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?
Go back to Disc 1 here: 2014-1995
Now onto Disc 2, which covers 1993 through 1976, meaning that, in theory, their brains should start to explode halfway through…
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. “The Buddha of Suburbia” from The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)
Natalie: This has a very relaxed vibe. It sounds like more of what I imagine most of his music sounds like after listening to the first disc. This sounds similar to other songs I’ve heard from this time, but I don’t think I’ve heard this song specifically before.
Eleni: After having listened to the most recent group of Bowie’s hits this makes more sense to me. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the saxophone but I started to like the song more towards the middle of it.
Marykate: The guitar in this is amazing. When it starts to pick up around 3 minutes I loved it. As for the rest of the song, eh, it was just alright.
2. “Jump They Say [Radio edit]” from Black Tie White Noise (1993)
Natalie: This is okay. I wouldn’t play this on repeat, but I like listening to it once!
Eleni: I like the change in tone of this a lot. I’m not sure if that’s the right word to describe it but I enjoy the upbeatness of this. The laser-like sounds in the background are…interesting.
Marykate: The Instrumental is pretty great. But I am a little overwhelmed by this song. There are so many different elements going on. It’s not for me – which of course, makes me feel lame.
3. “Time Will Crawl [MM remix]” from Never Let Me Down (1987); remix from iSelect (2008)
Natalie: This sounds like something my dad would really enjoy…meaning I also like it. It reminds me of the music he likes. So far this is my favorite!
Eleni: This falls a little more into line with the idea I had of Bowie before listening to the first disc, and by that I mean more “rock and roll.”
Marykate: More guitar please. The guitar is just awesome. I know that this disc is in reverse chronological order, but I still don’t know exactly what year this song is from, only a range of years. This makes me wonder about the lyrics. Is there a specific event that these lyrics are in response to? Is it in general a reaction to society in the 21st century? I wanna know.
4. “Absolute Beginners [Single version]” from Absolute Beginners soundtrack (1986)
Natalie: This one is nice, it’s happy and the lyrics are happy and it makes me happy! I haven’t heard it before, but it’s a good one.
Eleni: I want to like this more than I do. The beginning was promising but I didn’t feel like I wanted the song to keep going once I got halfway through.
Marykate: The beginning vocals are again reminding of this doo-wop pattern that Bowie seems to sneak in there. And I don’t like it. My complaint about this song is that is too slow, a complaint that I have made several times now.
5. “Dancing in the Street” from Live Aid single (1985)
Natalie: This is by David Bowie?! I’ve definitely heard this, it was one of the first songs I bought on iTunes, but it was some stupid version not by Bowie!
Eleni: Hey I know this!! This is obviously very fun. I don’t think I had any idea that this was a Bowie song. Take what you want from me saying that.
Marykate: God, I have not heard this song in years. The last time I heard it I probably had no idea who Bowie was. But I have a memory of my father and I dorkily dancing to this in our living room. Now I am left smiling and feeling very nostalgic. Awesome song.
6. “Loving the Alien [Single remix]” Originally from Tonight (1984); remix from 1985
Natalie: Ehhh, I don’t have a lot of thoughts on this song. It’s alright, it’s kind of repetitive and didn’t really grab my attention as I was listening to the album.
Eleni: I’m not sure how I feel about this. I was almost ready for this to be over until it started to grow on me in the last minute or so.
Marykate: Am I supposed to like this song? Part of this assignment was to not look up things about Bowie – but I am really just tempted to check out the wiki page and see how this song was received. But I guess that would defeat the purpose of this experiment. I don’t like this song, even if I am supposed to.
7. “This Is Not America” from The Falcon and the Snowman soundtrack (1985)
Natalie: I really like the music in this song, not so sure I understand the meaning behind the lyrics. It’s easy to listen to though!
Eleni: There was something a little haunting about Bowie’s voice in this song. I’m not quite sure if I liked the song itself, it makes the one before this seem better.
Marykate: Bowie’s lyrics seem to be a bit more extrospective than introspective on Disc 2. Which, is pretty cool. But for me, the sounds of this song is not so cool. I wouldn’t listen to this.
8. “Blue Jean” from Tonight (1984)
Natalie: This song is super fun! There’s a very 80’s vibe I get from it, this would definitely get the crowd going at a concert.
Eleni: This is another upbeat song that I really like.
Marykate: The instrumental is really interesting on this one. But overall, I wouldn’t want to listen to this.
9. “Modern Love [Single version]” from Let’s Dance (1983)
Natalie: Again, there’s an 80’s feel to this one. I like that it’s upbeat and fast and happy!
Eleni: I think I like this more than “Blue Jean.” It sounds familiar enough for me to realize that I’ve heard it before but just didn’t know it was a David Bowie song.
Marykate: Hey – I know this song too! The opening monologue made me giggle a bit (sounds so 80’s). But, this song is amazing – both vocals and instrumental. It makes me want to dance.
10. “China Girl [Single version]” from Let’s Dance (1983)
Natalie: The intro was really cool! I liked the music, but the lyrics didn’t really do much for me.
Eleni: These past few songs, and this one especially fall into my not very specific, but sort of good enough grasp of 80s style music.
Marykate: Ok… so I saw this title and immediately cringed a little bit. And then the first verse started and I cringed more. In the PC world we live in now I do not think this song would really fly. I mean, maybe I am missing something. But this seems only a few steps away from “Turning Japanese.” I like the guitar solo though ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
11. “Let’s Dance [Single version]” from Let’s Dance (1983)
Natalie: I immediately recognized this song. Good, but not my favorite.
Eleni: I knew this song already but had never paid attention to the non-chorus parts of it.
