The world lost a lot of great people this year. From beginning to end, 2016 claimed the lives of nearly everyone's hero - just this week we lost the legendary George Michael and the mother-daughter duo of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. In a year plagued with such loss, it's almost relieving to finally be done with it.
The year's start brought what was perhaps one of the most jarring. The beginning of the year saw the death of the legendary David Bowie, just two days after his 69th birthday and the release of what would become his final album Blackstar. His career spanned nearly five decades, touching and inspiring entire generations of artists to come. None have matched the artistry he showed and the talent he exhibited.
His first, eponymous debut was rooted in classic rock tones, but Space Oddity is the record that really set the course for his career. His sophomore record's psychedelic and cinematic soundscapes escaped his debut's avant-garde tones and launched him in a folk odyssey. The album begins with the title track 'Space Oddity,' arguably one of Bowie's most acclaimed tracks. The haunting intro introduces the iconic Major Tom, who would later become the subject of more songs, in a somber, longing tone with a spacey vibe. The song bursts into a pop rock anthem, the glitz and glam of Major Tom's life coming to fruition amongst a feeling of being lost. A song about space travel doubles as a song about the lonely life of a famous man.
The album was initially a flop, however, as none of the tracks following 'Space Oddity' sounded anything like it. That song reached the Number 5 spot on the U.K. charts, but nothing else on the record really lived up to its sound. Despite this, the rest of the album still has a unique vibe to it. 'Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed' follows 'Space Oddity' with a more aggressive drive to it, embodying a rockier vibe. The spacious acoustic guitars return on this track, but the track definitely sets the momentum at a more forward moving pace. 'Cygnet Committee' is similar, the powerful and progressive vibes backing the song's message of being used. In a similar sense to the forward moving momentum of the album, it also exhibits a forward-thinking perspective.
Space Oddity comes with an element of heartbreak to it. A few tracks talk about Bowie's split with his ex-girlfriend Hermoine Farthingale. It was a short relationship, albeit a passionate one. The song 'Letter To Hermoine' channels some tragic thoughts: the lyrics are what Bowie wish he said to Farthingale in a letter following their split. The track has a vaguely optimistic vibe, but the lyrics do tell a heartbreaking tale: "He makes you laugh / He brings you out in style / He treats you well / And makes you up real fine / And when he's strong / He's strong for you / And when you kiss / It's something new / But did you ever call my name / Just by mistake?" 'Janine' is another song about love, but this has a sillier, more fun vibe to it. It's almost like a fake country rock track.
You can't have David Bowie without some mystery. Several tracks have a very cinematic and folky vibe to them, like 'Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud.' This track sounds like a classic Disney film put to art pop. A very beautiful, calm landscape surrounded by mountains and cascading rivers is built by the calming orchestras and story-like melodies. The album is concluded with 'Memory Of A Free Festival,' a somber track about the passing of his father slowly evolving from a requiem into a prayer. The song ends with the optimistic melodies of "The sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party." Every element slowly builds up, from a choir to a full band jamming in the background as if this album is slowly flying away into a Louisiana sunset.
David Bowie was certainly a pop phenomenon, but Space Oddity is the album that set the course for his legendary career. The art pop textures combine with his folky roots, and his heart and soul are channeled to some of his earliest tracks. David Bowie was perhaps one of the most prolific legends we lost this year, but like with all of the other legends we lost this year, his legacy will live on forever.
Favorite Tracks: Space Oddity, Memory Of A Free Festival, Letter To Hermoine
Least Favorite Track: Don't Sit Down
Rating: 87 / 100
Buy or listen to Space Oddity from Amazon: