the mid 70s. It’s spectacular. If the Q review is accurate this is going to be prime Bowie. It’ll be worthy of the Bowie of the 70s.

  90. grasshopper says:

    The bandages round his eyes in the video is almost identical to one of the images found in the booklet to the CD version of Outside (where his eyes are bandaged and he has dead fish bandaged around his torso) – he even has a similar haircut in both images! I wonder if some of these new songs originated in the masses of unfinished material he recorded during that period? I seem to remember an interview where Bowie claimed to want to work on that material again as ‘there are some real gems in there.’ It’ll be interesting to see if there are any Eno co writer credits.

    • Michael says:

      It could well be.

      I think it’s been mentioned, but one of the trails on the Bowie Facebook page had the line ‘It’s happening now’ by way of introduction, so the parallels with Outside are certainly there.

      • wytchcroft says:

        yes
        and see also Bowie as Oedipus or Teresias the (gender swapping) prophet.
        “i am the blind man, she is my eyes” (‘new angels of promise’ on “Hours”).

        both figures lead by their daughters (Antigone and Manto).

        having been so very disappointed by TND i didn’t expect to be blown away by Blackstar – but i am.

  91. Howard Male says:

    The Invisible Man Who Fell To Earth – thoughts on the title ‘Blackstar’.

    The 16-year-old fan in me has compelled me to dwell on ‘Blackstar’ and it’s meaning and I’ve come up with a couple of thoughts I’ve not seen voiced elsewhere. I’m not really interested in all the Major Tom as Saviour symbolism, just the possible hidden resonances of the title itself. This is the second time recently that DB has dwelt on the wordplay games to be had with the word ‘star’ – that is the fact that a star is a bright celestial body in the night sky as well as a (usually) dim earthly body sashaying up the red carpet.

    ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’ had throwaway if sinister fun with this conceit but ‘Blackstar’ digs deeper – if with tongue firmly in cheek – as DB (or his character, or both) tells us he’s not a gang‘star’, film star, pop star, Marvel star, porn star or wandering star – presumably a nod to Lee Marvin’s 1970 one-hit-wonder (wander?) song.

    However, there’s a rather more obvious kind of star directly connected to the title that’s conspicuous by its omission in the lyrics: a dark star. Blackstar/dark star; it’s such an obvious link that I suspect Bowie left it out intentionally because it offers a meaning that’s too literal to be desirable in the game of words he enjoys playing in his lyrics.

    A dark star is a star that emits no light, in other words it’s an invisible star. Which is of course what Bowie has effectively been since his comeback and during the decade before it – or at least he obsessively controls the degree to which his public sees him, keeping it to the absolute minimum. The no-interviews policy has only intensified this sense of him being both absent and present in the public arena.

    The existence of a dark star can only be inferred by how it eclipses other stars or by its radio signal. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with all this. Yes, we can infer the existence of David Bowie by his radio signals (his songs) and the degree to which he eclipses other stars, but beyond that he is just – as he creakily croons in this epic riddle of song – ‘a blackstar’. Even the bandaged character in the video subtly references Invisible Man iconography. So yeah, Bowie is a dark star – an invisible star – the Invisible Man Who Fell To Earth! And of course the LP is in transparent vinyl.

    • Gozomoto says:

      I also have an obsessed 16-year-old inside who was thinking along the same lines. Thanks for articulating what I couldn’t.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        This sounds pretty plausible, but I think there are other layers.

        My feeling is that the whole blackstar thing, especially in the video, is fundamentally a stab towards a Manichean-type vision, a world with a sun/god that devours light instead of radiating it.

        I get the feeling DB mulls over the Problem of Evil, which almost inevitably would lead one to muse about scenarios of that kind.

    • To me the word “blackstar” sounds ungainly and caveman-like – two words jammed together by someone searching for something more complex. Perhaps it represents an attempt by the primitive alien cultists to describe the solar eclipse? Bowie could be using the term to hint at the gulf between his true nature and the mythologised conception of him that exists only in the minds of his followers.

      • wytchcroft says:

        there is also the Blackstar Liner of course

        and the play of white star black star has Black Tie White Noise encrypted within it and Bowie’s own interracial marriage.

      • steven says:

        One of the bandmembers told Rolling Stone that Bowie said that Blackstar was about ISIS.

    • Patrick says:

      Another reference, which Bowie flirted with around the time of Station to Station which as been mentioned already , and earleir is Aleister Crowley, who was often quoted as saying ” Every man and woman is a star” from his Book of the Law.

      Interview with the director kinda confirms the connection.

      “I’m thinking of [British occult legend] Aleister Crowley who David references in “Quicksand” on Hunky Dory. The pentagram blackstar on the prayer book is Bowie “immersed in Crowley’s uniform of imagery.”
      Well, I’m a huge Crowley fan, I’ve always been. I tried to make a movie on his life a few years ago but we didn’t manage to put it together. I love Crowley for being an audacious man at certain point in time. I think he’s greatly misunderstood. He was a good guy, but he was portrayed as an evil man and he wasn’t. He loved the idea of being in an escapist, magical paradigm and tried to evoke that shit. And obviously he didn’t succeed because that shit doesn’t exist, really, other then in here. [Renck points to his head]”

      http://noisey.vice.com/blog/david-bowie-blackstar-video-johan-renck-director-interview

      • wytchcroft says:

        peeling the layers of the onion gets even harder when the collaborative nature of Bowie’s works is taken into account.

        i wonder (a little), did Bowie mean the astronaut imagery as anything other than a Moon shoutout?

        He’s just as likely to recall Burrough’s Exterminator! chapter headings, for example ‘Astronaut’s Return’ and (ahem) ‘Davy Jones’. Or the fake-out he gave whilst interviewed (alongside Burroughs himself) and on being pressed for info on the supposedly upcoming Ziggy musical gleefully rattled off the plot-line to Dr Who ‘The Three Doctors’ (all about the blackhole innit) which the opening of the new video reminds me of.
        Or the transformations wrought by the mysterious new star in Anna Kavan’s story ‘Among the Lost Things’.

        But Major Tom?

        Bowie usually expresses (feigns?) shock at impudent collaborators who play fast and loose with his iconography; the Face magazine and its Aladdin Sane flash, the Pet Shop Boy’s references to Space Oddity and most recently the use of Ashes to Ashes in the remix of Love is Lost.
        (It’s a fair bet that most of the obvious nods in the music on TND are down to the players. Take the ‘five years’ drum beat for example which serves no purpose and which had been done before on the Hours album).

        I’m betting Renk’s input will be glazed over by the public.

        Gnostic exploration, ok i can buy that (the crucifix bait and switch reference is in the lyric) but Crowley? (Again?)
        Hmmm.
        Blackstar White stains… i should cocoa.

  92. billter says:

    “Lazarus” is supposed to have started previews on the 18th, but I can’t find anything written about it. Has anyone heard anything?

