Critchley on Bowie’s Vision of Love

Simon Critchley on “Nothing Remains: David Bowie’s Vision of Love“:

The word “nothing” peppers and punctuates Bowie’s entire body of work, from the “hold on to nothing” of “After All,” from “The Man Who Sold the World,” through the scintillating, dystopian visions of “Diamond Dogs” and the refrain “We’re nothing and nothing can help us,” from “Heroes” and onward all the way to “Blackstar.” One could base an entire and pretty coherent interpretation of Bowie’s work simply by focusing on that one word, nothing, and tracking its valences through so many of his songs. Nothing is everywhere in Bowie.

Does that mean that Bowie was some sort of nihilist? Does it mean that his music, from the cultural disintegration of “Diamond Dogs,” through the depressive languor of “Low,” on to apparent melancholia of “Lazarus” is some sort of message of gloom and doom?

On the contrary.

Concealed in Bowie’s often dystopian words is an appeal to utopia, to the possible transformation not just of who we are, but of where we are. Bowie, for me, belongs to the best of a utopian aesthetic tradition that longs for a “yes” within the cramped, petty relentless “no” of Englishness. What his music yearned for and allowed us to imagine were new forms of being together, new intensities of desire and love in keener visions and sharper sounds.


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