the new bowie


The current level of interest in Bowie reflects a larger theme in pop-music culture. While the long view of musical history suggests the obvious—that the greats remain great while a few fade out—in the near term, some acts seize the imagination of the moment. The Beatles have a flawless catalogue, but their aesthetic has left them on the outside for now: cartoons, granny glasses, and French horns don’t fit into 2013. Conversely, the ennui of present versions of punk and disco and rap—rooted in a young adult’s curt dismissal rather than a child’s open acceptance—has reinforced a common taste for darker acts such as Bowie. We no longer believe that all you need is love (or embroidered bell-bottoms), but we do believe in androgyny and world-weary dance parties buoyed by cocaine and artificially sour exchanges that mask a deep romantic streak. Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke of “Station to Station,” one of Bowie’s best albums, were always coming on aloof and imperious, then begging you to stay. His catalogue, though not as fault-free as that of the Beatles, or even that of Led Zeppelin, provides grist for today’s music-making cohort. Bowie has lasted, and he has found a place in the twenty-first century as an idea and a musician and a series of haircuts.

more from Sasha Frere-Jones at The New Yorker here.