David Bowie

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Bowie at his normalest
"Do you have one really freaky sequin space suit, man? Or do you have several ch-ch-ch-ch-changes? Do you smoke grass out in space, man? Or do they smoke astroturf? Oh yeah, oh, it's such an artificial high!"

David Bowie (born 1947, died 2016), one of rock music's most influential figures, has gone by many names, many sounds, and many visual styles throughout his career.

Although his recording career begin in 1964—he released an album and numerous singles during the middle years of The Sixties—David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when his space-age mini-melodrama "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK singles chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era as the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona (about eighteen months) epitomised a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation.

In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer identified as "plastic Soul"; it was during this period that he became one of the few white performers invited to play Soul Train. The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. After this, he had his first major film role with The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Not entirely sure what to do next, he spent about a year continuing his funk-influenced act with his last "character", The Thin White Duke, a bizarre, thin, well-dressed European aristocrat who -- much as Bowie himself did at this point—survived primarily on "red peppers, cocaine, and milk." He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti over the next two years. Arguably his most experimental works, the so-called "Berlin Trilogy" albums (named for his place of residence during this period as he pulled himself out of addiction) all reached the UK Top Five, though their overall commercial success was uneven.

Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes" and its parent album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). He paired with Queen for the 1981 UK chart-topper "Under Pressure", but consolidated his commercial—and, until then, most profitable—sound in 1983 with the album Let's Dance, which yielded the hit singles "Let's Dance", "China Girl" (a cover of an Iggy Pop song which he co-wrote), and "Modern Love".

1983 was also marked by The Hunger and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, further establishing his side career as an actor. His best-known role after The Man Who Fell to Earth would be Jareth, the Goblin King in 1986's Labyrinth (which has gotten quite the reputation for gratuitous crotch shots in the process of becoming a Cult Classic). Ranging from supporting roles to cameos, his acting work also includes Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Absolute Beginners, The Last Temptation of Christ, Zoolander, The Prestige, and even a voiceover role in SpongeBob SquarePants.

Back to music: He stayed with the commercial sound of Let's Dance for two more albums, but dissatisfied with the results, moved on to front the (ahem) short-lived rock band Tin Machine. From there he returned to solo work to increasing critical acclaim as the Turn of the Millennium arrived. After emergency heart surgery in 2004 forced him to cut a tour short, he made fewer and fewer concert, film, etc. appearances. As of The New Tens, he's an apparently-retired Reclusive Artist.

Bowie and his work have been referenced, parodied, and otherwise in a colorful variety of works. He's portrayed as a shapeshifting supervillain in The Venture Brothers, the Doctor Who story "The Waters of Mars" has a Bowie Base One on the Red Planet, the villains of one My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode are known as Diamond Dogs, etc. Two of his songs informed, and became the titles of, a very successful BBC series and its follow-up in the new millennium (namely, Life On Mars and Ashes to Ashes). And the 1998 film Velvet Goldmine presents a No Celebrities Were Harmed take on Bowie's glam rock years.

Notable for keeping his political opinions to himself and concentrating on entertainment.[1] He married Somalian supermodel-actress Iman in 1992. Via his first marriage to Angela Barnett in The Seventies, he is also the father of Zowie Bowie, better known these days as Duncan Jones, who made a name for himself as the director of 2009 sci-fi masterpiece Moon and the 2011 techno-thriller Source Code.

The Onion's A.V. Club has an excellent Primer article that runs down his musical career.

In 2016, just two days after his sixty-ninth birthday and three days after the release of his last album, Bowie lost his year and a half long battle with cancer.

Discography:

Studio discography[edit | hide | hide all]

  • David Bowie (1967) (disowned by Bowie)
  • Space Oddity (1969)
  • The Man Who Sold the World (1970)
  • Hunky Dory (1971)
  • The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
  • Aladdin Sane (1973)
  • Pin Ups (1973) (A Cover Album of songs from The British Invasion)
  • Diamond Dogs (1974)
  • Young Americans (1975)
  • Station to Station (1976)
  • Low (1977)
  • "Heroes" (1977)
  • Lodger (1979)
  • Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
  • Let's Dance (1983)
  • Tonight (1984)
  • Never Let Me Down (1987)
  • Tin Machine (1989)
  • Tin Machine II (1991)
  • Early On (1964-1966) (1991) (a compilation of Bowie's earliest recordings)
  • Black Tie White Noise (1993)
  • 1. Outside (1995)
  • Earthling (1997)
  • hours... (1999) (Essentially Omikron: The Original Soundtrack)
  • Heathen (2002)
  • Reality (2003)
  • The Next Day (2013)
  • Blackstar () (2016)

