David Bowie - "Lazarus" (Singles Going Steady)

by PopMatters Staff

12 January 2016

David Bowie painted his last strokes with life and death, in such a way that wasn’t contrived or overbearing.
 

Dustin Ragucos: The philosophy of the afterlife is a domain drenched in debate. There are those that claim opinions through astral projection and there are those who have had temporary deaths. Yet a still living David Bowie had managed to conjure up the sound that is through the corridor to death’s door. With each string and brass, Bowie navigated a foggy path toward his next words. This song becomes the episode before the series finale; and the artist had painted his last strokes with life and death, in such a way that wasn’t contrived or overbearing. Rest in peace, David Bowie. [10/10].
  

Evan Sawdey: “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” “I’ve got nothing left to lose.” That latter statement, especially, is of note, because David Bowie, being David Bowie, could’ve retired some ten-odd years ago and still had his legacy secure as one of pop music’s greatest innovators. Instead, he keeps pressing forward, and while late-period Scott Walker references have dotted every single review of Blackstar, the truth is, late-period Scott Walker was never this accessible. The horns weep while keeping the beat, and even with his lyrics taking a bit of a vague/cliched route, Bowie sings it with conviction, luring in all the people that may have been warded off by the dystopian almost-song that was Blackstar‘s title track. [8/10]

Jedd Beaudoin: A really inventive turn from Bowie and the kind of record I wish he’d made much sooner, though he’s been flirting with this kind of stuff for a long, long time. It’s not something you really capture on first listen and I suspect I’ll embrace it more fully as time goes on, if that’s possible. I’m already pretty deeply enamored of this one. [9/10]

Steve Horowitz: Let’s skip the obvious and get to the point. Bowie’s the showman and the shaman. The music offers catharsis even as the video shows the pain. There is no life after death, but there is death after life. Lazarus knows what awaits him. Bowie eloquently mourns our fate. Like the evening of a beautiful day; this way or no way, we are all trapped by our mortality. [7/10]

Erin Stevenson: Of note is that albums take some time to be released after recording, especially for major labels. That Blackstar was released two days prior to Bowie’s untimely passing is likely coincidental, but remains quite a bittersweet epitaph. “Lazarus” is a poignant, timely choice of tune for comment. What was supposed to be a simple song commentary ended up an opportunity for so much more.

David Bowie was an acclaimed visionary who’s extensive catalog of music continues to influence multiple, diverse, full genres—from industrial to ambient, from modern pop to glam rock. Bowie was an expert at reinvention and reimagination, never becoming complacent, choosing to experiment with music and film until just before he left this mortal coil. With a lifetime of relevance and only a few minor slumps, Bowie’s career is truly rare indeed.

Truth be told, Bowie’s stature and influence within the music community were such that if he released an album featuring him banging two sticks together, a performance art critic would still praise it, citing nebulous theories like “the clash between life and death” or “the fight between good and evil”, perhaps weaving in his acting past. And they’d be right. That Blackstar, and “Lazarus” garnered such widespread praise is no surprise; instead, it is an uncommon, piquant show of unity and solidarity within the music community. A moving, beautiful endcap to a 50-year career, Blackstar (and “Lazarus”) is Bowie’s parting gift to his fans, and to the world.

As for the tune itself? It’s sophisticated, smooth, soft rock with a dissonant, reverb-soaked guitar counterpoint in the verses, and a jazz-infused, fluttering saxophone solo coda. Melodic, mature, and dynamic, it’s easy on the ears and soothing to saddened souls. “Lazarus” is a rare song that connects and speaks directly to his listeners on multiple levels. Bowie’s vocals sound great as always; a little gruff around the edges, still more then capable and adequate. The title refers to Biblical character Lazarus, a man resurrected four days after death by Jesus Christ. Allegorical, honest, personal lyrics are relatively simple, and don’t require a rocket science degree to interpret. The sudden, louder, raucous final note suggests “the end”. [10/10]

SCORE: 8.80

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