Young Americans: The BYT Interns Review Bowie Part 1
Cale | Jan 26, 2016 | 11:00AM |

On November 18th, 2014, David Bowie released a 3-disc compilation album entitled Nothing Has Changed. A new David Bowie compilation album is not really something to be celebrated, as Wikipedia currently lists 49 of them, with surely more to come. What was interesting about this one though is that it was truly career spanning (including a song that would eventually make it’s way to his final album Blackstar), contained a number of rare tracks, and was sequenced in reverse chronological order. In the modern world of streaming, these are nonsense words, but for an older rock snob like myself, it was a fun way to experience and re-experience the material.

BUT WHO CARES WHAT OLD CRUSTY DUDES THINK? I wanna know how Bowie resonates with millennials dammit. Is unearthing Bowie and becoming obsessed in middle/high school or college still a music rite of passage like it has been for the past 50 years? Apparently not, because the first three BYT interns I asked about Bowie knew who he was, knew that he had died, were sure they’ve heard his music before, but two of them couldn’t name a song and all three couldn’t name an album. How would they feel about Bowie if they listened to Nothing Has Changed? If “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)” is the first Bowie song you hear, and “Liza Jane” is the last, at what point will his genius dick slap you in the face? And what if it doesn’t? Are they gonna say they really like 90s Bowie because they know they’re supposed to like Bowie in general? Are they actually going to like 90s Bowie? Does listening to “Thursday’s Child” before “”Heroes”” warp your fragile little mind forever?

Starting with Disc 1, which covers roughly the last 20 years, here’s what they had to say.

Skip to Disc 2 here: 1993-1976
or Disc 3 here: 1975-1964

Natalie age 20
Eleni age 22
Marykate age 23

[Note: a few of the videos below may not be the exact same versions of the songs from the album that they listened to, but close enough]

1. “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” previously unreleased; re-recorded version appears on Blackstar (2016)

Natalie: Intro sounds a little like it could be in an old James Bond movie, but I like it! Sounds a lot like something my dad would do his steering wheel drumming to, but again I still can dig it. Kinda long… wasn’t expecting that. Lots of instrumental breaks.

Eleni: To me this feels like it belongs in a movie or play about Sue. But really, there’s a linear quality to this that makes it feel like he’s narrating something. I like the different sounds that the piano and saxophone (I’m generalizing) make.

Marykate: Creepy and slow intro. I like the instrumental, but the vocals kinda bum me out. I want to be cool and say that this is something that I would listen to – but in truth, I probably wouldn’t.

2. “Where Are We Now?” from The Next Day (2013)

Natalie: This slow jam could be on a good Sunday afternoon playlist. It could definitely get the emotions going depending on the day, but damn, I really liked that one! I’ve also heard this before, it sounds familiar.

Eleni: I kind of want to cry, this was a very pretty stong. The perception I had of David Bowie is being put to shame by this.

Marykate: This is definitely not what I thought Bowie would sound like. Much softer and slower than I had imagined. I like the lyrics, they are touching. The build-up of the instrumental at the end is definitely my favorite part.

3. “Love Is Lost [Hello Steve Reich mix by James Murphy for the DFA]” from Love Is Lost Single (2013)

Natalie: This has a little more of a rock feeling. I don’t have a lot of feelings on this song.

Eleni: The beginning of this reminds me of one of the handful of David Bowie songs I already know, “Just Dance”. Maybe that’s a long shot. I do want to dance though, which is always indicative of a good song.

Marykate: Really dig the clapping intro. Really don’t like too much else about it except for the lyrics. It sounds so 80’s to me (mind you, I don’t even know much about 80’s music), and not in a good way.

4. “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” from The Next Day (2013)

Natalie: This reminds me of the previous song. There’s a lot of meaning in this one that I think I’m missing.

Eleni: I like the lyrics a lot and feel like I can appreciate them because of Bowie’s voice. This gets better as it goes on, I like the way it catches momentum (estimating) halfway through.

Marykate: Confession: I don’t think I like Bowie’s voice. That’s probably a cardinal sin, but something about his voice makes me sad. I can’t see myself listening to this song. I do like the instrumental break towards the end of the song.

5. “New Killer Star [Radio edit]” from Reality (2003)

Natalie: I imagine this being played super loud in dim basement with corduroy lovesacs and old worn couches, but I don’t hate it! I feel like I’ve heard this one before, and again, I think I’m missing something with Bowie and Stars.

Eleni: I feel like this song should be played loud enough for you to be able to tune out everything around you.