    • col1234 says:

      some reports on Twitter & on forums like Bowie’s site and B Wonderworld. Press performances aren’t until the weekend of Dec 4-6.

      I would ask people to hold off on “spoilers” (if they learn what songs are performed) for a while.

  93. grasshopper says:

    there’s an interesting piece on davidbowienews.com about it and even includes a list of songs performed

  94. cansorian says:

    As much as I was overjoyed to finally have some new Bowie in 2013, after a 10 year drought, I was ultimately a bit let down by the safe nature of most of the songs. A good portion of “The Next Day” could have easily fit into the framework of “Reality”. My first thought upon hearing “Blackstar” was, “Now this is more like it”. I really like the Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing structure that he’s taken with the song and quite glad that he’s willing to move beyond a traditional song template. I think his return to experimental territory really bodes well for the new album.

    The only reservations I had about the song when it ended were the repeated ‘blackstar’ refrains in the middle section. I thought maybe it was a bit too nagging. Of course, the morning after first hearing the song that’s the part I woke up singing. I’m hooked, now please reel me in with the rest of the record.

  95. Ramzi says:

    As interesting as it is, I’ve been enjoying the song a lot more without the video. A little distracting, maybe?

  96. verdelay says:

    At the centre of it all
    Your eyes

    [shots of the Blackstar/the iconic dilated pupil]

    You’re the flash in the pan
    I’m the great I Am!
    I’m a Blackstar

    [I’m with Howard Male, above. This is autobiographical metacommentary of the highest order. After all, the 60s are coming to an end and the 70s are just around the corner…]

    Something happened on the day he died
    Spirit rose a metre then stepped aside
    Somebody else took his place and bravely cried…

    [bravo maestro]

  97. steven says:

    The more I think about it the less fussed I am that the album looks to be the single, last year’s tracks and cuts from the musical. As TBH I don’t think I’d enjoy the scraps from the Orwell musical any less had it actually gotten to the point of production, as I’m unlikely to see Lazarus so its really all the same to me.

  98. grasshopper says:

    Am I right in thinking that this version differs from that used in The Last Panthers theme? There’s a definite guitar line in the TV theme that I haven’t noticed in the single release?

  99. Brendan O'Lear says:

    I’ve been away for a few days and I come back to 190 comments or so. I was fully expecting to have to play the role of the grizzly old curmudgeon here, but that really was/is something special. Epic storytelling, cobbling bits and unfinished pieces together.

    When Where are We Now came out it, it made me stop in my tracks and think about David Bowie. This one made me stop and think about me and the world I live in, just like in his ‘world-changing’ days. Thunder is shaking loose hail from the outhouse again

  100. It’s a great song. I don’t think it would make my top 30 tracks for the poll, but it has got me excited about the new album in a way that Where Are We Now didn’t. I love the saxophone and the shift into the middle section.

    Also, the video is great. Good to see Major Tom again even if he is long dead.

  101. james says:

    At ten minutes long it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this piece, which at its core is superb, is spoiled somewhat by a certain degree of indulgence. Broken into three sections (the final a reprise) its closest sibling in Bowie canon is sweet thing/candidate, a suite that wastes none of its considerable length in over indulgence. The whole set is an incredibly tight sonic landscape imbued with Bowies pop sensibilities. Looking at Blackstar in comparison the first section is roughly 4.37 minutes long. The conventional song that’s placed in the centre clocks in at just over 3 minutes, and then the reprise is a drawn out 2.20 minutes. The grounding structure that holds these more ‘freeform’ sections together would have benefited from being introduced in a tightly defined manner in the first section: ideally at a similar length to its actual close and then the considerably jazzier elements left to finish the song in a drawn out ambient coda. As it is, the bridge between parts one and two is virtually non existent with one section closing before another begins in such a way as the listener can skip to the centre without losing any sense of what defines the music’s overarching feel. With this quite acute criticism born in mind, I nonetheless consider the last five and a half minutes of this to be excellent. I had a positive response to much of Bowies most recent material (Sue wasn’t to my taste admittedly, and so it’s somewhat ominous to hear that the same version might be on this album) but this is of an even greater calibre than much (but not all) of the next day. This post was dull and serious, because that’s the way I went with it, but if I’d been in a less sombre mood I’d have tried to argue that this sounds like an exquisite blend of Low and Never Let Me Down: Discuss.

    • Michael says:

      According to Visconti via Rolling Stone, Blackstar was originally over 11 minutes but was reworked to come in under 10 minutes so that iTunes would list it as a single.

      That in itself raises the thorny question of the medium defining the art, but more than anything I’d love to hear the longer version. I don’t feel Blackstar is indulgent in its length at all.

      Regarding Sue, Mojo state it’s a new version for the album, so fear not, or fear less, at least.

  102. Phil Obbard says:

    Fun fact from new Rolling Stone article on Blackstar: the title track was originally 11+ minutes long, but Bowie wanted it under 10:00 so that iTunes would accept it as a single!

    http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/the-inside-story-of-david-bowies-stunning-new-album-blackstar-20151123

  103. fantailfan says:

    Even though I pre-ordered the album, I decided to drop $1.29 and bought “Blackstar” from iTunes, so I could listen to it for the next six weeks. After three listens, I wouldn’t put “Blackstar” in my top 30 Bowie songs.

    Since I didn’t buy ChangesElevenBowie, I appreciate that I will be getting “Sue”/”Tis a Pity.” However, it makes the album (seem) less of a piece and more of a collection of pieces. However, given that none of Bowie’s albums can really be considered “of a piece” (counter-arguments welcome), I shouldn’t expect him to change over the 50 years since he has been recording.

    I expect there will be a Blackstar Extras or somesuch by the end of 2016.

    • postpunkmonk says:

      And you are probably 100% certain for good reason. It’s how Bowie rolls these days. The question is, willI wait a year to hear it like how I did for TND since I prefer to spend my money once? I have not decided. I also have not heard any of this music. I quarantine myself before buying anything. It’s how I roll.

  104. wytchcroft says:

    never can remember the protocol with links but
    seems to me a fair bit of leonora carrington going down in the visuals.

    e.g. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-bX9jhDoG6YA/UkrStnHSfPI/AAAAAAAAE8A/jBssze6dkfM/s1600/The+Floor+4706th.jpg
    which is here;
    http://zoe-in-wonderland.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/leonora-carrington-liminal-spaces.html

  105. Ran says:

    I’ll try to put what I make of the lyrics and video:
    Because of the Major Tom reference I tried at first to interpret the song autobiographically but it didn’t seem to make sense. The mention of ISIS in the Rolling Stone article made me think of a more broad cultural interpretation.
    Major Tom represents here, I think, not specifically Bowie’s work, but the general cultural and artistic world of the last half of a century that Bowie has been part of. And so, Bowie announces here the death not of god, but of post-modern culture that his work represents so well (if the bejewelled skull is a Hirst reference then it also points in the same direction).
    The Blackstar world that replaces it is clearly based on simpler rules (maybe they are written in the book one of the Bowie characters holds), and is religious in a broad sense of the term – we shall not ask why but follow the exact ‘how’ the salesperson/missionary character sells us.
    Say goodbye to relativism and complex dialectics, to the deconsructed world of (post) modern art, say goodbye to Major Tom flying in space almost hitting the ground but still strung out in heaven. Say hello to the Blackstar answer book with its simple but straightforward and convincing answers and its rituals. All moondust has been uncovered from the Major’s skull it and has become an object in the Blackstar ritual.

