But it was also the year I truly discovered Bowie. His death, just days after the release of his final album, Blackstar, prompted me to dive into his catalog and buy more than a dozen of his most-revered albums. I chronicled the process here on the blog.
As I wrote in June while marching my way through half of Bowie’s catalog, Scary Monsters is widely considered the last great album he ever made. It capped off a remarkable run that spanned more than a dozen ground-breaking records in just over 10 years.
It’s hard to view Blackstar without the lens of Bowie’s death, especially when it seems he was very much aware that this would be his final artistic statement. Lyrics such as “Something happened on the day he died,” “look up here, I’m in heaven” and “I’m trying to, I’m dying to” are powerful and bittersweet because he recorded and released them so close to his death.
1983’s Let’s Dance was indeed crafted with a broader audience in mind. Bowie described it as “a refocusing of Young Americans” and the singles do share the catchy exuberance of that album’s title track.
David Bowie entered the 80s with the release of Scary Monsters, an album that brought the experimental rock of his Berlin phase into more commercial territory. It’s a far more accessible album but still an adventurous one.
It’s also, according to popular consensus, the last great album Bowie ever recorded. Just about every one of his future releases was compared unfavorably to this one, or more charitably called his best work since Scary Monsters.
Lodger gets away from the Brian Eno-influence instrumentals and instead offers up 10 tightly constructed avant-garde pop songs. Instrumentally dense but melodically clean, these tracks sound like they could play at an underground college bar on the moon.
We pick up the David Bowie retrospective in the middle of his Berlin phase, with the release of 1977’s “Heroes”. On this album, Bowie followed the same pattern he established on Low, placing a selection of electronic rock songs on Side A and ambient instrumentals on Side B.
I like “Heroes” better than its predecessor, in part because the balance is tilted a little more toward the songs than the instrumentals.