Marykate: Ok, I may be on the fence about Bowie’s voice – but one thing I am sure about is that he does NOT need these back-up vocalists. They’re distracting. But in general, I like this one. This is a song that I might see myself listening to whilst on my commute.

6. “Everyone Says ‘Hi’ [Edited version]” from Heathen (2002)

Natalie: This song has much more chill vibe, I really like this one! The lyrics make me a little sad though; very introspective and mournful.

Eleni: First of all, this title – I’m a fan. When you come up with a catchy phrase and you want to say it over and over again, sing it in a song. But make it a good song like this one.

Marykate: This song confuses me. The mellowness of the guitar mixed with Bowie’s vocals just don’t sit right with me. Definitely a very sad song with some powerful lyrics. I resonate with the lyrics for sure, but that’s about it.

7. “Slow Burn [Radio edit]” from Heathen (2002)

Natalie: I’ve heard this somewhere before, possibly from my mom. It’s kind of rock ballad-esque. I like it, don’t love it

Eleni: Just thinking about the difference between the first song on this disc and this one shows Bowie’s versatility. I think I like not knowing the chronological order of these tracks (unless they are in chronological order, spare me the embarrassment just for now) because I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you which came first. But then this also makes you think, don’t artists record albums for the group of songs on them to be listened to in succession?

[Editor’s note – this review is just baffling as the specific instructions for these interns explain that this was a best of compilation in reverse chronological order spanning the first 20 years. That was literally the first sentence in the instructions. Were these instructions not even read, or immediately forgotten, or somehow not comprehended? Am I unable to communicate with a 20 year old? This revelation sort of taints the entire experiment, but also I think says a lot about the entire experiment.]

Marykate: Once again, confused. The beat to this song reminds of a 50’s doo wop song. It doesn’t seem to mix with Bowie’s voice. But the more I listen to it, the more it grows on me. I don’t know what it is – but there is definitely something about this song I like.

8. “Let Me Sleep Beside You” from Toy (2011) but written in 1967 and recorded in 2000

Natalie: I’m not sure how I feel about this one… Is he singing about trying to convince someone to sleep with him? It’s easy to listen to if I don’t think about the lyrics much!

Eleni: This is a shift from the past few songs. The beginning feels modern and mmm that guitar. I’d be interested to hear what the rest of the album that this song is originally from sounds like.

Marykate: This song kind of creeps me out. It comes off to me as an old man hitting on a young woman. One rumor I have heard whisperings of is that Bowie slept with a 13-year-old at some point (no idea if that’s true), so that probably adds to why I am not into it. The guitar is amazing though. With different lyrics I could see myself listening to this one.

9. “Your Turn to Drive” from Toy (2011) but recorded in 2000

Natalie: Yes, this is really good! The intro of and continuation of the electric guitar sound (something with the whammy bar, I’m not entirely sure), but I really like it a lot! Wow, that was a long fade-out.

Eleni: Does me not liking this song as much as other ones say something about my millennial-ness?

Marykate: Love the instrumental in the beginning. It for some reason makes me wish it were spring, and I were out laying in the grass and staring at the clouds pass by. This is the first song I can wholeheartedly say I really enjoy.

10. “Shadow Man” from Toy (2011) but written in 1971 and recorded in 2000

Natalie: This is getting added to my “Emotions” playlist. I like this a lot too, obviously I have a thing for his slower ballads.

Eleni: The shadow man is me, you, and everyone. This was pleasant and calming to listen to.

Marykate: This is way too slow for me. Bowie’s voice is starting to grow on me though. Overall, I was just waiting for this song to be over.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPGgQS1VMKg

11. “Seven [Marius de Vries mix]” from ‘Hours…’ (1999)

Natalie: This sounds more pop than any of the others I’ve heard, not bad. I haven’t liked the other ones that were up-tempo, but this one is good. Despite some of the lyrics, the music made me happy!

Eleni: This had me doing that thing when you’re listening to music and your face stays neutral but your feet are having a dance party under your desk.

Marykate: Not really for me. I didn’t *not* enjoy it – but I wouldn’t listen to it of my own volition. I kept wanting the beat to pick up more, or for the drums to go harder. And once again, not into the back up vocalists at all.

12. “Survive [Marius de Vries mix]” from ‘Hours…’ (1999)

Natalie: I’ve definitely heard this many times before, not sure where, but I know I have. I feel like this would be amazing at a live concert with thousands of people around singing along, that’s what this song reminds me of.

Eleni: This sounds more familiar to the idea I had of David Bowie. At this point my roommates are questioning the blank stare on my face while I think about what the music video to this would look like. Final verdict: it would be/probably is pretty cool.