Marykate: Hmm – immediately I feel like I’m brought back to many a wedding reception that I have attended. I know I have heard this song a bunch of times. I like it, it brings back that lovely feeling of nostalgia again. And now that I am older, I can recognize how intricate/cool the instrumental is.
12. “Fashion [Single version]” from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Natalie: This is ~interesting~. It’s kinda weird but super catchy.
Eleni: I’m not sure if I recognize this but it’s one of my favorites on here so far.
Marykate: Yes. Love this. I love the guitar so much (how many times can I say that before it gets old?). I think I have probably heard it before? This song is relatable now too – I mean I am nowhere near cool enough to keep up with all these cool new dance moves coming out (eg; where did dabbing come from??).
13. “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) [Single version]” from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Natalie: It’s good, also repetitive. Before I listened to any of Bowie’s music, this is what I imagined all of it to sound like.
Eleni: This is a cool song, I’m not sure if I’d go out of my way to listen to it again but I still enjoyed it.
Marykate: I love the creepiness to this one. I can definitely seeing myself listening to this one on the metro. Or while having a dance party by myself. The instrumental is pretty sick. Only good things to say about this one.
14. “Ashes to Ashes [Single version]” from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Natalie: This is a really popular song of his right? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the title, but not the song. It’s better than a lot of the other stuff on this disc, I like it despite its lyrics kind of having a sad story.
Eleni: I didn’t think I’d like this right away but my first impression was proved wrong.
Marykate: Did the guy who did the Seinfeld instrumental rip off Bowie? I don’t like this song. I know I have heard it before, and I am pretty sure I didn’t like it back then either. I am sure it’s a classic and I am angering quite a few people right now.
15. “Under Pressure” from Under Pressure single (1981)
Natalie: YES, I know this! I’ve heard this a million times (I didn’t realize it was by him though) and love it!
Eleni: I’ve always liked this song. I’m not sure if I knew it was by David Bowie until recently though, which seems to keep happening with a lot of these.
Marykate: I love this song. Everybody loves this song. I also grew up with a lot more Queen than Bowie – so, I am definitely partial to this song.
16. “Boys Keep Swinging” from Lodger (1979)
Natalie: This song sounds more like background music. I wouldn’t listen to it when I really feel like just listening to music, but I would absolutely put it on when I’m doing other stuff just to hear it (that sounds kind of bad, but it’s just not my favorite).
Eleni: This isn’t as familiar as Under Pressure but I want to say that I’ve encountered it at some point and I’m glad I’m listening to it in its entirety.
Marykate: This song is very interesting lyrically. I am not really sure what it means – or what Bowie is trying to say. Maybe I am overthinking it. I sound like a broken record – but wow, that guitar solo. I wish there was more of that now in music. A lot more.
17. “”Heroes” [Single version]” from “Heroes” (1977)
Natalie: This one is good. It reminds me of something, not sure what. Maybe of more classic rock music?
Eleni: I really enjoy this song. I’ve listened to it a few times over the past few weeks after one of my friends gave me a sparknotes version of Bowie’s hits.
Marykate: I too wish I could swim like a dolphin can swim, Bowie. I like this song a lot. I can see myself really liking if one of my friends put it on. For some reason though, I can’t see myself sifting through my own music to listen to it.
18. “Sound and Vision” from Low (1977)
Natalie: I really like this one. It has a very cool, experimental, out-there vibe. It’s not like all the other ones, I like that!
Eleni: I’ve definitely heard this before or at least parts of it. I like this a lot too. It feels pretty short compared to some of the previous songs but it makes sense this way.
Marykate: I like the island vibe to this song. A lot. Vocals are interesting, the range Bowie is using here is different than what I’ve heard before. Overall, definitely dig this song.
19. “Golden Years [Single version]” from Station to Station (1976); single version from 1975
Natalie: I like the “Golden Years” line! This also has a very out-there feel to it, but I still like it. It’s more pop than rock.
Eleni: For as long as I’ve been familiar with this song I’ve never bothered to look up who actually sings it.
Marykate: This song creeps me out. Not in the good way. I could be being overly sensitive, but the lyrics just don’t sit right with me.
20. “Wild Is the Wind [Harry Maslin mix]” from Station to Station (1976); remix from 2010https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4yRgL15u9k
Natalie: Interesting… much more chill rock than amped up. I like it, but it’s not close to my favorite from this disc.
Eleni: This reminds me (in a general sense) of the songs in the first disc. Now that my general impressions of Bowie are starting to become more specific, I’m not surprised that this is by him.
Marykate: Bowie’s voice here makes my heart ache. He sounds so heartbroken. I haven’t felt a real connection to him yet, but this song changes that. Am I crazy to think that this sounds similar to the Phantom of the Opera? Is that way too nerdy to reference Bowie to? Regardless, that’s what I’m feeling here – and I like it. One of my favorites that I have heard so far.
INTERN FINAL THOUGHTS
Natalie: Bowie obviously has a huge repertoire! He has such a wide range of stuff that works for him, his voice, and his music. Even if I wasn’t the biggest fan of all of the songs on this disc, they weren’t bad – I just didn’t really like them personally. Everything was incredibly artistic and seemingly has a lot of meaning to him and his fans, so that’s really special!
Eleni: Listening to this disc was definitely a different experience than listening to the first one. For me songs like “Under Pressure” and “Let’s Dance” had always just existed and I never questioned that, so I’m glad they’ve finally been put into context. I think Bowie’s status as a music icon was always something that I was aware of but was solidified after listening to this.
Marykate: Disc 2 was a much more enjoyable experience than disc 1. There were still some songs I was definitely not into, but as the disc went on there were more that I genuinely liked and enjoyed. It was also cool to finally hear some songs I recognize – I was starting to think I was musically inept. Also – I need to introduce music with guitar solos like the ones I heard here into my life. I am excited to hear disc 3.