over the years i have issued several celebrations of the genius of david bowie. 'corpse' is the latest of his protean shape-shifting personae (wait a second: maybe he did that one in '77?). the times obit says he 'transcended music, art, and fashion.' he certainly transcended music. you can see this because people really really love his music, in spite of how it sounds.
it's fine with me to have musical artists where the point is not the music, but then maybe you could skip the audio retrospective? in bowie's case i don't see how the point could possibly ever have had anything to do with the music, and i will say again that 'space oddity' is the worst pop song ever recorded, without a single redeeming feature, and that that basically sets the tone for the oeuvre. the music was an afterthought, or an accessory, or just some more make-up. the words were meaningless. the tunes were boring or derivative. the values were empty and destructive. the effect on rock music was baleful. but it somehow exuded cultural something-or-other, which was enough. so anyway, celebrate him as a liberatory cultural figure if you absolutely must, but leave it there.
i guess i do want to link up to lou reed. i must hate these people's music because of my homophobia! wait, were they gay, or were they just passing in the 70s as a fashion statement? no, i hate their music because it's tuneless, meaningless dreck that reduces music to a fashion accessory. or, as someone who was less interested than most in their eye shadow, i ended up having to focus on their melodies.
i heard a young woman on cnn with a bowie painted eye saying that he gave her the courage to be who she really was, because that's what he was all about. for real? then who was david bowie, really? i realize that people responded to his various genderings, but i would think of him more as a postmodern shape-shifter; the whole point of, say, bowie or warhol is that there is no authentic person underneath, just a series of manufactured images. i think madonna, for example, did this better, even if she herself would give it up for bowie here. i think her music was a lot more fun: better hooks, better beat; i think there were always interesting gender and religious interventions, whereas i thought that bowie's forays were, even in that comparison, superficial. they were both really helped by being beautiful modely-type people, though, and really the spectacle always swamped the music.
or, maybe i'm just bitter because straight women have been subjecting me to this stuff, groaning ecstatically, since 1972, while i tried to sidle inconspicuously out the door or begged for absolute silence, pleading headache. that is the center of the audience, btw (straight, white, bourgeois females), so if you are judging the cultural meaning of these folks, you should take that into account. i love straight white bourgeois females: really; look at my track record. but they have the absolute worst taste in music of any demographic cohort that has ever existed in the history of the world, by a very long way. (haha! vengeance is mine!) let's say the response to bowie was erotic, not melodic. it's like fabian or something: no he can't sing. does that matter? or it's like marilyn monroe singing 'diamonds are a girl's best friend': oh the performance is transcendently excellent - just mesmerizing - if you're a person like me. now just imagine how excellent the music would be if marilyn started making out with jane russell right there! it gives me the courage to be myself!
anyway, ok ok he did have his moments. and if you give me no other choices, i'll put david on before lou. but, now, let me point out that the rise and fall of ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars was issued the same year as the ann peebles song in this cluster. now, considered just as a piece of popular music - really, seriously - which is better? like who's the better singer, for example? who has the better production, band, arrangements, songs? if you have any hesitation about that, you might want to keep your tastes private; i've got no problem with what you listen to in the privacy of your own home - if you really do put that stuff on voluntarily, which i'm finding a little difficult to imagine - but you might consider the damage to your credibility were such a thing to become public. well, in 1972 ( i was 14) we faced an actual choice about which records to buy. even then, some mistakes struck as me as hard to make.
looking at bowie's outfits, fright wigs, makeup, etc: surely you can't think they've aged very well? but man they looked exactly that ridiculous then. and if you thought that this was the direction that rock music should take at that moment - if you wanted this kind of rococo pseudo-opera to be what was coming out of the radio, you were on the wrong side. he was trying to end, kill rock 'n roll entirely. you know, he's connected to jagger on one end and punk on the other, but when you get right down to it, his aesthetic is the opposite of the rolling stones' or the ramones'. you'd be so much better with alice cooper, say: why wasn't he a profound gender-bending innovator, man of many personae, etc? well, he wasn't pretty, and he used horror films rather than sci-fi, but he not only wore eyeshadow; he fucking rocked, while bowie noodled about with his space-alien bullshit.
retroactively, people seem to think of bowie as a unique figure. but everyone was doing gender and personae in the '70s. oh, we might ponder the village people: that was pretty hilarious and profound work on gender with its parodies of hetmale personae, and they had much better songs than bowie. or i think besides alice, you'd have done better to appoint bryan ferry, or sylvester, for example; i think the music and the costumes were better in all these cases.