Live albums[edit | hide]

  • David Live (1974)
  • Stage (1978)
  • Tin Machine Live -- Oy Vey Baby! (1992)

Live bootlegs given official releases[edit | hide]

  • Live Santa Monica '72 (2009)
  • Live Nassau Coliseum '76 (2010; included with the Special and Deluxe Editions of Station to Station)

Concert films/videos[edit | hide]

  • Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1983; filmed 1973)
  • Serious Moonlight (1984)
  • Glass Spider (1988; Special Edition DVD includes 2 CDs drawn from an earlier show on the tour)
  • VH1 Storytellers (1999)
  • A Reality Tour (2004; 2010 CD release adds three numbers)

Soundtracks[edit | hide]

  • Labyrinth (Songs only, 1986)
  • The Buddha of Suburbia (1994)
  • Lazarus (As composer, 2016)

Parts of David Bowie's physique, known only as "The Area", have its own cult known as "Areaology" devoted to it.

David Bowie provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Aborted Arc: 1. Outside was intended as the first of a trilogy, but since it became an Orphaned Series, the world shall never know what was to become of its characters.
  • Actor IS the Title Character: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was promoted with an ad proclaiming "David Bowie is Ziggy Stardust"; at the bottom, in smaller type, it read "Ziggy Stardust is David Bowie".
  • Adam Westing: His appearance on Extras has become a small classic ("Little fat man who sold his soul..."), but years before that there was the long-form video/Short Film Jazzin' for Blue Jean (1984). One of his two characters, flamboyant but snotty Screamin' Lord Byron, is a sendup of his '70s personas and excesses.
  • Adorkable: His protagonist Vic, a sweet but inept fellow who tells a Celebrity Lie about "Mr. Screamin'", in Jazzin' for Blue Jean.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: The plot of his song "Saviour Machine".
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Parodied in the live performances of "Cracked Actor" on his 1974 and '83 tours—as per the song's title, he was dressed as a hybrid of Hamlet and a Hollywood star and "filmed" as he sang to a prop skull. The segment climaxed with him French-kissing it in '74; in '83 he tried to do so but his stagehands stepped in to stop that nonsense.
  • Alter Ego Acting: His 1970s stage personas, most famously Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke, are examples of Type 3 (see Secret Identity Identity below).
  • Ambiguously Bi: Some of his identities have been bi, but the man himself? He came out, then un-came out, so nobody really knows.
  • Anachronic Order: 1. Outside; applies to both the liner notes' short story and the arrangement of songs and spoken-word segues on the album itself.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Up the Hill Backwards" is his best example of this.
  • The Apunkalypse: The premise of Diamond Dogs.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: To quote the opening lines of Station to Station, "The return of The Thin White Duke/Throwing darts in lovers' eyes..."
  • Asian Gal with White Guy: The premise of "China Girl".
  • Ax Crazy: "Running Gun Blues" is sung from the viewpoint of a soldier who no longer has a war to fight and goes on to "promote oblivion" on his own ("I've cut twenty-three down since Friday"). This trope also applies to his character in the Italian-produced Western Il mio West (Gunslinger's Revenge in the U.S.), a psychotic outlaw who practically paralyzes a town with his and his equally mad gang's presence.
  • Bishonen: Oh, yes.
  • Blipvert: In the video for "Underground", as Bowie descends an invisible staircase in an alley, a closeup of his face is suddenly interrupted by a blipvert of Match Cut closeups of him through the years (including stage personas and movie characters). It switches back to the normal-time closeup, but just as quickly launches into another, lengthier blipvert of still more close-ups that finally slows down to focus on an animated one, and it's this Bowie that the video follows through the first chorus.
  • Book Ends
    • Scary Monsters opens and closes with "It's No Game"; the respective tracks are parenthetically titled Part 1 and Part 2.
    • The opening track of Black Tie White Noise is the mostly-instrumental "The Wedding"; the closing track is "The Wedding Song", which adds a full set of lyrics to the music. This also allows the album to open and close with the peals of church bells.
    • Assuming "Tired of My Life" is actually his first written song (as one of his collaborators claims) and Reality is last album, then "Tired of My Life" and the thematically similar "Bring Me The Disco King" form this work for his entire discography.
