In an absolutely singular and stellar career, Bowie has really only misstepped when he tried to "give the people what they want." His 80's output is largely his weakest and most forgettable, created under the duress of labels eager to hear the chimes of cash registers. When left alone to be himself, however, masterworks are created. Such is the case with Blackstar. Coupled with 2013's The Next Day, it's an emphatic confirmation of a Bowie renaissance after a decade of no audio output and threats of retirement.
When word began to surface that Bowie was in the studio with some ace jazz musicians, some rightfully feared a tenured music hero taking the easy way out as he rode off into the sunset (Think McCartney's Kisses On The Bottom). But anyone who knows Bowie should have known better: this is dark, textured, and ridiculously complex music that will take repeated listens to fully (if ever) decode. And traditional though the jazz instruments may be, their employment here is progressive and wholly unexpected. The esoteric turns the band takes on the title standout title track, and my personal favorite "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore", not only emit dark comeliness, but keeps the listener engaged, searching for the next fork in the melodic road. On paper, the formula didn't look promising, but ultimately nothing in the record bins sounds like Blackstar, and how many 69 year-old legends can make any similar claim?