★ (pronounced Blackstar) is the twenty-sixth and final studio album by David Bowie. It was released January 8th, 2016 (Bowie's 69th birthday), two days before his passing. The album reflects a somewhat new sound for Bowie, being influenced by avant-garde jazz, Progressive Rock, experimental hip-hop acts such as Death Grips and Kendrick Lamar, and electronic acts such as Boards of Canada. Already strongly received upon its release, the album became even more rapturously received after the singer's death, which made evident additional layers of meaning. The record has also been quite commercially successful, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in its first week of release. It débuted at #1 in a large number of countries throughout the world, becoming Bowie's first ever #1 album in the United States.
Not to be confused with the hip-hop duo consisting of Mos Def and Talib Kweli (the album's title is one word; the hip-hop duo's is two) or the fictional character Black★Star.
- "Blackstar" (9:57)
- "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" (4:52)
- "Lazarus" (6:22)
- "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" (4:40)
- "Girl Loves Me" (4:51)
- "Dollar Days" (4:44)
- "I Can't Give Everything Away" (5:47)
Seeing more but troping less; saying no but meaning yes; this is all I ever meant; that's the message that I sent:
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: What the subject of "Blackstar" goes through after his demise.
- A God Am I: The singer of Blackstar:
- Bittersweet Ending: "I Can't Give Everything Away" is this to the album as well as David Bowie's career as a whole.
- Blind Seer: Invoked by the button-eyed figure Bowie plays in the "Blackstar" and "Lazarus" videos.
- Call-Back: The harmonica on the closing track "I Can't Give Everything Away" plays the same tune as the harmonica on "A New Career in a New Town" from Bowie's 1977 album Low; fans have also cited similarities to "Never Let Me Down", "Soul Love", and "Thursday's Child". The music also becomes more reminiscent of Bowie's old styles towards the end of the album.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Girl Loves Me"."Where the fuck did Monday go?...
Who the fuck's gonna mess with me?"
- Concept Album: Most songs reflect the singer's illness and impending death.
- Dead Artists Are Better: It's possible to interpret "Lazarus" as Bowie being self-conscious about how audiences will look at his work differently after he's gone, with all the private torment and anguish that belonged to the artist and his work, becoming common property:"Look up here, Im in heaven
Ive got scars that cant be seen
Ive got drama, cant be stolen
Everybody knows me now"
- Death Song: Both "Blackstar" and "Lazarus" are speculated by many to be Bowie writing his own dirge. It was confirmed the album was a Grand Finale for Bowie and a parting gift to the world. "Dollar Days" and "I Can't Give Everything Away" also address the singer's impending death.
- Dying Moment of Awesome: Bowie recorded Blackstar while battling a terminal case of cancer, which took his life two days after this album's official release.
- Eldritch Abomination: That... THING at the end of the Blackstar music video.
- Epic Rocking: The title track is nearly ten minutes long, while "Lazarus" is 6 and 1/2.
- Face Death with Dignity: The album is essentially Bowie doing this, taking his impending death from cancer and turning it into a work of art.
- Fading into the Next Song/Siamese Twin Songs: The drum beat from "I Can't Give Everything Away" starts towards the end of "Dollar Days" before the latter song finishes fading away, in something of an example of a song transition that could be considered halfway between these two tropes.
- Grand Finale: For Bowie's life, as confirmed by the album's producer Tony Visconti. However, it was also revealed that after recording Blackstar, Bowie planned to make one more album, and demoed five tracks for it before his death. Bowie called Visconti a week before his death saying he wanted to make another album, which somehow makes the album's subject even harsher since it makes it plain that, despite Blackstar's peaceful ending, Bowie still wasn't ready to go.
- Literary Allusion Title: The title "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" is a reference to a 17th century drama by John Ford (not that one) entitled 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, which is infamous for its transgressive themes, including BrotherSister Incest.
- Loudness War: The album's mastering is arguably its only significant flaw; it comes out to DR5, making it probably Bowie's loudest album, and is badly clipped. Even the vinyl and iTunes editions are plagued by clipping.
- Love Martyr: "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" has one as its subject.
- Lucky Charms Title: The official title of the album is the black star symbol itself.
- Mind Screw: The song Blackstar which doesn't so much sound like the singer's having a mental breakdown as that he's already insane to begin with. Not to mention many of the lines in the song is full of bizarre symbolism.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Jazz fusion, progressive rock, krautrock, modern electronic music, hard rock, avant garde and Bowie's famed art rock and glam rock sounds thrown in a blender.
- Bowie also cited experimental hip hop artists like Death Grips and Kendrick Lamar as influences, and it shows in some of the beats.
- He also cited the Metallica and Lou Reed collaboration Lulu as an influence. They do happen to share similar lyrical themes, likely because both Reed and Bowie were at death's door.
- New Sound Album: Jazz fusion, with influence from Avant Garde Music, Hip-Hop, Krautrock, Progressive Rock, Electronic Music, and several other styles. Some of these were styles Bowie had explored before, but some were entirely new to his oeuvre.
- Shout-Out: "Girl Loves Me" features lines sung in "Nadsat", the language from A Clockwork Orange, one of Bowie's favorite novels. Some of the slang words used in the track are also adopted from The '70s gay subculture, while others are of Bowie's own invention.
- The title itself might also be one; there exists an obscure Elvis Presley song titled "Black Star", which features lyrics about how "Every man has a black star [...] over his shoulder / And when a man sees his black star / He knows his time has come". Given that the album was released on January 8th (the birthday of both Elvis and Bowie), a widely reported theory was that this Bowie album was named for the Elvis song.
- The reference to the chestnut tree in "Girl Loves Me" is very likely another of Bowie's Nineteen Eighty-Four references ("Under the spreading chestnut tree, I sold you and you sold me").
- Something Completely Different: Bowie wanted to create an album that was a departure from his previous release, The Next Day, leading to him ditching his band and instead hiring jazz musicians to play rock music.
- Sophisticated as Hell:
- "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" is partly written in Antiquated Linguistics befitting the title, but starts with the line "Man she punched me like a dude."
- Lazarus is a very bittersweet song and is written normally, until Bowie drops "I was looking for yo' ass" out of nowhere.
- Textless Album Cover: It features only the titular black star as well as star symbols that can be interpreted to spell out "Bowie", making this an odd Zig Zagged Trope. It's also one of few Bowie sleeves that doesn't have his Face on the Cover, and the only one to lack his likeness whatsoever (discounting the cover art◊ for the original 1970 US release of The Man Who Sold the World, though the art◊ for the 1971 UK release is considered the canonical one anyways).