I've never subscribed to the idea of anyone being exempt from criticism. However, if there was ever a candidate for this prestigious honour, I can’t think of any more obvious than David Bowie.
Boasting a career that spans decades and genres, as well as defining them, Bowie has remained as creative, culturally significant and subtly controversial as I feel it’s possible for a musician to be. Fortunately, whether or not he should be exempted from criticism isn't an argument that needs to be discussed in this review, as “Blackstar” is absolutely astounding in its ambition and solid in its tone.
Bathed in Eastern sun, drenched in occult symbolism and twitching in syncopated discomfort, “Blackstar” may be the only 10 minute song that isn't long enough. Bowie’s vocals are an unnaturally immaculate falsetto for a man of his age, and the harmonies only add to the nauseating sense of dread that accompanies the first several minutes of the track. Hunky Dory era Bowie suddenly appears from the sandstorm to give the listener a brief respite, before the harmonies signal another plunge into the murky desert.
The woodwind instruments play tormented, schizophrenic improvisations, along with the esoteric bleeping of some futuristic machine, probably the one that brought Bowie here from whatever desert planet inspired this absolutely glorious piece of Lovecraftian horror. I can’t recommend this song highly enough, download it for yourself.