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#25Y2M Playlist Life on Mars - David Bowie

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Life on Mars?

One of the highlights of his entire career, this song, off of his 1971 Hunky Dory album, features Bowie’s gorgeous, soaring vocals laid over top of a pristine Rick Wakeman piano line with further backing from The Spiders From Mars.

The two build the melody upon and against each other, achieving something approaching operatic in spite of the simultaneously comprehensible and non-sensical would-be libretto. The lyrics drift in and out of time in much the same way that Bowie has throughout his career. Despite the fact that much of the lyric hits lorem ipsum levels of practicality, there are certain phrases which break through to reflect how little our world has changed since the song was first released. Bowie tosses off references to America’s consumerism, police brutality, the decline of the British Empire and general teenage malaise.

With all of that in mind, the repeated lyric of “Is there life on Mars?” takes on a tone that is more desperate hope for a new and different life than strictly scientific curiosity If there is life on Mars, the mousy haired girl seems to be saying, then there is a hope that she could escape her day-to-day and live the life she believes she should truly have.

As beautiful as this song is, and it may truly be the best song Bowie has ever written, I believe that you can’t fully experience it without seeing the 1973 Mick Rock video “Life on Mars.” Bowie, in a blue pant suit and Ziggy Stardust make-up, acting and looking utterly alien for his era, casually kicking his way into the invention of glam rock. There is simply no way to get through this video and not be at least half-convinced that Bowie is actually a stranded Time Lord who is stuck on our planet with no way back to his own timeline and has just decided to make the best of a bad situation.

To follow future additions to the #25Y2M playlist subscribe to our playlist here on Spotify

Isaac TuckerCulture