    What can we learn from the song about this revolution?
    First that it happened after the seemingly natural death of Major Tom. The old world has died, and only then Blackstar emerged to fill up the void.
    Second, that it’s not very tolerant to the people that are left behind. the button-eyed character (perhaps this is the real Bowie?) is horrified from the change that he can’t prevent, and his last followers are crucified and executed by the monster.
    I’m not sure what to make of the motive of the eyes (and if there’s an ISIS reference, can it be also ‘ýour IS’?) but perhaps the followers of the new blackstar messiah have their eyes as they’ve been convinced and found answers and direction, while the old followers have lost sight in this new world.
    I’d love to hear what you think, if some of you interpreted it similarly or if you have what to add/contradict.

    • gcreptile says:

      I missed the Gerty reference on Major Tom’s (?) suit at first. And I thought it was more a generic smiley face, symbolizing the Hippie culture which then morphed into Baby boomer culture. As Ashes to Ashes portrayed the decline and dark consequences of the Free Love/sex, drugs and rock’n’roll culture of the 60s, this latest version of the character is the eulogy of the Baby Boomer generation.
      Plus, your connection to ISIS reminds me of “New Killer Star” which was, indirectly, about Al’Qaeda.
      So… in old age, the baby boomer generation is forced to confront another evil thought impossible in the utopian 60s?

    • gcreptile says:

      Ah, and another possible connection to the middle east: “Wandering Star” is a novel by Nobel-prize winning french writer Le Clézio about palestinian refugees.
      But then again, Bowie might just be saying that he’s not a planet revolving around a star, but the star himself.

  106. Sophistus says:

    I’ve joined the thread late and so apologies if I repeat something I’ve missed in the above comments.

    I think that “Blackstar” is a reference to Bowie. A black star is the stage of a star’s life between a collapsing star and singularity (the star’s death). The song, then, in my view, is Bowie’s reflection on his celebrity status as he enters into the autumn of his years. Bowie is not a gangstar, a pop star, a porn star, a white star or a wandering star; he is a blackstar, a star that is nearing the end of its existence.

    In terms of how this idea connects with the visuals of the short film which accompanies Blackstar, there is a great contrast between on the one hand a scruffy, ageing Bowie who now dances in solitude and on the other hand the lyrics that whilst others are a “flash in the pan”, he (Bowie) is “the great I am”. Bowie is the star’s star.

    The song also confronts the creative process of an artist. Bowie is in light. In the scene where Bowie sings near his dancing acolytes there is light coming through the round window and shafts of light come through the beams in the roof. When he stands with his three acolytes, as he holds aloft his book (which points to the fruits of his creative endeavours), he is in light. This creativity comes from the world on the side of the Blackstar, which is Bowie’s but is represented by the mythical other world of women with tails and scarecrows; this world is in darkness. As Bowie moves closer towards the end of his life, this world is sucked into the dying star.

    Indeed, Major Tom is reduced to a headless skeleton which floats in space towards its oblivion. Bowie’s first great character has moved from spaceman to junkie to a skull. It makes sense, then, that Major Tom, a relic of Bowie’s past artistic creativity is now symbolised as a religious relic, a skull that is used as part of a religious rite.

    As Bowie’s creativity wanes, as it is both consumed by the blackstar and is burdened by the canon of his work (the skull relic which is placed on the back of a woman), he still endeavours to be creative. He blindfolds himself and chants phrases like a religious mystic in order to break through to the other side.

  107. James says:

    Not much to add at this time that hasn’t already been said above. The song is astonishingly good. I love it more each time I listen, and I don’t think I could be more excited for the album. I’m trying not to just give in to the excitement of the times and evaluate the songs on its own merits, but from what we’ve heard of it so far I think Bowie’s on the verge of the most powerful artistic statement he’s made in a very long time with this album. It’s a great time to be a fan.

    Just a few random thoughts:

    The video has such a powerful presence that when I finally listened to the song without it, it almost seemed like a different song.

    My boyfriend (a recent Bowie convert thanks to your’s truly) made the comment that the middle part is almost like Bowie saying, “Alright… time for a little show.” It made sense: Upthread, a commenter mentioned that it’s almost more like a song within a song than a series of segues/shifts, and I absolutely get that vibe too. For some reason it got me thinking about the Eraserhead “Lady in the Radiator” scene.

    The middle part’s music is gorgeous (my favorite Bowie musical moment since Heathen, which is high praise coming from me). But the lyrics are possibly more unsettling than the vibes given off during the intro/outro- kind of a warped form of reincarnation, where the body is immutable and it’s the soul that’s transitory.

    Intriguing if true about the song referencing ISIS. “[I’ll] take your passport and shoes” certainly rings that bell.

    The last moments sound like birdsong being imitated by wind instruments, then slowly being replaced by harsh electronic sounds doing the same. Kind of goes back to the impostor/invader sentiment from the middle bit?

    Lastly: I’m not holding my breath for it but I’m really, really hoping that the song adaptations from Lazarus will be professionally recorded and released. I think it’d be a great companion piece to the Blackstar album.

  108. Anonymous says:

    Interesting interpretations. Here are a few other rough possibilities, which I have not tied together:

    It is tempting to interpret the three-towered castle in the video as Wewelsburg which Himmler used as the centre of the SS, practically and spiritually. In the North tower lies what is now known as the ‘Black Sun’ (i.e. Blackstar), which symbolised the centre of the castle and thus the centre of the ‘Germanic Empire’. Below that in the vault was planned an ‘eternal flame’, perhaps referred to in the video by the candle and the symbol on the astronaut’s (Major Tom’s?) visor… One could say that Bowie here manifests his lines from ‘Quicksand’ (1971) wherein he mentions Crowley and the Golden Dawn, and then: “I’m living in a silent film, Portraying Himmler’s sacred realm, Of dream reality.”

    The girl (with the tail) approaching the castle also seems to slightly emulate “Sarah’ (J. Connelly) going to the Goblin Castle in the film “labyrinth’, where Bowie plays the goblin king. The story is a sort of daydream for Sarah.

    The castle with its angular western skyscraper, and the arabic-looking village below, flavours the above interpretation with modern political concerns perhaps – a distant echo of Bowie’s ‘Loving the Alien’?

