Music/DavidBowie's career has been so expansive and varied that debate is inevitable, and here are the subjective tropes to prove it.
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* ArchivePanic: Bad enough he's recorded so many albums and guest spots, and made so many music videos and concert films...but there's a whole ''filmography'' to explore too.
* AwardSnub
** Only one competitive Grammy win (1985) and a Lifetime Achievement Award (2006) that wasn't televised, since a lot of those are given out each year. The snubbing is partially due to his not actually being nominated for his music until 1984 (his first Grammy nomination was for Best Children's Album in 1979, for his ''Peter and the Wolf'' narration), and "Let's Dance" had the bad luck of competing against Music/MichaelJackson's [[Music/{{Thriller}} "Thriller"]].
** On the other side of the coin, Jackson fans tend to be appalled to learn that Bowie was the winner of the Best Male Video Award at the inaugral MTV Video Music Awards in 1984, because "China Girl" went up against "Music/{{Thriller}}". ("Thriller" took home 3 other awards, bear in mind.) Maybe the fact that the lifetime achievement award, the Video Vanguard, has been named after Jackson since 1991 assuages their anger, given that Bowie won it long before Jackson did.
* BreakawayPopHit: "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", partially because he included a rearranged version of the song on ''Let's Dance''. Now it's better-known for its appearance in ''Film/InglouriousBasterds'' rather than the film for which it was written.
* BrokenBase: Inevitable due to all his style and image makeovers, though the biggest split came when the mainstream-oriented ''Let's Dance'' arrived.
* CoveredUp: Bowie co-wrote "China Girl" with [[Music/TheStooges Iggy Pop]] for the latter's 1977 album ''The Idiot'', but it's Bowie's cover of the song on 1983's ''Let's Dance'' that is better known. On the other side of the coin, he had to put up with unaware listeners of TheNineties who thought he was covering a Music/{{Nirvana}} song with "Music/TheManWhoSoldTheWorld" (which must have been particularly confounding since Kurt even says "That was a David Bowie song" at the end of Nirvana's version) and the same treatment from fans of Music/TheWallflowers regarding ""Heroes"".
* DeathOfTheAuthor: Bowie has been [[Quotes/DeathOfTheAuthor quoted]] as saying that art is for the use of the public and the interpretation of the listener is more important than the intention of the artist.
* DorkAge[=/=]FanonDiscontinuity: Three major periods are commonly singled out by fans and even the man himself.
** Pre-''Space Oddity'' (1964-68) -- Covers all his early singles and first, self-titled album.
** Post-''Let's Dance'' (1984-1988) -- ''Tonight'' and ''Never Let Me Down'', which carried on the mainstream pop-rock approach of ''Let's Dance'', were not nearly as well-received (though the latter did receive some good reviews at the time while some of his classic albums had to be VindicatedByHistory), and the Glass Spider Tour supporting ''Never Let Me Down'' was much-criticized for its heavy {{Spectacle}}. Bowie has called this era his "Music/PhilCollins years", and regrets that he stuck with the style for so long, trying to follow what his new fans wanted rather than what made him happy. Older fans upset with Bowie going mainstream in the first place extend this age to include ''Let's Dance'' and the Serious Moonlight tour, in which case it lasted five years instead of four...even longer if they didn't like what followed.
** The Tin Machine era (1989-92) -- Bowie breaking out of his '80s rut via a HardRock group was ''initially'' welcomed but quickly met with more brickbats, never mind the fact that it set up his work in TheNineties. (From that decade onward, how dorky a given album is becomes a matter of personal taste.) This period also has a generally-acknowledged bright spot in the solo Sound+Vision tour. Speaking of tours...
** Dishonorable Mention: As it was made in the doldrums of his drug addiction and the TroubledProduction of the Diamond Dogs Tour, 1974's ''David Live'' is often said to be his worst album of all time, due to his strained voice.
* FaceOfTheBand: Bowie consciously tried to avert being Tin Machine's face -- always insisting that his other bandmates be interviewed alongside him, letting his drummer sing two tracks on the second album -- but failed. The trope page uses lyrics from "Ziggy Stardust" as its header quote: Ziggy was initially just a singer/guitarist in the Spiders from Mars, but he "became the special man" to the fans, much to the jealousy and resentment of the other Spiders.
* FamilyUnfriendlyAesop: "Black Tie White Noise" presents the Aesop "Racial harmony is possible, but not without great difficulty and violence along the way." (He wrote this in the wake of the 1992 Rodney King riots.)
