If you listen to the end of "Space Oddity", you'll hear a lot of dissonant noises increasing in pitch. If you take the song by its literal meaning, it could easily represent Major Tom's brain going into its death throes from anoxia. And that's just one possible interpretation; we never find out what happened to the guy.
When Mission Control is calling out desperately to Major Tom, completely unable to do a thing about it.
Bowie's flip-flopped on what the plot of Ziggy Stardust specifically was over the years, but here's a particularly apocalyptic version mentioned (according to Wikipedia) in an interview Bowie conducted with William S. Burroughs:
The time is five years to go before the end of the earth. It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything. Ziggy was in a rock-and-roll band and the kids no longer want rock-and-roll. There's no electricity to play it. Ziggy's adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, 'cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this and there is terrible news. "All the Young Dudes" is a song about this news. It's no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite... The end comes when the infinites arrive. They really are a black hole, but I've made them people because it would be very hard to explain a black hole on stage... Ziggy is advised in a dream by the infinites to write the coming of a Starman, so he writes "Starman," which is the first news of hope that the people have heard. So they latch onto it immediately... The starmen that he is talking about are called the infinites, and they are black-hole jumpers. Ziggy has been talking about this amazing spaceman who will be coming down to save the earth. They arrive somewhere in Greenwich Village. They don't have a care in the world and are of no possible use to us. They just happened to stumble into our universe by black hole jumping. Their whole life is travelling from universe to universe. In the stage show, one of them resembles Brando, another one is a Black New Yorker. I even have one called Queenie, the Infinite Fox... Now Ziggy starts to believe in all this himself and thinks himself a prophet of the future starmen. He takes himself up to the incredible spiritual heights and is kept alive by his disciples. When the infinites arrive, they take bits of Ziggy to make them real because in their original state they are anti-matter and cannot exist in our world. And they tear him to pieces on stage during the song "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide." As soon as Ziggy dies on stage the infinites take his elements and make themselves visible.
Most of the other interpretations aren't exactly a bundle of laughs either, mostly based on the lyrics of "Rock and Roll Suicide" or "Ziggy Stardust" — possibilities range from Ziggy being swarmed by his adoring fans, being swarmed by an angry mob, being murdered by his jealous band mates, dying in the apocalypse described in "Five Years," ending up a washed-up, no talent alcoholic or getting run over by a car.
As per usual (and suiting a character who's basically an American Expy of Ziggy Stardust), there are hints at Armageddon: References to "fallout saturation" in "Drive-in Saturday," which might be about sterility / lovelessness in a dystopian future (not that they're necessarily linked IRL, mind you) — and was also a smash hit in the U.K., the distinctly Charles Manson esque vibe to "Watch That Man" and, of course, the aggressive, bitter, cocaine fueled boasting of "Cracked Actor," probably about a washed-up has-been using his remaining money to buy a blowjob, made even creepier by the live performances, which had Bowie perched on a stool singing to a skull held in his other hand — he'd generally end the performance by, well, tonguing it with a bit more vigour than probably necessary. If anyone wants to see that horror show, by the way, it's on YouTube. The way it's staged also amps up the weird factor — it's arranged cleverly to make Bowie look more like a popular actor with delusions of grandeur cracking up from stress, to the point where it's hard to tell if he's accusing the crowd ("The best they ever... I sold you illusions for a sackful of cheques / You made a bad connection 'cause you just want my sex") or still locked in his own world.
"Diamond Dogs." Think about it. For one, the description itself, (Hunt you to the ground, they will / mannequins with kill appeal). And then you have, after the introduction of The Halloween Jack, (Meet his little hussy with his ghost-town approach / her face is sans features, but she wears a Dali brooch / sweetly reminiscent, something mother used to bake / wrecked up and paralyzed / diamond dogs are sableized). The diamond dogs know all about you, and are luring you out with (what, by description, seems to be) a dummy reminiscent of one's mother, complete with a familiar scent. Finally, (Just another future song / lonely little kitch / There's gonna be sorrow / try and wake up tomorrow). You have no chance of surviving, they WILL get you.
Things get worse the longer you listen to the album: It makes sense, since some of the songs were written for a never made Nineteen Eighty-Four adaptation nixed due to rights issues, but that doesn't make songs like "Dodo / 1984," "We Are the Dead," or "Sweet Thing" any less creepy. The first song, "Future Legend" deserves a mention just for its first line:
"And in the death, as the last few corpses lay rotting on the slimy thoroughfare."
The entire character of the Thin White Duke is disturbing, especially when watching live videos of him. There's a lot of times where he'll be singing and the camera will turn to his face, and he'll look completely emotionless. Like, dead behind the eyes Empty Shell level of emotionless. Brrr... No wonder Bowie gave up on characters after that guy. It would be Nightmare Fuel even without the whole Fascism thing.
"Ashes to Ashes" is already a bit eerie, beginning abruptly with that weird twanging rhythm and continuing with whispers and wails in the background, but the video veers even more sharply into Surreal Horror.
The Limited Lyrics for "Pallas Athena" are the preacher-like "God is on top of it, that's all", followed by a mass chanting of "We are, we are, we are, we are praying". The two lines are combined and repeated in such a manner that the song starts to sound more and more cult-like as it progresses towards the end.
"Wishful Beginnings," which is implied to be about the ritual sacrifice murder of Baby Grace is arguably his creepiest song. It is nothing but Bowie and a tambourine loop, kick drum, and synthesizer. This is topped off by a recurring emotionless Evil Laugh:
"I'm Afraid of Americans" comes off as a sort of hooky, angry song until the end. Then, it seems paranoid at the realization that "God is an American," and he keeps repeating himself over and over, almost in disbelief. It's subtle, but it's there.
The "Something in the Air" opening line: "Your coat and hat are gone" sounds quite mundane. But Bowie manages to distort his vocals to sound like the decidedly more chilling: "You're cold andhad a gun" instead...
"Valentine's Day" is a cheery 60s-style song about a school shooting, with the music video showing Bowie making subtle references to gun violence, such as the way he handles his guitar to the almost demonic facial expressions he makes. The first chorus makes the shooting quite clear, with the students "Teddy and Judy" gunned down.
"★"'s music video has its fair share of this, but the most prominent scene is when an alien girl finds an astronaut suit which contains a bejeweledskull.◊ Commence Wild Mass Guessing over whether or not it is a continuation of the Major Tom Saga.
The video itself is just so surreal and the song doesn't help the unnerving feel. Bowie having his eyes covered with a cloth adored with tiny buttons, twitching sporadically, other people dancing as sporadic as Bowie is. The distorted intro vocals and the chanting of "I'm a Blackstar!" don't help either.
His death makes certain lyrics in his latest album, ★ (especially in the title track), haunting due to the factor that his cancer had been diagnosed 18 months before the album's release.
The fact that the song "Lazarus" is essentially Bowie singing a self-eulogy doesn't help.
The video for "Lazarus," with Bowie singing from a hospital bed, is starting to take on an eerie resonance in the wake of his death.