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Live for the moment, they say.
The logic behind this ever repeated piece of smart advice arises mainly from the fact that the past and the future only exist in our minds. The present, however, constitutes what we tend to call reality. Even though we are able to think beyond us, both forward and backwards in immense lengths of time, we remain instantaneous beings that are able to feel their very existence only when attention is paid to the current moment. But is every moment worth the perseverence? Strictly speaking, there are very few and if modern society has learned one thing, it is how to distract ourselves. It is often our senses that serve as a kind of crutch to help us back from the jungle of dreams, plans and memories into the world which we actually in- and exhale.
Compare it with traveling in a car, like a well-programmed machine – for several hours we automatically muse away and it is often a sunset, a melody or even a moment of imminent danger that draws the attention back to the present. Beauty and anxiety seem always here. Death and love always there.
★ blurs these imaginary boundaries, because it washes us away, drawing us into the ocean of a dying man.
The unusual journey begins with the almost ten-minute title track. Like a maelstrom „Blackstar“ sucks us into disorientation. It is dark. Paralyzed, you’re drifting along, you want to get back, but can’t move. You can feel that he is close, so close. But you can not see him, not touch him, not save him.
Then, halfway through the song, he suddenly grabs you by the feet and pulls you underwater. Breathless. Silence. A warming beam of light. There you are again! You feel calm, floating lightly through his waters and just when you think you are ready to drown, just when you feel so alive in dying, an impulse pushes you back to the surface to gasp for air. Only briefly. Track 2: Bowie is breathing loudly into the microphone. Inhaling twice. Very hastily. Another jerk into the void. My eyes burn. I tear off my headset. He has stopped breathing.
★ lives off those moments that combine the tragedy and beauty of living, loving and dying. You never know whether you are just mourning his death, his beauty, his art, or even your own mortality. You just feel very clearly that you are still here. This is his gift to us.
In the summer of 2014 David Bowie starts working on his 25th album. It will be the last and he knows it. Liver cancer. For the next 18 months he works meticulously on the staging of his departure. ★ will be an epitaph.
★ is the place to make pilgrimage to if you’re searching for his closeness, his spirit, once he is dead. This is where he wants people to find comfort because this is the place he himself turned to find closure – his art. Everything seems meticulously planned up to the time of his last breath. In early December his first musical „Lazarus“ (an adaptation of the film „The Man Who Fell to Earth“ (1976)) celebrates its premier in New York. David was able to personally attend it, but reportedly collapsed backstage after the show. On January 8th, his 69th birthday, the album was released. It was completed. Only two days later he ultimately let his art breathe and speak for him.
„Something happened on the day he died,
Spirit rose a meter and stepped aside
Somebody else took his place, and bravely cried
Im a black star. I’m a black star „.
★ is in every way an album of extremes. Born out of an apocalyptic mood somewhere between agony, pain and love for the craft, the pressure he must have put on himself to meet these very special expectations must have been immeasurable.
He selects Jazz as an instrumental leitmotif. No genre reflects the chaotic order of the human existence better than Jazz does – improvising individuality, complex, sometimes loud and hysterical, then again roaming timidly in the background.
Electronic beats accompany atmospheric and apocalyptic moments, Hip Hop elements spice up the last supper. Vocally – we listen to 69 years of David Bowie and kneel down.
7 Songs process the past, the present and the missing future in 41 minutes. „Blackstar“ and „Lazarus“ deal with the latter. Both songs are structured episodically and paint the way out of the darkness into a kind of bright nothingness with unimaginable intensity. „Tis a pity she is was a whore“ and „Sue (or in a season of Crime)“ were dug from the past, rigged with the saxophone and shoved back onto the stage. The former, with its innocent melodies, carries us past vulgar Old English lyrics. Sue is pure jazz-rock. Admittedly, he has frequently lost me here. A teaspoon of youth is the prize when „Girl Loves Me“ jumps into the box. „Dollar Days“ is an almost classical ballad spontaneously formed in the studio.
★ deliberately leaves much room for interpretation, which is of course now being used. There are countless articles written in an effort to crack the Blackstar Code. I don’t want to repeat anything. At all sensual levels, the album is flooded with complex symbolism, answering and posing questions at the same time. The mere quantity of interpretation variants of the black star or the question of the genre assignment will probably result in entire books. Chants on his beauty might fill whole libraries. An extraordinary life and a tragic death colour this particular Bowie-ocean, which cannot be traversed in one day. Finally everyone may decide for himself how deep he dares to dive. You might not find everything you are looking for. „I can’t give everything away“ is the revealing title of the last track and also his last words to us.
David Bowie leaves a musical, visual and emotional diary of self-monumentalisation. An epitaph that hit the top of the charts worldwide. How sad is that?
Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama/can’t be stolen/
Everybody knows me now/Look up here, man, I’m in danger/I’ve got nothing left to lose/I’m so high/it makes my brain whirl/Dropped my cell phone down below/
Ain’t that just like me?/By the time I got to New York/I was living like a king/
Then I used up all my money/I was looking for your ass
This way or no way /You know I’ll be free Just like that bluebird / Now, ain’t that just like me?Oh, I’ll be free Just like that bluebird./ Oh, I’ll be free/
Ain’t that just like me?
Berlin & Paris, 2002
1969 „…the stars look very different today“