Blackstar (song)

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David Bowie - Blackstar song cover art.png
Single by David Bowie
from the album Blackstar
Released19 November 2015
StudioThe Magic Shop and Human Worldwide (New York City)
  • 9:57 (album version)
  • 3:22 (edit)
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Blackstar track listing
Music video
"Blackstar" on YouTube

"Blackstar" (stylised as "")[1] is a song by English rock musician David Bowie. It was released as the lead single from his twenty-fifth and final studio album of the same name on 19 November 2015. "Blackstar" peaked at number 61 on the UK Singles Chart, number 70 on the French Singles Chart and number 78 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Blackstar" received both the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song and the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance at the 59th Grammy Awards.[2] At 9:57, it was the longest song to enter the Billboard Hot 100 charts until Tool broke the record in 2019 with "Fear Inoculum".[3][4] Bowie still holds the record for the top 80 positions.

Production and composition[edit]

"Blackstar" is an art rock[5] and jazztronica[6] song. Also described as an "avant jazz sci-fi torch song," it features a "drum and bass rhythm, [a] two-note tonal melody with hints of Gregorian chant, [and] shifting time signatures."[7] In the bluesy slow middle section, the song shifts from an acid house-ish groove to a languid, R&B-flavored interlude.[8]

The song was originally over eleven minutes long, but after learning that iTunes would not post singles over ten minutes in length, Bowie and Visconti edited it down to 9:57, making it Bowie's second-longest track behind "Station to Station". Bowie did not want to confuse listeners by releasing different single and album versions.[9]


"Blackstar" was released on 19 November 2015, as a digital download[10] and in 2017 as a 12" single in Japan only. In addition to its release on the album of the same name, the track was used as the opening music for the television series The Last Panthers.[11]

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Blackstar" is a surreal ten-minute short film directed by Johan Renck (the director of The Last Panthers, the show for which the song was composed). It depicts a woman with a tail, played by Elisa Lasowski,[12] discovering a dead astronaut and taking his jewel-encrusted skull to an ancient, otherworldly town. The astronaut's bones float toward a solar eclipse, while a circle of women perform a ritual with the skull in the town's centre.[13]

Bowie in the music video

The film was shot in September 2015 in a studio in Brooklyn.[14] The filmmaking process was highly collaborative, with Bowie making many suggestions and sending Renck sketches of ideas he wanted incorporated. While both men agreed to leave the video open to interpretation (Renck initially refused to confirm or deny that the astronaut in the video was Major Tom), Renck has offered several details regarding its meaning. Renck later said on a BBC documentary "to me, it was 100% Major Tom."[15] It was Bowie who requested that the woman have a tail, his only explanation being "it's kind of sexual". Renck has speculated that Bowie may have been contemplating his own mortality and relevance to history while developing the video, but said that the crucified scarecrows were not intended as a messianic symbol. Renck has also stated that Bowie portrays three distinct characters in the video: the introverted, tormented, blind "Button Eyes"; the "flamboyant trickster" in the song's middle section; and the "priest guy" holding the book embossed with the "★" symbol.[13] Saxophonist Donny McCaslin said that Bowie had told him the song was about ISIL, although an official spokesperson for Bowie denied that the song was inspired in any way by the Middle East situation.[16][17]

Similarities have been drawn between Bowie's song and Elvis Presley's song "Black Star" which contains the lyrics “When a man sees his black star, he knows his time … has come.”[18]

The repeated line "at the centre of it all" is also present in Aleister Crowley's The Book of Lies.[19]

The choreography, notably that of the three dancers featured in an attic sequence, was drawn from other media, including Max Fleischer's Popeye the Sailor cartoons. "[Bowie] sent me this old Popeye clip on YouTube and said, 'Look at these guys.' When a character is not active, when they’re inactive in these cartoons, they’re sort of created by these two or three frames that are loops so it looks like they’re just standing there, wobbling. It’s typical in those days of animation and stop-motion, you would do that to create life in something that was inactive. So we wanted to see if we could do something like this in the form of dance, we had to do that."[20] The female dancer in the attic sequence also performs a signature movement from the "Fashion" music video.

The official video for Blackstar won the Best Art Direction award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

Ryan Dombal of Pitchfork praised the song, labeling it as "Best New Track". Dombal also described the track as "wonderfully odd and expansive" and noted that it is "closer to the cocaine-fueled fantasias of 1976's Station to Station than almost anything he's [Bowie] done since".[5] Pitchfork Media named "Blackstar" the 11th best music video of 2015.[22] Simon Critchley commented on Bowie's connection to Elvis Presley, referring to the lyrics of Presley's song "Black Star" as a clue.[23][24] In the annual Village Voice's Pazz & Jop mass critics poll of the year's best in music in 2016, "Blackstar" was tied at number 9, with Rihanna's "Work".[25]

Track listing[edit]

Digital download
Japan 12" Single
Side one
Side two
1."Lazarus (Radio edit)"4:05
2."I Can't Give Everything Away (Radio edit)"4:25


Personnel adapted from Blackstar liner notes.[26]




