My Top 25 David Bowie Songs

21 Dec

Remember a few months ago, when I did my top-25 Strokes songs?  Nah probably not but you probably should.

Anyway, I’m bored speechless on winter break.  Since I have a job lined up back at my college town, its hard for me to do something for the next three weeks.  This is just misery.  How do people like this?  I am OK with doing nothing, really I am, but on a consistent basis?  This is maddening.

So I had the idea to do another top-25 list.  This time, I’m picking one of my favorite artists and that’s David Bowie.  Yes you may know him as Ziggy Stardust or The Thin White Duke, but not many people have changed popular culture in the way Bowie did.  Gender-bending, drug-lovin’, free spirited; David Freakin’ Bowie.

Its funny looking back at my top-25 Strokes list because I think I would change a few things already.  I guess that’s how music is, it depends what mood you are in and also how things change over time.  For the record, I probably would bump up Taken For A Fool, Tap Out and The Way It is on my list.

But with Bowie, there’s a long catalogue to go through.  So I’m not even going to pretend I’ve listened to every song he has and analyzed where they would be on the list.  Bowie is a more popular Lou Reed.  When he was on, boy was he on.  When he was off….boy he was off.  At least in my opinion.

Also, I’ve realized that some publications such as NME and Rolling Stone let the readers pick their favorite songs and I thought they were both wayyyy off the mark.  I’m not even going to link it.

Again this list isn’t supposed to be the “best” but is merely my opinion.  If you don’t like it, oh well; find another echo chamber.  For trivia sakes, #26 would be Dancing in the Street.

25. Under Pressure (feat. Queen)

Collaborations in music rarely work well.  Nowadays a collaboration is usually a rent-a-rapper dropping a copy and pasted verse onto some struggling pop artist’s track.  Or a rent-a-singer dropping a chorus for a struggling rapper.  Its very unbalanced.  However, Bowie has always been able to blend in very well with the landscape around him and Under Pressure, with its all too familiar bass line, is another example of Bowie merging with one of the top talents of a generation.  I was never too big into Under Pressure though, however its importance means it can’t be excluded.  Ice Ice Baby.

24.  Young Americans

I had no idea that Luther Vandross was playing on this track.  I agree with the consensus opinion on this is Bowie basically saying goodbye to rock music as he took on soul music.  Young Americans might’ve even signaled the beginning of Bowie exploring a more “pop” sound as opposed to the radical Ziggy Stardust.  Nonetheless, its an enjoyable tune though nothing Earth-shattering.

23. Janine

Space Oddity is a weird album.  Its before Ziggy was created but it began Bowie’s exploration into space (considering Ziggy is an alien, its symbolic) and his fascination with the end of the world.  But Space Oddity seems to be just an album that Bowie put out to have success with no real consistency to it.  Janine is one of my favorite tracks off the record though.  Janine seems to be preview Bowie’s artistic personality changes (if you took an axe to me, you’d kill another man) and also stylistically sounds like it could fit in right before his soul rebirth.  

22.  All The Young Dudes 

I love this song a lot, but even though Bowie recorded it first; I still associate it as a Mott the Hoople song.  So I feel weird putting it on the list at all.  But it is one of my all time favorites and its warning of an apocalypse (a topic Bowie was obsessed over) as well as name-checking T.Rex (always a win in my book) is just great.

21.  The Stars (Are Out Tonight)

I haven’t really sat down and listened to Bowie’s newest album a few times but this is actually one of my favorite songs of 2013.  I’m never too keen on aging rock stars putting out music (it never appeals to me as much) but this is a song that really should’ve been a crossover hit.  Seriously, this song can fit in on almost any Bowie album from 1969 to 1984.  If you are closed-minded about newer music, give it a shot.

20.  Heroes

I never understand the hype around this song.  Maybe its because this was a catchy song for when Bowie wasn’t making catchy tunes, or maybe it was because of the Wallflowers covering it for Godzilla.  I mean, I like the song enough but Rolling Stone readers rated it as Bowie’s best of all-time.  I’m sorry, don’t see it.

19.  Lady Stardust

I love Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars but this song just seems so out of place.  It also references T.Rex frontman Marc Bolan, one of the father’s of the glam movement (and one of my favorite artists), so I can’t exclude it.  Lady Stardust might not be a party song or all that morose of a song, but its just right.

18.  Fame

This might be a bit too low to some and it almost seems that a song with an uncredited John Lennon backing vocal should be ranked higher.  But Fame is a great song in the sense that its got some funk in it and its such a slam towards his management at the time, decrying the value of fame which becomes a Lennon-esque staple.  Damn, maybe this is too low.

17.  Moonage Daydream

This grows on me more every few months.  Its not a popular song to play at parties but when you are alone at night and at the point where you aren’t ready for bed but should probably start winding down; this is an awesome song to play.  Accompanied by a heavier backing track, Bowie almost seems overwhelmed by the sound.  He does such an awesome job syncing with it though.

16.  Five Years

What connects me to this song is how clearly Bowie seems to be struggling on it.  His voice seems to be just about to crack throughout the song which almost reminds me of something you would sing while sitting at a bar.  This sounds like an artist desperate to be taken seriously and just pouring his heart into a track.  Maybe I’m wrong.