    ‘The villa of Ormen’: ‘Ormen’ is Scandinavian for ‘the snake’. Ormen Lange was a well-known viking longship. Considering Himmler and the Nazis idolised the vikings and nordics generally, there is perhaps a connection to Wewelsburg castle again. Then again, ‘ormen’ could signify the Ouroboros symbol (snake biting its tail in circle) which is used to symbolise Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return. All guesswork!

    Perhaps more definitely is the symbolism of the ‘attic’ space in which Bowie sings. With its circular window it seems to represent the Eye of Providence. Though its isosceles shape also harmonises with the top part of the blackstar symbol.

    Fallen angel presumably refers to Lucifer (Latin for ‘the bringer of light’, i.e. the morning STAR, i.e venus). ‘Blackstar’ can also mean the devil.

    I have no idea what the green monster thing is at the end. The pagan ‘Green Man’ mocking the crucifixion? Paganism mocking Christianity?

    The skull in the astronaut’s suit – though probably a nod to major Tom – does look like a female skull…

    All of this may very well be completely wrong!

  109. Gozomoto says:

    What I enjoy about this track, and these comments (and DB in general), is that all of the interpretations, or parts of them, can easily and legitimately be woven into the same tapestry: It’s autobiographical, it’s self-referential, it’s nostalgic, it’s literary, it’s current, and it’s new. In a nutshell, it’s Bowie. And it is beeeyootiful!

  110. jef jones says:

    I love the song. I think it ranks as one of his finest pieces: surprising, haunting, seductive, melancholy. You know it matters but can’t quite work out why! It gets inside you. Musically it feels a bit like this is what he was trying to achieve on Next Day but didn’t quite pull off apart from a few tracks. I find the video a bit self-consciously ‘edgy’.

  111. Geoff B says:

    I’m a recent Bowie fan–I give credit to Where Are We Now? for turning me on to him–and Blackstar is so exciting to me. It’s a real knockout song, hell-for-leather in a way Bowie hasn’t done in a really long time, rich in symbolism, texture, allegory. I don’t try to understand the full extent of what he’s doing, and I’m very satisfied anyway. That is Bowie at his absolute best. Also, being a Scott Walker fan (also interestingly by way of TND) makes this a fascinating listen/watch.

    Also I just love the timing of the lines “You’re a flash in the pan (I’m not a Marvel star).” I love those deft reference/sucker punches he slips in like that.

  112. Tyrell says:

    A question to the native English/American speakers: is “marvel star” a reference to the Marvel movies, or does it have another meaning?
    The middle part lyrics seems quite ironic for me (e.g. “Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside”, etc.). I am right?

  113. NafouteForever says:

    At first sight, those buttoned eyes made me think of Coraline, by Henry Selick. Another unsettling, disturbing and genius viewing experience
    Anyway Blackstar is ace, with or without the video

  114. EveningAlbum says:

    I’ve also been wondering about the “Marvel Star” line as it is not a standard phrase, and does seem to point to the volume of Marvel Comics’ movies coming out and the film “stars”. Comic book heroes being – if we wish to view them this way – stand-ins for the gods of the past. 2000+ years ago humans read about Zeus and Chronos, etc. Now we read about Superman and Wolverine.

    • Gozomoto says:

      “See my life in a comic…”

    • Roman says:

      FAO Tyrell And EveningAlbum:

      I was curious about that phrase too. During the Trailers for Ant Man earlier in the year, the main star Paul Rudd introduced it by sitting on a chair in a normal room saying, “Hi, my name is Paul Rudd and I’m the latest Marvel Super Hero. Check out the trailer to my film Antman.”

      So while the phrase was not used, the idea of the Marvel Star would be prevalent – as in so many people can list the actors who play the myriad of Marvel roles and associate them directly with the hero they play. When people see Mark Ruffolo or Robert Downey etc, most immediately think Hulk or Iron Man etc, and so therefore see them as Marvel stars rather than generic “movie stars.” In much the same way that the current James Bond actor is currently seen as the Bond star rather than a ‘movie star’.

      Therefore I’d go with Bowie directly referencing the Hollywood franchise rather than the direct meaning of “marvel star”.

  115. cansorian says:

    Hi Chris,

    From the comments on your tumblr page I’m assuming that we’ll get your thoughts on “Lazarus” at some point (if there’s any justice in the world someone’s comped you reviewers tickets). Just saw the play last night and look forward to your write-up. That made me wonder if you ever did a blog post for “The Man Who Fell to Earth”. Typed it into the search field and the first hit that comes up is the Bowie/Bing duet. Good to know the blog’s search engine has a sense of humor.

  116. stuartgardner says:

    Have you folks seen this lunatic?

    here

    or

    here

  117. Bowietie daddy says:

    Hi, C.
    Has you heard this album? It’s flamenco plus rock plus Lorca.
    here

    The beginning is very much like the beginning of this Blackstar:

    Or so I think. Maybe I’m deaf.
    I love this new Bowie, much better than the Next Day.

  118. Dave L says:

    The more I listen the more I wish I’d put it among my top 30 for the poll, but I didn’t because the dust hadn’t settled.

    Some thoughts I’ll just spill out:

    The song is undoubtedly about the death cult ISIS, in my opinion. Blackstar being essentially another word for death cult, the thing that the cult members worship. It isn’t life. it’s a new killer star.

    The opening is reminiscent of Shirley Bassey’s Moonraker for some reason. But then it goes into an Art of Noise/Claude Debussy/ send-up of the religious chanting music that ISIS plays during their propaganda videos.

    Your eyes at the center of it all — like a burka.

    And then we get the wonderful middle, first part sung basically from the POV of the ISIS members, enthralled with their martyrs, and their glorious journey into death, with yet another martyr waiting in line to do the same, interspersed with the chants of those yet unmartyred …

    And then you get some of the ISIS recruiters talking … I can’t tell you why, just go with me, I’m a take you home (to heaven) — you won’t need a passport or shoes, nor sedatives because this death cult answers all of those earthly problems … Yes indeed, when death is the ultimate goal, we are indeed born upside down…

    it’s brilliant. I think this Islamic death cult business has aroused a lot of emotions on a global scale, and Bowie’s is one of them. I don’t think he’s felt this compelled about a subject since the 70s, which had more than its share of compelling subjects.

    • Mr Tagomi says:

      My take on it is a bit different. It’s easy to see how the ISIS death cult could be an inspiration for the song, but as far as I can see the song is not directly about ISIS. (Mind you, I do see your point about the passport and shoes, etc.)

      For me, it’s more generally about the idea of a world watched over by a god of hatred and destruction, along the lines of the ISIS conception of God.

      You get what seem like perversions of scenes from the cricifixion in both the song and video – women kneel and smile instead of kneel and weep at the cross, the supposed saviour’s soul is usurped when he dies, returning to the world as the blackstar instead of the Redeemer, the scarecrow Jesus slashed to death by some kind of grass creature.

      And then, “we were born upside down” – it suggests a world where evil dominates instead of (as religion normally claims) good.

