“Blackstar” by David Bowie (2016)

“Blackstar” is a breathtaking piece of work.

I generally hate long songs, but every one of the 598 seconds this song takes fascinates me. It’s pretty rare for ten minutes to go by in a song and feel like you want more of it.

A documentary about Bowie’s final years premiered this week. I haven’t watched it yet, but it must be a mindfuck to know that you are creating what will be your final work (as an aside, I spent most of the day yesterday listening to J. Dilla’s Donuts.) Even as someone who thinks about death as much as I do (it’s a lot; trust me), the idea of putting everything you have into one final work is something I can’t even process. Bowie did it, and he did it with courage and panache.

“Blackstar” (the title track) is probably-at least in part-about Bowie’s acknowledgment of his final days. It could’ve been written to close the Major Tom story. It could be a work of fantasy, or related to something else entirely. Could be about all of it and none of it. And while Bowie’s death months after the song’s release (and two days following its parent album’s debut) makes “Blackstar” eerier, the genius of it would still be apparent if the man who made it was still walking this Earth in physical form.

Interesting to note the connection between “Blackstar” and the song that preceded it on this list: Bowie was engrossed in To Pimp A Butterfly as he was recording the Blackstar album. I think this title track is where you hear the influence most clearly.

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