Chart (2015–16) Peak
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[27] 69
Belgium (Ultratop Flanders)[27] 84
Belgium (Ultratop Wallonia)[28] 37
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[29] 53
France (SNEP)[30] 45
Germany (Official German Charts)[31] 97
Hungary (Single Top 40)[32] 16
Ireland (IRMA)[33] 62
Italy (FIMI)[34] 31
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[35] 55
Japan Hot Overseas (Billboard)[36] 8
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[27] 44
Portugal (AFP)[37] 5
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[38] 50
Switzerland (Swiss Hitparade)[27] 20
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[39] 61
US Billboard Hot 100[40] 78
US Hot Rock Songs (Billboard)[41] 13

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
United States[10] 19 November 2015 Digital download
Italy[42] Contemporary hit radio Columbia


  1. ^ ★ Blackstar – CD, David Bowie & Artist Arena, archived from the original on 28 February 2016, ★ (pronounced "Blackstar")
  2. ^ "Nominees And Winners –". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  3. ^ "The Longest & Shortest Hot 100 Hits: From Kendrick Lamar, Beyonce & David Bowie to Piko-Taro".
  4. ^ "Tool's New Single Makes Chart History; 'Ænima' Album Re-Enters Billboard 200 At No. 10". 12 August 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  5. ^ a b Dombal, Ryan (20 November 2015). "David Bowie - "Blackstar"". Pitchfork. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  6. ^ Young, Alex (19 November 2015). "David Bowie premieres new single "★" along with an epic short film — watch". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  7. ^ McCormick, Neil (20 November 2015). "David Bowie's new song, Blackstar, review: 'Major Tom is dead. Bowie lives'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  8. ^ Petridis, Alexis (20 November 2015). "David Bowie's Blackstar video: a gift of sound and vision or all-time low?". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  9. ^ Greene, Andy (23 November 2015). "The Inside Story of David Bowie's Stunning New Album, Blackstar". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  10. ^ a b "Blackstar" – via Amazon.
  11. ^ "David Bowie: 7 Things We Already Know About His 2016 Album 'Blackstar'". NME. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
  12. ^ Elisa Lasowski, queen of ‘Versailles,’ talks about history, television and fashion; Los Angeles Times; Marcie Medina; September 30, 2016
  13. ^ a b Joffe, Justin (19 November 2015). "BEHIND "BLACKSTAR": AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHAN RENCK, THE DIRECTOR OF DAVID BOWIE'S TEN-MINUTE SHORT FILM". Noisey. Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  14. ^ "David Bowie's last days: an 18-month burst of creativity". The Guardian. 15 January 2016. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  15. ^ Savage, Mark (10 January 2017). "David Bowie: Ten things we've learned since his death". BBC. Retrieved 10 January 2017. That cites an interview which was only available in the UK on the date of access. Whately, Francis, ed. (7 January 2017). "Bowie: The Last Five Years". BBC2. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
  16. ^ McGeorge, Alistair (25 November 2015). "David Bowie denies claims his new song Blackstar was 'inspired by ISIS'". Mirror. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  17. ^ Petridis, Alexis (18 December 2015). "David Bowie's Blackstar album: 'An unexpected left turn that deepens the mystery' – first-listen review". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Pegg, Nicholas (2 November 2016). The Complete David Bowie: New Edition: Expanded and Updated. ISBN 9781785655333.
  20. ^ Lau, Melody (23 November 2015). "Johan Renck, director of David Bowie's 'Blackstar' video, calls collaborative process 'a dream'". CBC Music.
  21. ^ French, Megan (26 July 2016). "David Bowie Receives Four Posthumous 2016 VMA Nominations". US Weekly. Retrieved 26 July 2016.
  22. ^ "Best Music Videos of 2015". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 14 January 2016.
  23. ^ Coscarelli, Joe (14 January 2016). "'Black Star': David Bowie's Connection to Elvis Presley". The New York Times.
  24. ^ Ratliff, Ben (13 January 2016). "Popcast: Love, Death and David Bowie". The New York Times. When a man sees his black star/he knows his time, his time has come.
  25. ^ "PAZZ+JOP 2016". Village Voice. 25 January 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Blackstar" single liner notes.
  27. ^ a b c d " – David Bowie – ★ [Blackstar]" (in Dutch). Ultratip. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  28. ^ " – David Bowie – ★ [Blackstar]" (in French). Ultratip. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  29. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  30. ^ " – David Bowie – ★ [Blackstar]" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 17 January 2016.
  31. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts – Offizielle Deutsche Charts".
  32. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved 23 January 2016.
  33. ^ "Chart Track: Week 2, 2016". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  34. ^ "Top Digital – Classifica settimanale WK 2 (dal 2016-01-08 al 2016-01-14)" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  35. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  36. ^ "Billboard Japan Hot Overseas" (in Japanese). Billboard Japan. 18 January 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
  37. ^ Hung, Steffen. " - Portuguese Charts - Singles - 02.02.2016".
  38. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 December 2015. Retrieved 2015-12-17.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  39. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 16 January 2016.
  40. ^ "David Bowie Scores First Top 40 Hot 100 Single Since 1987 With 'Lazarus'".
  41. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Hot Rock Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  42. ^ "David Bowie – Blackstar Radiodate". 11 December 2015. Retrieved 11 January 2016.

External links[edit]