For an artist who hasn’t given an interview for over a decade, David Bowie is certainly skilled at engineering his own hype in other ways. With over half a century in the industry and as a master of identity, it’s unsurprising that Bowie still manages to hold our attention – even when it isn’t him doing the talking.
Details of his next album, ★, have been drip fed over the last few months and seemingly creating an increasingly bewildering image. The overarching message appears to be that the intent was to create something entirely new and experimental, recapturing the avant garde nature of previous albums like his Berlin Trilogy – but without returning to that sound.
Unveiling the first track, and video, from the album last week, Blackstar is definitely something out of the ordinary. Still utterly recognisable as Bowie’s inimitable style, the track does hold a wealth of new elements. And following the release, Bowie’s team have dropped a string of hints as to where this new inspiration came from. Producer Tony Visconti previously commented that the team “were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar.” And now more surprising influences have been noted. An article featuring in Uncut magazine listed the industrial hip-hop outfit Death Grips, as well as Scottish electronic outfit Boards Of Canada.
At first glance – or more like double take – this list is starting to seem a little far fetched. It’s hard to reconcile Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke with the brash attitude of Death Grips, or the ambient explorations of Boards Of Canada. But what they do have in common is the fact that they have all explored outside of a genre, carving new sounds and styles. Visconti also commented on Lamar’s sound that “he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do.” Also let’s not forget that Bowie has proved himself time and again the king of reinvention, and also his unerring ability to stay relevant throughout changing times.