      The first section seems like a prayer or incantation to that god. The solitary candle – “your eyes” – seems to function as something like the Eye of Sauron. The place from which this evil god observes the world.

      The “something happened” section seems to me possibly to be a narrator breaking in, especially if you take the song on its own, but in the video it seems explicitly to be the Bowie seer character achieving communion with the blackstar god, the sickly yellow light flooding in, and the word of the Blackstar being made manifest on earth.

      The “I can’t answer why” section is definitely the god itself talking. In the video we see that it’s talking through the seer. This is made pretty explicit:

      “You’re a flash in the pan”: i.e.. you’re just a mortal.

      “I’m the great I am”: i.e. I’m the deity. A version of “I am who am” from the Book of Exodus.

      This is made even more explicit by his gestures in the video.

      I do find the video a bit confusing though. Is the spirit that “rose a metre” that of the scarecrow Jesus, or is it the astronaut’s? It doesn’t seem to add up completely. Maybe it’s not supposed to.

      The video seems to suggest that the arrival of the astronaut is the key achieving communion with the blackstar. But the astronaut seems unnecessary to the narrative really. I wonder if it was thrown in mischievously to trigger some “Major Tom” talk.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        It occurred to me this morning that maybe the women have formed their own rival cult based around the jewelled skull?

        That would give the whole astronaut thing a more obvious point.

      • Dave L says:

        Yes, interesting. I think the video ultimately doesn’t quite track with the lyrics, though there is some overlap. As you note the video’s probably meant to be purposely ambiguous. I much prefer to listen to the track on its own, though the video is provocative.

        And regarding the song itself, I agree with you partially, inasmuch as it’s possible, if not probable, that Bowie didn’t limit the song to any particular group or religion, and instead was concerned with any religion that has some relationship with death — which is arguably any religion that adheres to a life-after-death arrangement. He’s hit on this subject before in several songs, of course Loving the Alien comes to mind. But I don’t think that Blackstar would exist were it not for ISIS, I think that is the ultimate inspiration, and accounts for the Arabic feel of the first and third parts, as well as the more macabre feel of the piece overall (juxtapose with Loving the Alien, which feels more like exasperation that folks are “pinning” their hopes on an unseen “alien”). And I think the “your eyes” is a reference to the burka, which covers everything but the eyes; the Villa of Ormen is probably a vague reference to Mecca or some such site.

        I agree the “I can’t answer why” section could be coming from the God itself, though the colloquial, rough manner in which Bowie delivers the lines makes me picture a lieutenant, such as one of the ISIS recruiters, who purport to speak for the God. The God doesn’t need to do the persuasion, he/she leaves that up to the lieutenants.

        IN any event, it’s one of Bowie’s more significant songs, I think, an important work. Aside from Space Oddity I can’t recall any song specifically targeted at world events — which may explain the Major Tom reference? Maybe that’s what he’s saying in the video, we’ve gone from the wonderful, heady days of the space program to a world dealing with death-cult terror. Major Tom is indeed dead. Dunno, haven’t had time to mull that last thought.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        Yeah – I’ve been trying to figure out the Major Tom trajectory from Hallo Spaceboy that could get him to this juncture and tie in with the whole Blackstar thing.

        Hallo Spaceboy seems to just say he’s dead. Here he’s risen, sort of. Or is he? What’s the connection with the Jesus in the video? I am flummoxed.

        There’s a whole lot of stuff in the video that is not in the song, and it’s hard to know if the song is specifically to be seen in the light of the video or if the video is just an interpretation.

        Loving the Alien must surely be seen as an ancestor to this song all right.

    • gcreptile says:

      If the video is any indication, then another meaning of “Blackstar” might be the moon. After all, the star in the video is apparently eternally blocked by the moon, an eternal total eclipse (the corona is visible). The moon is the symbol of Islam, and it appears here not as the nocturnal light but as blocking the sun – a malevolent interpretation signifying a perverted interpretation of Islam by ISIS. Also, the line “and your sedatives, boo” basically means “I’m going to scare you and you can’t calm yourself”, so terror… The word ‘terror’ also appeared in Loving the Alien, by the way.
      I could imagine that because of his wife, Bowie might feel especially “compelled”.

      • Dave L says:

        interesting point, forgot that the symbol of ISlam is the star and crescent.

        But in the song I think “blackstar” means martyr. “I’m a Blackstar,” they chant. Meaning you’re a “star” due to the temporary fame of your homicidal/suicidal act, but it’s death, blackness you’ve embraced, not life. So you’re not like those other stars.

      • Michael says:

        I’m certainly no musician by any measure so I could be completely wrong, but the “I’m a Blackstar” refrain, especially the second of the pair (when they come in pairs) sounds off the beat to me; out of time.

        I wonder if it’s too literal a translation to infer that the Blackstar (the martyr, or the evil) is out of time? Both in an anachronistic sense and in that their time (their era) is running out.

    • Dave L says:

      Well, in light of the events of the past few weeks, throwing the creation of this song into a different light, I no longer think the song is about ISIS, but closer to what Mr. Tagomi was saying. Never liked the idea that it was about ISIS anyway, that always seemed too limiting for Mr. Bowie.

  119. Zak says:

    Opening line of ‘Tis A Pity .. – “Man, she punched me like a dude” – makes me think of (& is likely inspired by) the great opening to Sam Fuller’s movie The Naked Kiss (1964). Check out the first minute

    • Dave L says:

      Hm, I dunno … I haven’t seen any dudes punch like that. Except perhaps one of those guys throwing shoes at George Bush during his press conference back in the day …;)

  120. Mark says:

    The song is brilliant and I expect the album to also be brilliant. I don’t think that was Major Tom, it’s trickery! I also think Bowie will release the album with bonus trax so we will have some treats ahead. “Sue” & “Whore” were re-recorded with a more guitar oriented feel.

  121. Mark says:

    OMG! Bowie re-did “This Is Not America”! dying to hear it!

  122. Tyrell says:

    Blackstar has been compared to Sweet Thing many times, altough I think Warszawa is a better match, because of the same structure and the eastern, oriental melodies. However there is a big difference to these two older songs: the third part is a fusion of the first and second part (melody from third part, arrangement from the second). As if Blackstar were study on a musical level about a very important question in Bowie’s career: am I a rock star or an artist? The third part gives the answer: I can be both at the same time, I can do music which is artistic and popular at the same time.
    The transition from part 2 to 3 is very well written and executed, a real musical highlight.

    • Michael says:

      Absolutely.

      That move from the 2nd to 3rd part is seamless, eerie and almost takes you unawares, like a confidence trick.

      There’s one, single synthesiser part that echoes the vocal melody ooh-ooh-oohs… it goes as soon as it’s there but it’s so foreboding, chilling almost.

      A real feat.