* GrowingTheBeard: ''Hunky Dory'', his fourth album, is generally regarded as his first great one.
* HoYay: The "Dancing in the Street" video he and Mick Jagger did for Live Aid in 1985 is the most notorious example of this in the careers of both men, and has been the subject of much mockery as a result. Said mockery reached an apex in 2011 when ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' showed the entire video as an [[OverlyLongGag Overly Long Cutaway Gag]] in "Foreign Affairs", prefaced as "the gayest video of all time".
** He also played up his bisexual image onstage during the Ziggy Stardust years. He and guitarist Mick Ronson used to be the page image for FauxYay, after all.
* MainstreamObscurity: ''Low'' eternally dukes it out with his GlamRock hits ''Hunky Dory'' and ''Music/TheRiseAndFallOfZiggyStardustAndTheSpidersFromMars'' for the title of his MagnumOpus...but how many have actually listened to it and know that (among other things) four tracks are straight instrumentals?
* MemeticBadass
** ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'' portrays him as the shapeshifting overlord of the Guild of Calamitous Intent. ("The guy from ''Film/{{Labyrinth}}'' turned into a bird!") [[spoiler: In season 5 it's mentioned that he isn't the ''real'' David Bowie, just a guy who likes to pretend to be him.]]
** On ''WebVideo/NarutoTheAbridgedComedyFandubSpoofSeriesShow'', he's an indestructible ninja with a habit of breaking into song and insisting that he's not David Bowie.
** In ''Music/FlightOfTheConchords'' he is a sort of Gandalf-figure (portrayed, sadly, not by the man himself) who appears to Bret in three dreams, each time in the guise of a different character: [[spoiler: Ziggy Stardust, the Pierrot of "Ashes to Ashes", and Jareth]].
** One member of ''WebVideo/DoctorHorriblesSingAlongBlog'''s Evil League Of Evil is called Dead Bowie, but it's not clear whether he's meant to be the man himself or just a themed villain.
** ''TheSiflAndOllyShow'' claims the Great Pyramids of Egypt were built in anticipation of his arrival.
** Eric Idle's 1999 novel ''Literature/TheRoadToMars'' takes place in a future where a RidiculouslyHumanRobot of choice is the [=BowieBot=] android. Carlton, one of the 4.5 models -- looking like Bowie in his ''Let's Dance'' days -- serves as a secretary to the heroes (a comedy team) and has the book's primary subplot, in which it explores the concept/history of humor and whether an artificial intelligence can ever acquire a sense of it. (This book started as an unproduced screenplay; Idle is a friend of Bowie's and wrote the concept/part for him to play.)
* MemeticSexGod: "If you have seen ''Film/{{Labyrinth}}'', then you are not a virgin."
* MisaimedFandom: "All the Young Dudes", written for Music/MottTheHoople, was seen as a celebratory anthem for the glam rock movement. In fact [[WordofGod David Bowie has confirmed]] that it is precisely the opposite and the news carried by the young dudes is actually one of a future apocalypse.
** [[MadArtist Julian Priest]], the character portrayed by Bowie in the television series ''The Hunger'', has gained a large amount of...''affection'' from fans over the years.
* MisattributedSong: An unusual case. "All the Young Dudes" was first performed by Mott the Hoople, but the cumulative effect of Bowie writing, producing, and performing backing vocals and saxophone on it (he also recorded his own version and made it a concert setlist staple) means they aren't properly associated with it.
* NeverLiveItDown
** His GlamRock yielded a lot of great work and made his name, but its campiness and glitter can unfairly overshadow what he did later.
** The "Victoria Station incident" of '76, a case of NotWhatItLooksLike (see the main page) that was the low point of his Thin White Duke period -- though, as it's clear in hindsight that Bowie was ''really'' not in his right mind during that particular period and he eventually got better, he's managed to live this down to some extent.
** Those born after 1975 or so often first encounter Bowie via ''Film/{{Labyrinth}}'', and after that it can be hard not to think back to his ostentatious, very 1980s look and LargeHam performance when considering his other work. Luckily, it fits well into his overall career, since he's so often an ostentatious-looking LargeHam anyway. Still, it's also his best-known film role; the only one that compares to it, Thomas Jerome Newton, suffers for the fact that ''Film/TheManWhoFellToEarth'' is a MindScrew of a movie that doesn't get as much exposure on video (it's currently out of print in Region 1) or cable (due to its hard-R-rating content).
* NewbieBoom: After ''Let's Dance''.