15.  Golden Years

This song was offered to Elvis at first, who obviously declined, but recorded before the disco boom was Golden Years.  I always got a disco vibe from this, as I believe this is the closest Bowie got to Saturday Night Fever sounds; but of course Bowie still brought his theatrical brand of rock and roll.  Also one of the first white performers to sing on Soul Train with this tune.

14.  Starman

Bowie shocked the world with his performance of Starman on Top of the Pops.  The world probably was never the same when the cross-dressing alien from outer space made his national television debut to warn the world of an apocalypse.  Starman somehow isn’t on “Best of Bowie” which is a surprising omission.

13.  China Girl

Oh-oh-oh-ohhhhh, SHHHHHHH.  I grew up listening to this song as it was my favorite song of my Mom’s (My Dad liked Ziggy) so it grew on me.  Slightly racially offensive?  Yes.  Fun as hell?  You bet.  I’m usually someone that’s a sucker for an “Oh-oh-oh-ohhh” in a chorus but Bowie made the most 80s sounding 80s song this side of Take On Me.

12.  Star

I love Star.  I always like to equate music to today (and vice versa) but I always saw “Star” as if David Bowie took the Spiders from Mars and turned them into a garage rock band.  Its a quick, short song that just explodes.  One of Bowie’s best vocal performances in my opinion too.  

11.  Time Will Crawl

I discovered Time Will Crawl a bit later in my Bowie fanhood, as all I really had were his Greatest Hits CD and Space Oddity (or David Bowie 1969) so Time Will Crawl came randomly on “Suggested Songs” and I’ve loved it.  After becoming more of a Bowie fan its no exaggeration saying that this was his last truly great song until 2013.

10.  Ashes To Ashes

Welcome back, Major Tom!  This song is highly critical when examining David Bowie as an artist as this is him saying goodbye to the 1970s and reintroducing Major Tom as a junkie.  It also was ground-breaking for music videos as it was the most expensive video of its time.  Bowie, 11 years after Space Oddity, continued pushing the envelope as a pop star but still harkened back to the past as reasons for re-inspiration.

9.  Blue Jean

Blue Jean never gets mentioned in Bowie lists and probably for good reason.  But its my list dammit.  I love Blue Jean, I don’t care what anyone else says.  Its not a complicated piece but I also think its one of Bowie’s better videos.  Not the 21-minute version because I don’t have that patience.

8.  Space Oddity

I’m going to get some crap for this but I’m not really big into Space Oddity.  However, I do appreciate a story within a song and there’s no denying that this is the most important single Bowie put out.  It also includes some of his most powerful lyrics and I do like the debate on if the song is to be taken literally or as a drug reference.  Though Ashes to Ashes kinda ruined it.

7.  Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy plays guitar….welcome to life, Ziggy.  I’m surprised this wasn’t released as a single because this might be one of his best songs (he even introduces the Spiders from Mars in it) and I challenge you to find better songs to this.  The song also appears to be an ode to Vince Taylor as well, well at least the character of Ziggy was partially based on him too so it isn’t that big of a revelation.  Nonetheless, great song.

6.  Modern Love

One of my Mom’s favorite songs of Bowie and I really grew into it.  This song just makes me feel good and its not a key single to Bowie’s discography but its a damn fun one.  For some reason it harkens Pet Shop Boys vibes to me, but Modern Love is a pure 80s song.

5.  Let’s Dance

Man wasn’t this in that awful car commercial this summer?  Oh well, Let’s Dance is my favorite song from Bowie’s dance-pop era and Nile Rodgers’s production makes this a staple of any Bowie top-10 list.  The Serious Moonlight Tour’s, one of probably the best tours in modern music history, namesake evolves from this song as well.  This song really has grown on me as time has elapsed.

4.  Suffragette City

One of the most “rock and roll” songs of Bowie’s early career, Suffragette City is a rising favorite of mine.  Probably one of Bowie’s most addicting choruses, and that’s no small feat, Suffragette is Bowie at the height of his first rock career.  He’s never sounded so punkish, so raw and in your face.  

3. Life On Mars

Back when I released my top-20 favorite songs list, this was the only Bowie song I listed.  Looking back, I’m shocked that I didn’t have Rebel Rebel in my top-10 and have no idea how I overlooked it.  Life On Mars, now that I really spent the last semester listening to Bowie, is slowly dropping down my rankings but its still one of my favorite songs.  I like the bombastic chorus, the lyrics that seem nonsensical but actually have a deeper meaning and Bowie sounds his best here.  He sells the song so damn well.

2. Changes

Outside of maybe Space Oddity, I think this is probably Bowie’s most well-known hit.  Changes was probably the first song I remember liking by Bowie when I was a lot younger so it has some personal value to me.  But I think this is a perfectly crafted pop song, where Bowie talks about his changing personalities and a critique on aging rock stars.  

1. Rebel Rebel

My favorite Bowie song.  This is David Bowie to me.  His goodbye to glam rock, the Keith Richards-sounding riff, the end of the flamboyant Ziggy Stardust and I still get chills when I hear the intro to this song.  Its almost pop-perfection, one that seemed to be far ahead of its time and this song can turn any person into a Bowie fan.  I love the mention of androgyny too which shows how willing Bowie (in the era of the Silent Majority) was to push the envelope culturally.  


One Response to “My Top 25 David Bowie Songs”

  1. Andrew Swab February 6, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    Great post. Thanks for this!

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