David Bowie has had a long career of space themed insanity and a knack for blending pop music and the avant-garde. With “Blackstar,” the title track of his upcoming record, he does both, taking us on what is possibly his craziest journey yet.
Opening softly with flutes and a gently plucked guitar, we’re introduced to an alien landscape and glitchy beats, mesmerizing saxophones and Bowie’s lush, mournful vocals, reminiscent of the darker moments in his Berlin era. We see a woman with a unibrow and a tail approach an abandoned astronaut before we see flashes of Bowie, bandages wrapped around his eyes, twitching madly as synths come in to punctuate the already propulsive beat. The woman opens the astronaut’s visor to reveal a skull adorned with gold and jewels. Strings and saxophones swell in experimental bliss as the skull is carried off for a ritual in an ancient city as synths like lasers shoot across the sonic landscape.
The music breaks down into frightening atonal ambience as Bowie lifts a black book to the sky, wild eyed like a raving preacher before breaking down to pray in an abandoned house. Strings bring us into a refreshing section of classic Bowie balladry until the pop beat transforms into a dark funk as his lyrics and dance moves get increasingly insane and sarcastic. He bounces between these two sections before writhing, crucified scarecrows bring us back to the hypnotic drone that started it all. It’s seductive and terrifying, disturbing and enthralling all at once.
Both the song and the video are just as, if not crazier than they seem. Thankfully, one of the great things about David Bowie is that, while he may take us on some strange journeys, he leads them fearlessly and we are almost always assured something that will demand our attention.
Blackstar, which will be Bowie’s 25th studio album (not counting Tin Machine and various other side projects) will be released January 8, 2016; check back then to see what we think!