  123. oamih says:

    what i make of it is that in the inner psyche, something Bowie has clearly been concerned with in his musical “journey”, after discovering a deep seated doubt (Quicksand) with his “study” of esoteric knowledge, he has come to a realization that almost makes one quiver to consider: that in the spiritual realm we have been playing dumb. Dumb to the real intentions of our worship. That the astronaut has finally “landed,” that preaching by the book as been a big joke the whole time, with a fake cloud background.

    It strikes me as the most important phrase in the whole song:

    Something happened on the day he died
    Spirit rose a metre and stepped aside
    Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
    (I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar)

    Perhaps alluding to Jesus, but regardless of which actual deity-manifest-as-man, he’s saying that the intention was replaced with another. That the original spirit, which in this case can be interpreted as a collective archetype of our psyche (see James Campbell, Jung), was replaced with a Messiah-complex egotism that drives men to create archetypes of Gods around skulls with pretty jewelry. That the distant authors of our current condition, our current amalgam of thought processes, had mixed something up, perhaps to Deliver us to Lucifer, perhaps Deliver us from Evil, perhaps we’re just taking the whole thing a bit too seriously🙂. Maybe that’s the commentary on ISIS.

    All in all, I can see how this is a deep commentary on how ideology can crack a psyche, and perhaps he’s one to offer a personal experience on the matter. But I for one see this as an incredibly positive message, as if admitting to his own ideological divulsions of the psyche, which are, admittedly, a more Bowie approach to present day than say, “I’m a Rap God.”

  124. Anonymous says:

    So pleased about david Bowie’s new material, looking forward to 2016.

  125. Stumbled over this thread today a little late. I would add a few random thoughts:

    – I don’t really think the astronaut is meant to be Major Tom, but on the other hand surely Bowie knows many will think so and therefore it sort of becomes him.

    – I doubt very much that “ormen” is Norwegian/Swedish. I am a Norwegian myself and it did not struck me at all when I first heard it. It just seems a bit far-fetched. I am leaning more towards the interpretation that it is a kind of a word-play since it sounds very much like “all men” or “our men”. That makes also more sense with the later part “on the day of execution/only women kneel and smile”.

    – It is very fascinating how it seems like the song seamlessly is built from three very different, separate songs. It is incredibly cleverly put together. I could barely believe my own ears when I first heard the transition around about 4:40.

    – It sounds very fresh though there are bits and pieces that remind me of a lot of older Bowie songs including Cygnet Committee, Station to Station, and Heathen. I do hear a certain Scott Walker influnce, but I feel people make a bit too much of it. (Not to mention those who hear so much Radiohead in it.)

    – I am a bit disappointed to see people here dismiss TND. I agree that it was a bit too conventional maybe, but I have almost played that album to death and it was an incredible grower. I’d say it easily among Bowie’s top 10 albums, and I will be more than happy if Blackstar is as good.

    • BenJ says:

      I would guess there is probably some Radiohead in Bowie’s new music, in that he’s taking his music in a more free-jazz oriented direction, as they did around the turn of the millennium. Then again I’d say that Kid A and Amnesiac were their versions of the Berlin Trilogy to begin with, so it’s hard to tell who’s getting what from whom. As for Scott Walker, there’s relatively little precedent for rock artists aggressively pushing into new areas in their late 60s and beyond. Walker has done this, and I think that’s his main influence on Bowie at this point.

      TND had a big honeymoon period from being the first Bowie release in a decade, after his seemingly permanent retirement. It’s not too unusual for the album’s reputation to be amended downward. Still, I think it holds up well, and I expect to be still listening to it in ten years.

  126. Mr Tagomi says:

    In villa orman
    Stands a solitary pool table

    http://t.villaplus.com/turkey/hisaronu/villa-orman

    The ghost village in photo 33 looks familiar though…

  127. Mike says:

    I’m late to the party but here’s my two-bits.

    “I’m a Star Star” has to be about the Rolling Stones song. Diamond Dogs is sort of companion to both Goat’s Head Soup and It’s Only Rock n Roll. Interestingly they added new lyrics that mention Jimmy Page to “Star Star” around the same time Bowie was claiming that the Stones were sending him secret messages and that witches wanted his sperm.

    “I’m not a Marvel Star”. If he doesn’t like Marvel, then maybe he likes DC. Bowie’s certainly claimed to be a Nietzchean Superman before.

  128. The song/video can be a about lots of stuff. There are some clear themes (religion seeming to be the main one) but it’s hard to definetely link it all together.So to avoid misconceptions, first I’ll desconstruct it according to Occam’s Razor:

    At the start we see the blackstar (looks like an eclipsed star) shining in the background while an astronaut’s remains (with various pop stickers on it’s suit) lies in some planet. A girl with a tail (purposefully) walks to the astronaut suit and opens his visor, revealing a bejewelled skull (doesn’t make sense unless the astronaut had jewels glued to his face, but I guess it’s symbolic). She puts the skull in a case and goes back to some kind of town, with tall towers in it’s background, for some kind of ritual (involving exclusively young women), they make a circle and follow the tailed girl (she appears to be the only tailed one) into darkness. It can be seen that the rest of the skeleton was thrown in space as it heads towards the blackstar.

    Meanwhile we see Bowie singing as a blindfolded man with buttons for eyes, he’s outside a room (looks like an attic) where three people (a black guy, an albino like one, and a girl) jerking uncontrollaby to some strange rhthym. Bowie is the only one blindfolded, but he’s also isnt jerking like the other people).

    The lyrics of this part talk about a “a solitary candle in the villa of Ormen” (also shown in the video) and that ” in the day of execution, only women kneel and smile”. The candle seems to be there for a long time (judging by the wax, maybe it’s everlasting) and we get from the video that there are only girls, but they neither kneel nor smile (they kneel at the end of the video but never smile, probably the smile part is also just symbolic).

    During the eerie instrumental bridge we see Bowie (sans blindfold) as some kind of priest, holding a book with a black star in the cover and “scanning” the horizon with it. The same three people from the attic stand behind him following the direction of the book with their eyes (they are no longer jerking).

    After this we see Bowie alone in the attic singing the second session of the song. He seems solemn and acts as if praying. After this there’s an montage showing some girl’s eyes (looks like the tailed girl, but also Jeniffer Connelly in the Labyrinth days :P) and (clearly Bowie’s) eyes. His expression seen lost and confused while hers is alluring, like if she was flirting with him. The lyrics for this part are a bit more cryptic but talk about somebody taking the place of a dead person and claiming to be a ‘blackstar’ (meaning that probably the eclipsed star was also only symbolic, and not the actual subject of the song). Then it goes questioning the fall of angels and people who “lie instead of talking tall”, elaborating that the ‘blackstar’ claimant “trod on sacred ground” and made the claim to a crowd (this time also adding that he “is not a gangster”).

