Sunday, February 19, 2017

Bowie sweeps the Grammys: 2017 was payback for a brilliant career

The late David Bowie did what nobody else did at the 2017 Grammys: He swept the five categories in which he was nominated.

Bowie posthumously "won each time he was nominated for BLACKSTAR, his critically praised last album," AP television writer David Bauder wrote in his day-after story.

Only one performer won as many Grammys: Adele. Impressive company!

Bauder has it right: "The awards laid bare how Bowie has been neglected by the Grammys throughout his career. He won a lifetime achievement award in 2006, but before that, his only victory was for a 'Blue Jean' video in 1985." (To be fair, Bowie was nominated for 17 Grammys over his career, with a majority of those nominations coming since 1998.)

Once again, a performer has been honored for work that may not be his best, but makes up for him being overlooked for previous years and work when he may have deserved it more.

That's not to say BLACKSTAR isn't a tremendous album; it's a fascinating creation with Bowie once again embarking on a new music genre — this time largely small-group jazz with a twist of pop music and an atonal foundation.

And the man recorded it while undergoing chemo and battling liver cancer.

Incredibly impressive and heroic. Leave it to Bowie to leave this earth writing a masterpiece in the face of death.

But it's seemingly everyone else who considers the album a masterpiece.

It's just that BLACKSTAR hasn't resonated with me like many of Bowie's other albums have. Actress Julianna Marguiles once told ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY she was obsessed with listening to it. And she's not even a big Bowie fan. My good friend, Norwalk Councilman Chris Castle, has said he's gone weeks without taking BLACKSTAR out of his CD player.

I listened to the album twice in a row right after I bought it. And then a third time shortly afterward. And maybe two to three times beyond that. But largely BLACKSTAR has sat in my CD collection.

Admittedly, many of Bowie's albums take many listens for me to "get" and let its impact set in. I have to take my time — as a Bowiehead and a music fan — to comprehend what he's accomplished, was trying to say and where that work fits into his massive, genre-jumping catalog. See? It's taken me a year to review and get my head properly around BLACKSTAR.

But I'll be even more truthful: BLACKSTAR is painful for me to experience. It's the last album from my favorite performer; there's simply nothing after this. And Bowie's voice was showing the strain of old age and lack of use. Advanced years — and the fight of his life with cancer — finally caught up to a singer whose voice only seemed to grow stronger as the years passed and was more powerful than it was in his 20s. The versatile baritone he used after his Ziggy Stardust days sounds borderline frail. And that bothers me.

As I've said, BLACKSTAR simply doesn't beg repeat listens. Even after countless times of hearing LODGER, ALADDIN SANE, STATION TO STATION, DIAMOND DOGS, LET'S DANCE — and yes, of course, THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS — I hear something new; I feel like a better person after listening to them. Those albums still sound fresh and exciting.

In 1984, Bowie received a Grammy nomination for album of the year for his
1983 album LET'S DANCE. "Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)" also landed
him a nomination for best male rock vocal performance.
Selecting five — or even ten! — of my all-time favorite Bowie albums is difficult, if not impossible. See, I included six beforehand. ZIGGY, LET'S DANCE and STATION TO STATION are mainstays; the rest of my choices rotate in and out.

It's easier for me to choose my least favorite albums: HOURS…, OUTSIDE and the ironically titled NEVER LET ME DOWN. But aside from "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" from HOURS…, there are multiple tracks on each of those albums I really dig.

The songs on BLACKSTAR are fascinating, no doubt. But nothing sticks to my fanboy (or is that fan-Bowie?) ribs. Unlike the rest of Bowie's catalog (again aside from HOURS… and maybe even REALITY), I don't find myself compelled to listen to BLACKSTAR again and again. Even the weird-as-s*** dialogue on OUTSIDE is more fascinating.

The best I can give it is a C+/B- — and hope I eventually "get" it. Sorry, Grammys.

Bowie used this image by Japanese photographer Masayoshi Sukita for
the cover of his 1977 album, "HEROES." The British singer used a variation
of the same photo for his 2014 album, THE NEXT DAY.
Do you want to read more of the Cary's Comics Craze take on David Bowie? 
• Go here for my review of Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie during the 2016 Grammys. 
• The six-part series titled "Bowie at his Best" spans every aspect of the Thin White Duke's multi-faceted career.
• CCC blogger/webmaster Cary Ashby wrote "Loving the Alien" A tribute poem to David Bowie" to honor the one-year anniversary of DB's passing. 
• Do you enjoy memes? Ashby collected his touching Bowie tribute memes in this photo gallery.
• In 2004, as a reporter for the COSHOCTON TRIBUNE newspaper, Ashby interviewed several fans who had attended Bowie concerts over the years in a lengthy preview for DB's upcoming Columbus, Ohio show — what would be his last in the Buckeye State.
• The title of "In memory of the Thin White Duke: David Bowie always rocked in concert" speaks for itself.
• Shortly after Bowie's death Jan. 10, 2016, Ashby wrote a tribute titled "David Bowie was classy, cool legend" for the NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper.

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