You don't want to hear this album. Not today. My heart was breaking as I listened to it. Although it only has seven songs and only goes 41:13, more would have been too much.
You'll read reviews written before anyone knew he was dead. And you'll read ones like mine, with the news still fresh in their hearts. I can't escape that: there is no objective listening to this. Not anymore.
"Blackstar" is completely Bowie, and completely a hard message from a guy who knew he was dying and that this was his last message to us. This isn't just a collection of songs which turned out to be his last album. Listen straight through and listen to the lyrics. A confession, a futility, and a reckoning with who he knows he really was.
I feel like I’m hearing him give his own eulogy and confession. He starts off with "Blackstar," the title track, and gives us this refrain, “I’m a blackstar, I’m a blackstar” after he says all that he’s not is as haunting as it is telling.
In the middle, he is sorting out his life. I don't understand all of it, like "Girl Loves Me," requires decoding, at least for me.
I'm not clear what to make of "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore." Did he lose his virginity to a prostitute? Did he fall in love but she was incapable of loving a john?
Is "Sue," about the girl who got away that he's now telling her life for him is over?
With "Lazarus," it sounds like he was looking for redemption, or, if not (he wasn't known in any way religious), a rebirth physically, that his cancer might be cured. I'm speculating. However, he sounds extremely human and powerless.
In "Dollar Days," he comes right out and says he's dying, but who thought he meant exactly as he said the day the album was released?
The last of seven tracks, "I Can't Give Everything Away," also has its title as a refrain, and the last phrase of the album. If you love David Bowie, this is like the closing of a coffin. It is that hard, that beautiful, that permanent.