Marykate: The intro got me excited – and then the rest of the song disappointed. I guess I was expecting a bit more rock and roll while listening to Bowie. But, it’s not a bad song – I think my expectations are just getting in the way. I can see this being appreciated by long time Bowie fans.

13. “Thursday’s Child [Radio edit]” from ‘Hours…’ (1999)

Natalie: This sounds familiar too, easy to pick up. It has a repetitive structure and is super chill. It maybe wouldn’t make the Sunday Afternoon playlist, but follows similar lines.

Eleni: I’m not sure if I could see myself having have the urge to listen to this but if I were playing its album I probably wouldn’t skip over it. Maybe I’d listen to half of it, I’m also not sure if I feel neutral or against the woman’s voice in the background.

Marykate: Hate is a strong word. But I hate this song. The instrumentals, the back-up singers, the slowness – this song is just the perfect concoction of things I don’t like to listen to. One good development though – I officially like Bowie’s voice now. It’s powerful in it’s own strange way.

14. “I’m Afraid of Americans [V1 radio edit]” from Earthling (1997)

Natalie: This song sounds much darker than all the others. It’s not my thing so much as the other ones are.

Eleni: I’ve never heard this before but the sound is a little more familiar to the Bowie songs I’ve heard before. It feels contemporary, whatever that means. I wonder what the radio edits changed in the song.

Marykate: Right off the bat, I like the title. This song is pretty badass – the instrumentals, the vocals, they get me pumped up. And I now officially have my first David Bowie song on my itunes. Had to download this one.

15. “Little Wonder [Single version]” from Earthling (1997)

Natalie: I don’t know if I like this one or not. I feel like the lyrics don’t match with the music behind them. I thought that was the end, but then it started again!!!

Eleni: I started to like what was going on at 1:10. I can’t imagine there being a way to dance to this without minimal to excessive headbanging which we all need sometimes.

Marykate: Mixed feelings about this song. Overall, I enjoy it. I wish I could hear this song live, because I have a feeling that would be life changing. The instrumentals are pretty genius, and they mix really well together.

16. “Hallo Spaceboy [Pet Shop Boys remix]” from Hallo Spaceboy Single (1996)

Natalie: It seemed to go on for a long time. I don’t really like this one. Not sure what the original sounded like, but maybe it was better than the remix?

Eleni: I liked this a lot. I feel like the chorus livens the part in me that has a soft spot for catchy pop-y choruses that are usually poorer quality than this song. All in all, I like this.

Marykate: I feel like I am supposed to like this song – but I don’t. I can recognize its value, the instrumental is awesome – but it just isn’t what I like to hear.

17. “The Hearts Filthy Lesson [Radio edit]” from Outside (1995)

Natalie: This is more metal than the others, not for me.

Eleni: I appreciate this BUT would have to be in a specific mood to feel the need to listen to it.

Marykate: Creepy. In a good way. In the best way. David Bowie song #2 on my iTunes. And for once I actually like the back-up vocals. The instrumental just blew me away.

18. “Strangers When We Meet [Single version]” from Outside (1995)

Natalie: This sounds a lot more like the beginning of this album, kind of tying it all together. I feel like this would be the song that plays at the end of a good movie and then fades the movie out into the credits. Definitely one of my favorites that I’ve listened to.

Eleni: This was just really, really nice. Can I stick with that? I would listen to this on loop and it would just be soothing and beautiful. This also reminds me of “”Heroes””, which I like a lot as well.

Marykate: This last song is a bummer for me. Too slow, and just not something I can see myself listening to. Am starting to notice though that Bowie is growing on me, and even when I don’t love the song, I don’t mind having it on.

INTERN FINAL THOUGHTS

Natalie: They aren’t all winners in my eyes, some really stand out, but others weren’t my thing. I can see how he was so popular and how people revered him as a legend! Overall I liked the songs towards the beginning (more recently recorded) than the songs later in the album. It was surprising to me that I liked as many songs as I did; before listening I had a preconceived idea that Bowie was a certain kind of rock music that I don’t really like, but it turned out I enjoy his music as much as stuff that’s coming out today.

Eleni: This group of songs didn’t fall into the idea of David Bowie that I had in my mind before listening to them. My understanding of David Bowie was equivalent to the “popular” section on an artist’s Spotify page – so pretty shallow. I didn’t realize he had been creating music for so long and so consistently considering the span of his career, and I didn’t think I would like more than what I was already familiar with but this was a nice surprise.

Marykate: So far – this isn’t the kind of music that really resonates with me. And its definitely not what I expected Bowie to sound like. But, I’m looking forward to hearing more and understanding what Bowie’s sound really is.