    We get a different and (last) kind of session where Bowie is again in the attic but now his demeanor is different. He seems in mental pain (“I can’t answer why” is sung in this part) but them hcanges to being kinda mad and flamboyant. The lyrics now seem like he’s convincing (or simply making claims) to someone, mentioning a lot of stuff that is as seemingly random as the fine Bowie lyrics ever were. Meanwhile the back vocals repeatedly claim “I’m a blackstar” while also claiming not to be many other kinds of stars (the second time this session comes along, the only positive assertion is besides the blackstar one is “I’m a star star”).

    We see the praying Bowie session again, this time with even more cryptic lyrics (the “star star” claim is seen here too”). The video then shows for the first time three scarecrows (a bearded one, a fat one in the middle, and a third one) into crosses (people say this is clearly Christian but scarecrows are generally held this way). They have sacks in the heads, button eyes (like Bowie at the beggining of the video) and from the cuts in their clothes we see straws coming out (they’re either made of it, or it’s just stuffing, maybe that’s why the center one is fat). Like all scarecrows they also have rag clothes (all these details are probably symbols of something too). They seem to be desperately trying to release themselves from the crosses (interestingly, the fat scarecrow seem like he’s dancing as he swings his hips).

    We then see the instable Bowie in the attic session again, he starts the same way (mental pain along “I can’t answer why”) but then talks about how “we were born upside down” and “the wrong way round”. The whole ‘ I’m a blackstar but not any other kind of star except star star’ part is also present again. We see the priest Bowie still holding the book, now with a more concerned look (at the end of this part we also see the bearded scarecrow look as if he’s suddenly aware of something very important, like when we hear a noise in the dark woods).

    At the end of the song we get back to the first verses. This time all women form a circle with their heads down, and perfoming a different kind of ritual (they seem coerced or even controlled to do it, unlike the first time). A kind of expressionless priestess (not the tailed girl, she’s not seem anymore) now hold the skulls, and it’s mere sight seems to make the girls jerk uncontrollably. The girl from the attic trio comes in the center (she doesn’t jerk, but her movements are mechanical nonetheless) makes some gestures as if to receive the skull, but just get on her knees. The priestess sways the skulls, and the the girls respond as if being controlled by it. We see now there are fumes and glows coming out of the holes in the skull, that seem to connect to the also glowing brain (maybe because of the circlet she wears). The candle is showing once again, but we also see the last character of the video, a monstrous creature that dances or runs (it’s either excited or in a hurry) in a colored fog. It goes to where the scarecrows are and they scream at it, as if trying to send it away. As the music fades, the creature attacks the scarecrows who seem to be in pain (this is most certainly the execution mentioned in the lyrics) as he hacks them with his hook like claws. Blindfolded Bowie seems to be in uncontrollable fear or aversion as it happens (even though he’s not present).

    That’s my literal analysis of the video. The story is pretty straightfoward even though the meaning is obscure. If you consider blindfolded and priest Bowie to be the same character at different times (when he is in the attic he apparently only sings, and isn’t acting as a character per se) we get this:

    Girl gets skull to perfom ritual in the past (the blindfolded Bowie scenes, like the lyrics, are the present), then we get the priest and the people trying to avoid or discover something about it while the eye montage and attic Bowie tell what happened after the ritual. At the end we are again in the present, where people either jerk uncontrollably or have buttons for eyes (they’re blind or been blinded). The priestess being different shows that this is the future and the tailed girl has already died. She either summons, or it’s already established that, the creature sacrifices the blind people. All the magic (creature, skull) can be seen as either literal or symbolic.

    Or maybe it’s just Major Tom being Jesus while occult rituals and imagery transform the world into the same thing that will happen if ISIS takes over the world.

  129. wytchcroft says:

    well, this is wild and reaching and random but…
    a few people in the thread here have mentioned a tune they couldn’t place.

    i just rewatched orphan black series 2 episode 2 and in the scene beginning with the girl taking food to meet the ‘others’ and the ensuing conversation about religion and science, it’s there.

  130. Phil Obbard says:

    Elsewhere in the Bowie internet world, people have pointed out the strong resemblance between the middle of “Blackstar” and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday at Christmas”. Look it up on YouTube…

  131. During the recent NPR interview with Tony Visconti and Donny McCaslin, it was mentioned that Bowie had started recording his demos at home. ‘Tis A Pity was recorded at home and a guitar part from Lazarus was sourced from the song’s home demo.

    With this information, I’d wager that the first version we heard of Blackstar, the one that soundtracks the opening sequence of The Last Panthers, is also a home recording. Compared to the single it’s pretty sparse, consisting only of a synthesised choir, an electronic drum sequence, bass and a guitar part that definitely sounds like Bowie’s work.
    The final Blackstar is said to be two songs fused together, leading me to believe that a full version of the Last Panthers Blackstar probably wouldn’t include the final’s “something happened on the day he died” middle section. I look forward to hearing this full recording in 2017, on the almost inevitable ‘Blackstar Extras’ bonus disk.

  132. heynongman says:

    Someone uploaded Blackstar in reverse and it sounds pretty much the same. Very interesting.

  133. Ground control says:

    The skull in the ritual is used to summon the animus which then goes onto attack the ones undergoing the crucifixion as the monster appears to have no head. Bowie is one more time resurrecting major tom for his nefarious purposes. Should of listened to his mother. What the lyrics are about, is antibodies guess. But bowie in spite of himself still finds time to rap like an og worthy of a spiritual odb.

  134. Ground control says:

    In essence we find Bowie worshipping and preaching his own portentious mythology. Lyrically I think there is more substance, even with the traditional rap middle 8 where he boasts about Crystal and hoes and his new platinum diamond encrusted ride. Just don’t let the middle 8 guest appearance detract from the whole.

  135. Gozomoto says:

    Saw the “David Bowie is” exhibit in Groningen, NL today. In the videos section they had a wall of 9 (3×3) screens showing Blackstar with good sound. It was delightful to see it had been incorporated into what is a fascinating and comprehensive show chronicling his life’s work. Four hours and I didn’t see/hear/read it all, but I was smart enough to buy tix for two days, so back I go tomorrow!

  136. Michael says:

    Looks like the vinyl is out and about, in one location anyway.

    Sorry Chris, I hope I post this link ok:

    Apparently the poster leaked then retracted the album, thank god.

    • rkipp683 says:

      The leak is out there, for better or for worse. I’m spinning it at work this morning and I’m very impressed, and found myself incredibly moved by the closing track “I Can’t Give Everything Away.” I look forward to hearing other opinions in the next few weeks, including Chris’s! Happy New Year to all.

      • Michael says:

        I’ve resisted the very small temptation. I wanted to wait.

        Must admit I did check my local record store (in the UK) in hope today, but alas!

        Likewise, very much looking forward to the reactions here, sure to be an enlightening read.

      • col1234 says:

        the vinyl rip is apparently a bit wonky—much of one stereo channel is missing, so be advised you’re not hearing the “full” experience. I’m trying to hold off but it’s very tempting.