* OneSceneWonder: To MemeticMutation. ''Website/TheOnion'' A.V. Club has [[http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-slinky-vagabond-15-notable-david-bowie-cameos,93482 an article on the subject]].
* RefugeInAudacity: David Bowie spent most of the 60s and early 70s attempting to achieve music stardom without much success. He then hit upon a solution - simply create a character called Ziggy Stardust who was ''already'' a mega-star and live that part. It worked.
* SugarWiki/RuleOfSeanConnery: Whether you use him a little or a lot, your project ''will'' be cooler for his presence.
* SignatureSong: As his first hit, "Space Oddity" is usually regarded as this, since the range of his career and resultant arguments over his best era make it hard to settle the question otherwise. However, "Life on Mars?" and ""Heroes"" have become competitors for the title in recent years. While relatively early in his canon, "Changes" kinda pokes fun at this, and (ironically) became another one of his signature tunes.
* SoBadItsGood: Some of his pre-1969 songs, especially the novelty tune "The Laughing Gnome", and his "Dancing in the Street" duet with Mick Jagger in 1985, mostly because of the goofy, HoYay-fueled video (another reason the mid-'80s are often called Bowie's big DorkAge).
* [[SugarWiki/SoCoolItsAwesome So Cool It's Awesome]]: In particular, ''The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars'' is often considered one of the best albums of all time.
* {{Tearjerker}}: See the [[TearJerker/DavidBowie tearjerker page for this artist]]. Beyond songs, ''Film/TheManWhoFellToEarth'' can also qualify as this; while Thomas Jerome Newton is a TragicHero with the flaw of naivete rather than TheWoobie, by movie's end he ''definitely'' could use a hug...
* TheyChangedItNowItSucks: Due to his frequent reinventions, Bowie has faced this constantly -- "I preferred him as singer-songwriter, space alien, blue-eyed soul singer, Music/{{Kraftwerk}}-esque krautrocker, etc." But it was '''especially''' bad after ''Let's Dance'', partially because it overlapped with ItsPopularNowItSucks.
* ToughActToFollow: ''Website/{{Cracked}}'''s "[[http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-works-art-so-good-they-ruined-their-whole-genre/ 5 Works of Art So Good, They Ruined Their Whole Genre]]" calls ''The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust'' a tough act to follow in glam rock.
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible, TrueArtIsAngsty, and MindScrew: The premise of the ''1.Outside'' narrative.
* VindicatedByHistory: ''Hunky Dory'' didn't get much attention until after the success of ''Ziggy Stardust'', but once it did...well, two of the tunes that are SignatureSong candidates ("Changes" and "Life on Mars?") are from it. This also applies to the Berlin Trilogy, which underperformed on the charts compared to his previous albums (especially outside of the U.K.) -- in fact, ""Heroes"", now another SignatureSong candidate, did not make waves as a single when it was new.
* WhatDoYouMeanItWasntMadeOnDrugs: Averted with ''Station to Station''. And this was right after he was in [[Film/TheManWhoFellToEarth a movie]] that also begs this question, but the filmmakers themselves weren't on drugs.
* TheWoobie: As Bowie has a good deal of sympathy/empathy for the plight of the "freaky" folk of the world, tales of misunderstood, suffering souls turn up occasionally in his work.
** The old veteran in "Little Bombardier" (from his debut album). After years of loneliness and depression, things seem to turn around for him when he strikes up an IntergenerationalFriendship with some schoolchildren -- and then the police, who suspect he means ill, nip that in the bud.
** The "missionary mystic of peace/love" known as the "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud" (''Space Oddity''). Sentenced to hang by frightened villagers, willing to accept his fate, and only lives because of an avalanche from the titular mountain that destroys the village -- despite his pleas for it to stop, leaving him brokenhearted.
** The title character in the play ''The Elephant Man'' is an unabashed, RealLife-inspired woobie, and Bowie essayed the role on Broadway to much acclaim in 1980. (As per the play's instructions, he used body movement and voice inflection to suggest his deformity.)
** The protagonist of "Jump They Say" (''Black Tie White Noise'') is a little...different from others mentally, and is DrivenToSuicide by -- depending on interpretation -- voices in his head or society as a result. It's even worse in the video, where Bowie plays the poor soul as a businessman taken captive by his heartless peers and subjected to electroshock therapy, paving the way for his fateful jump. (To twist the knife in further, it's after his jump that the viewer sees a wedding band on his finger...) Also has a sad RealitySubtext, in that the song's [[http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jump_They_Say inspired by]] the demise of Bowie's schizophrenic half-brother Terry.
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