There are so many things I love about David Bowie – his artistry, his brilliant lyrics (which often reference art, history, literature, and politics) and his musicianship. He is, simply put, a genius.
I was a casual fan until just almost three years ago, when I decided on a whim to listen to his albums instead of just his greatest hits collection. I quickly became obsessed – Aladdin Sane is the pretty much the soundtrack to my summer of 2009. It’s hard to choose a favorite album, but I would grudgingly say Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and Hunky Dory, maybe in that order.
If I listed all the Bowie songs that I love, then this post would have like forty songs. I tried to pick songs that were not his obvious hits (except “Ashes to Ashes,” only because I adore that song too much to leave off this list.)
1. We Are the Dead
This song was the turning point in my transition from casual to serious fan. The title references 1984, one of my favorite books. I’m not even going to tell you how much I often I played this song on repeat in one sitting.
This song is so hauntingly beautiful, especially the refrain, “Don’t believe in yourself/don’t deceive with belief/knowledge comes in death’s release.” This song is a perfect example of his erudite lyrics – I had to look up the meaning on Wikipedia because I could not decipher them myself. (According to Wikipedia, the lyrics are influenced by Buddhism, occultism, and Nietzsche. I think it’s basically about nihilism. I think.)
3. Candidate/Sweet Thing
If you are looking for a song that highlights David Bowie’s incredible range, these two songs are it. “Sweet Thing” starts off with his trademark growl, and by the end of “Sweet Thing Reprise,” his voice soars so high that you get chills.
4. Ashes to Ashes
This song will always remind me of the spring semester of my junior year in college (seven years ago now, WHAT?!) I used to listen to this song on my CD player (!) while walking to class. It was just a precursor to my later obsession. The line, “I’ve never done good things/I’ve never done bad things/I never did anything out of the blue” really resonated with me then.
5. Wild is the Wind
This is a Nina Simone cover. I decided not to post the official video of this song because it’s a radio edit, and I feel like I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t post his full song. It’s one of his most beautiful songs – so full of beauty and longing. His final note is just amazing.