      • steven says:

        those pictures make the vinyl look v nice

      • Michael says:

        Stay strong!

        Apparently some tracks are floating around YouTube as well, but slightly sped up according to one commenter on BWW.

        Definitely going to wait for the release proper.

      • Vinnie says:

        *avoid* *avoid* *avoid*

        gotta wait until 2016 proper to get that full album. It helps I’m terribly busy, but it’s tempting to have guest over tonight and throw on the new album for NYE and say, “Happy 2016, everyone, it’s David Bowie!”

    • James LaBove says:

      It’s been my habit to check the usual places once or twice a week to see if a leaked copy was to be found; imagine my surprise when I found it yesterday! Happy new year indeed. I tried to resist; made it all of 15 seconds before I started the download. First album I’ve acquired through those means in years; I know it’s wrong, but for what it’s worth I have the vinyl LP on pre-order and I’ll switch over to my usual Spotify when that’s possible.

      The album is just wonderful. I won’t post any “spoilers” for the sound of the songs that haven’t been released, but it really confirms my anticipation. Time will tell, but I really do think it’s a late-career highlight. It did feel a bit unfair that a good chunk of the songs weren’t completely new (which made the listening experience not as mind-blowing as it could have been with fresh ears), but that’s not a knock against the songs individually, or within the context of the album.

      The only song that I don’t think works quite the way Bowie/Visconti intended is Girl Loves Me. The vocal phrases are interesting and there’s some great individual elements throughout, but it just doesn’t “move” compellingly to me. Then again, I’ve only had the album for a day- opinions on everything may shift throughout.

      I Can’t Give Everything Away is gorgeous. Sounds like some of the softer moments of Outside, Heathen, and Heroes. Dollar Days has my favorite Bowie vocal on the record. The new versions of Tis a Pity and Sue somehow improve over the considerable originals, or at least the new versions sound more “of a kind” with the album.

      I want to write so much more, but I don’t want to… wait for it… give everything away. Bazinga! It’s great, trust me.

      • steven says:

        Funnily enough, after the title track GLM is a clear favourite. The yelping vocal reminds me a hell of a lot of David Byrne’s 90s solo work, this most of all.

        I think the new Tis Pity is a clear improvement. Sue sounds of a piece with the album but doesn’t quite gel in the same way – i think the grandeur of the original carried the ridiculous lyrics with it in a great way. The Bowie of new Sue sounds adrift on a more conventional rock bedding, to my ears.

        It’s a great album though. Pitched mid-way between Station to Station and Outside (well, the Outside of Strangers When We Meet and Oxford Town at least)

  137. Phil Obbard says:

    Pet peeve: Just about every pre-release review of the “Blackstar” LP starts by slagging “The Next Day”. Honestly…

  138. col1234 says:

    I will do another open thread on the album this Friday, so you might want to hold off on thoughts til then.

  139. Anvil Stereo says:

    Hey what happened to the song titled “Somewhere”? I guess it didn’t make the cut, eh? If that’s the case I’ll be really disappointed if I never get to hear this song as my favorite band is Boards of Canada and this song was supposed to be inspired by their song “Alpha and Omega”. I love Bowie and I love Boards of Canada, this was a dream come true. I really want to hear this song.

    • Vinnie says:

      Wait until the Christmas 2016 / early 2017 Deluxe Edition. Remastered with bonus tracks. The latest producers providing a remix. Maybe a b-side or 4. A video in Quicktime format with special play instructions for Windows 95 / Mac OS 9.

  140. Sparkeyes says:

    I’m confused – there’s a British band called Lazarus Blackstar. They have a song called I Bleed Black and it’s YouTube video shows apparent stock footage of so-called ‘hebephrenics’, twitching alot and, mostly, wearing the kind of blindfold Bowie wears in the Blackstar video. I’ve seen no reference to any of this around Bowie’s new releases and videos… anyone know what gives?

    • col1234 says:

      this is a fantastic find. could Bowie’s idle Googling been an inspiration for some of his new images/titles?

    • Gozomoto says:

      Whoa! I can’t actually listen to the song (it makes my ears bleed black), but fascinating that it may have lead DB to this concept. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has linked extreme doctrine (and especially leaders of certain groups; heaven’s gate comes to mind) to disorganized schizophrenia.

    • Anonymous says:

      I think you’re dead on. You can tie in the space references, plus the preacher references by checking out Philip k. dick’s “Clans of the Alphane Moon”. groups were separated in to Clans according to their mental disorder. several of the heebs (hebephrenics) travelled town to town spreading their word.

  141. Sparkeyes says:

    Well, quite. It leaves me a little non-plussed. Not sure how to react. I feel like I just discovered there was an obscure band from the late 60s called Aladdin Zane with a penchant for lightning bolt face-paint.
    I guess this kind of thing will occur more often in this age of the all-night, labyrinthine web-surf. As Sir Paul might say of ‘Yesterday’ – did I write that or did I hear it on YouTube?

  142. Anonymous says:

    Think we know what’s it’s about now..

  143. In the villa of Ormen In the villa of Ormen, in the villa of Ormen
    Stands a solitary candle, ah-ah, ah-ah http://thevillaoformen.tumblr.com/post/133653260979

    • Sparkeyes says:

      Astonishing. Are those images pre-Blackstar? I see no dates. There’s the candle, the eclipsed star, the twitching women, even the figure in the wardrobe from ‘Lazarus’. And of course the site’s title. Beautiful images. Thanks for the link.

      • Patrick says:

        No, each tumblr post has a posted date, the earliest post there was November 20th 2015. The day the blackstar single was released,

  144. Sparkeyes says:

    In that case, I think it’s a beautiful tribute.

  145. You people are so naive! Grasping at snakes or straws! First, it’s the Villa of Ormond, a luxurious mature living community located on North Nova Road in beautiful Ormond Beach, FL. Just ten miles north of Daytona, two miles from Bridgewater Nursing Home an a mere half-mile from the Coquina Arts Center, the Villa of Ormond is truly in the Center of Everything!

  146. Anonymous says:

    Can anyone answer this question: Has David Bowie ever made reference to the name “Sue” prior to the release of Blackstar? and if so, could you please let me know the particulars? I have a theory, but I need proof. Email me your responses at bpalmer@wjettv.com

  147. mephistopheles says:

    i still can’t believe he didn’t slip in the line,

    -i’m a blackstar (not a fraud-ster)

    he promised he would ….

  148. Therion says:

    ‘The ‘Villa of Ormen’ is basically the new ‘Priory of Sion’ innit!😉

  149. Sparkeyes says:

    Really not being facetious here, but I can’t help listening to the opening verses of Blackstar and hearing Please, Mr. Gravedigger.
    Is it just me or is there some musical equivalence there?

  150. leonoutside says:

    There’s a Ormond Castle in Ireland of course. “Centre of it All”, here and On “Slow Burn” too. And videos for both tracks feature a lifeless space suit.

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