For some time now David Bowie has been rightly acknowledged as one of pop's most enduring and influential performers, an individual who has, love him or hate him, transformed the way we perceive modern music.
Bowie, like every artist of his stature, has his critics. People who consider him to be nothing more than a clothes-horse who fast tracked to stardom on a wave of hype. An invented star full of empty gestures, more concerned with style and presentation than making music.
This one's for the critics...
How did David Bowie change the face of music?
In many ways. Peeling away the layers of artifice reveals a body of work of considerable depth and maturity. In his songs Bowie achieves the near impossible, he puts into sound the inexpressible and the downright unexplainable, he comes closer to emotions there are no words for, and makes them real. Bowie's music will always be timeless because it articulates that special state of inbetweenness-adolescence. Through this outstanding music, sounding as contemporary now as it did in the era it was conceived, he has permeated and altered more lives, young and old, than any other comparable figure.
Bowie is the story of his times. What truly sets him apart is his flair, his unique and profound genius for 'putting a song across'. When Bowie decided to change his image it was always just a bit more, a little larger than others were willing to do. Rather than being a poseur in reality, he posed at being a poseur. A parodist, mimic, media manipulator. A truly protean character. His theatricality, his self-dramatisation, really is unparalleled in modern pop music. Bowie parodied rock stardom, introduced sexuality, sexual ambiguity, unlocking the great forbidden forces of rock. He destroyed the myth of 60's pop iconography forever, and for the better. He blew the rock era apart to leave it where it is now: a stylistic free for all, a mix and match culture. Bowie defined cool for a dozen years, floated in and out of identities and in doing so destroyed the macho myth and the romance of rock, he spoilt the party for everyone else.
David Bowie is not only a genius, he is also a man of profound commitment and intensive activity: a glance at the sheer volume and pattern of his life's work confirms that. He's a one man spectacular, yet he consists of so many identities and contrived stereotypes that it seems almost contradictory to call him that. An icon and Idol like no other, being a Bowie fan is, for many, a way of life, a way of looking at the world, a way of being just that bit more 'special'. Bowie stands for unadulterated, frenzied fanaticism, pure and simple.
I quite like him.
Si8th January 2002.
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