The great David Bowie has passed away, but he leaves behind a legacy of extraordinary songs and larger-than-life characters. Whether he was Ziggy Stardust or Major Tom, the singer transported us to otherworldly places using the art of music, lyricism and performance.
It was in his music videos that Bowie could tap into the full range of his visionary talents, combining both sound and design to convey the astonishing, bizarre and mystical.
We pay tribute to the Starman by looking at four of his music videos that design lovers – and any music fan, for that matter – can enjoy.
‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’
Bowie and actress Tilda Swinton play out a suburban nightmare in ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, directed by filmmaker Floria Sigismondi. Released just three years ago, the video captures the pair as their lives are haunted by ghosts of their former selves inside an Art Deco, Californian-style villa, where pastel tones, sculptural furniture and net curtains abound. How much of this was shot on location – or indeed, where exactly the location was – remains unclear.
‘Where Are We Now?’
Until 2013, David Bowie spent many years living in the shadows, without uttering a single word to his legions of followers. Then, out of nowhere, he dropped ‘Where Are We Now?’ – an ode to 1970s Berlin, before the fall of the wall. The video is believed to be set in the studio of director and New York-based artist Tony Oursler, where a giant screen displays shots of places and spaces around Berlin, from the city’s domed cathedral, the Dom, to the Brandenburg Gate.
‘Jump They Say’
The 1993 video for ‘Jump They Say’ has a Clockwork Orange vibe with its depiction of independent struggle in a world of uniformity. Just as Stanley Kubrick leaned on Brutalist architecture to frame his story, filmmaker Mark Romanek uses Postmodern structures to tell a more contemporary tale of an individual’s battle.
The pared-back ‘Valentine’s Day’ feels removed from Bowie’s usual high-octane, performative feasts of the past. Its simplicity, however, shines a light on the raw surrounds of Brooklyn’s abandoned Red Hook Grain Terminal in which the singer plays his guitar. Some have read the video as a subtle critique of gun crime, with Bowie’s instrument acting as a metaphor for a rifle. Filmmakers Indrani and Markus Klinko directed.