Where Did It All Go Wrong?

David Bowie: Musician, Idol, Icon. In March of this year he surprised everyone with the unexpected, yet welcome, news that he was releasing his 24th album, The Next Day – the first to be released since 2003. So, bearing this in mind, as well as giving a big shout-out to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum for hosting a spectacular exhibition based on this rock legend, what has Bowie’s legacy been thus far?

Let’s look at today’s popular music – Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Adele, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Mumford & Sons, Muse, Marilyn Manson, and The Script, to name but a few.  With some of these artists, it is relatively easy to spot how the influence of Bowie may have helped to mould them into what they are today: Marilyn Manson, Muse, Lady Gaga (to some extent), etc. However, there are others who seem to have gone off in a completely different tangent. Justin Bieber for example. I am in no way, shape, or form a “Belieber”. In fact, it would not be a lie to baldly state that I despise that label. Whilst it may be unfair of me to simply state my opinions and then carry on with the rest of this article, I think that if I were to rationally explain my dislike in a somewhat analytical fashion, then I could get away with it!

Image
David Bowie
Photograph by Mick Rock, 1972, 1973.
Copyright Mick Rock 2013.
Courtesy of the V & A Museum, London.

Ok, starting with fashion and iconography: David Bowie had the androgynous look before it was the ‘It’ thing. Also, who could forget the elaborate character that was Ziggy Stardust?! This creation was so powerfully bizarre that it soon earned a cult following – much as Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters” today. But, we’re talking about the Biebs here. So, let’s go for an obvious one to start with: what would David Bowie wear when meeting the Prime Minister? Well, whilst he may in fact go back to Ziggy Stardust days and wear a fabulously androgynous outfit, nowadays I’d be willing to bet that he would wear a suit. Ask the same question of Justin Bieber, and we have an answer already waiting for us: overalls. Yep, that’s right. Overalls and a baseball cap. Charming.

Now let’s get down to things like actual lyrics. I guess we all remember Bowie’s 1969 Space Oddity – the wackiness of this song is perhaps one of the biggest draws that it has; the hapless Major Tom as an astronaut who get stuck in space.

This is ground control to major Tom, you’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare”

Read it different ways, and you either get a surreal song about an unfortunate spaceman, or a very deep personal narrative. Don’t believe me? Try listening to it again!

Bieber, on the other hand, is known for hit songs such as the effervescent Baby of 2010. It pains me to put these lyrics down, but fair is fair, and I won’t even mention the repetitive “Baby, baby, baby ohhhh”… woops.

“Are we an item?
Girl quit playin’
We’re just friends,
What are you sayin’?”

It took 3 people to write those lyrics… David Bowie wrote Space Oddity himself. I think I’ve made my point.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not happy about being right! Because, the fact of the matter is that my being right means that we have “Bieber fever” – another horrible phrase. What has happened to society when a kid like JB, according to Forbes, is the 3rd most powerful celebrity in the world? I mean, Lady Gaga and Marilyn Manson – at least they have a little more individuality. So, please, please join me in turning your backs on the mainstream, and instead head over to the V & A Museum to help celebrate a truly iconic musician: the one and only, David Bowie.

Image
Striped bodysuit for Aladdin Sane tour 1973
Design by Kansai Yamamoto.
Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita.
© Sukita The David Bowie Archive 2012.
Courtesy of the V & A Museum, London.

The exhibition David Bowie Is will run until the 11th August 2013. Think that’s a while yet, so you don’t have to rush? Think again! Get your tickets now before all the Bowie fans out there gobble them up! In the meantime, check out Eric Shanes’ Pop Art, and see how easily one might say that Bowie is the new Warhol.

-Fiona Torsch

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