  • Bookworm: He couldn't bear to travel in The Seventies without at least a trunk full of books, and once put a list up at Bowienet of his favorite recently-read/re-read books...with 51 titles on it!
  • Bowdlerise
    • The Saturday Night Live performance of "Boys Keep Swinging" muted the second line of the couplet "When you're a boy/Other boys check you out"; in fact, the song wasn't released as a U.S. single on the basis of that line (though the video couldn't have helped its chances either).
    • The steamy Homage to From Here to Eternity at the end of the video for "China Girl" was re-edited to lose a shot of Bowie's bare backside.
    • In the "Loving the Alien" video, during the second chorus Bowie suddenly has a nosebleed on the line "They break the sky in two". An alternate version that dropped the nosebleed is the one commonly screened now (and on the Best of Bowie DVD set), but the original turned up on Bowie -- The Video Collection in The Nineties.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jazzin' for Blue Jean starts with Bowie (as Vic) narrating the camera directions. In a wonderful callback, it also ends with Vic trying to direct what happens in the final scene, which doesn't work, so Bowie breaks character and argues with (real-life) director Julien Temple.
  • Breakthrough Hit: "Starman".
  • British Rock Star: He fits the trope name in real life, naturally, but as far as the trope itself goes, snobby and decadent Screamin' Lord Byron in Jazzin' for Blue Jean is a classier-than-the-norm example of it.
  • Camp: Ziggy Stardust is only the most famous example of this in his work.
  • Canon Discontinuity: His early singles and first album, though he revisited some of those songs for the Toy project. There's also the odd case of "Too Dizzy", which was dropped from all reissues of Never Let Me Down.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': The old woman in "God Knows I'm Good" (Space Oddity) decides just this once to shoplift—and merely "a tin of stewing steak" at that—figuring that God will overlook the crime. When she's caught and stopped before she can leave the shop, the apparent divine judgment causes her to collapse in fright.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: Participated in several of the "I Want My MTV" promos; also shilled for Pepsi in 1987 (the ad teamed him up with Tina Turner) and XM Satellite Radio at the Turn of the Millennium.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: The point of "Fame".
  • Celebrity Paradox: Played with in the short story that accompanies 1. Outside, which is written as the diary of Detective Nathan Adler. Briefly recounting the history of the shocking performance art that paved the way for the "art-crime" fad, he notes that in The Seventies "Bowie the singer remarked on a coupla goons who frequented the Berlin bars wearing dull surgery regalia: caps, aprons, rubber gloves and masks." No first name is given...
  • Charity Motivation Song: He was supposed to sing on Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" but couldn't make the recording session; he did record a brief B-side spoken-word message and, later, an introduction for the video's debut on Top of the Pops. He finally got to sing the song with his fellow Live Aid performers the following year.
  • Christmas Songs: The "Peace on Earth"/"Little Drummer Boy" counterpoint duet he performed with Bing Crosby for the latter's 1977 Christmas Special still gets airplay today, and is loved both for itself and as kitsch.
  • Christmas Special: Besides Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, he played the narrator in a new introductory sequence for The Snowman in 1983. While the VHS and DVD releases use the original Raymond Briggs intro, most American viewers probably saw the Bowie version first, as this was what HBO aired.
  • Chronically-Killed Actor: He isn't hesitant to kill off his own characters in his music—poor Ziggy Stardust dies at the hands of his fans, and the protagonist in the "Jump They Say" video is Driven to Suicide, for instance. A significant number of his film and TV characters are hustled off by The Grim Reaper as well. (In fact, Mr. Rice's Secret starts with his character dying and he's only seen in flashbacks throughout.) And if they live, it probably won't be to enjoy a Happy Ending...
  • Classical Mythology: The Cyclops was the inspiration for "The Supermen". See also A Load of Bull below.
  • Concept Album: These make up a significant portion of his 1970-76 output. Beyond this, he invented quite a few characters/personas over the years for his work, including Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane ("Ziggy goes to America"), The Man Who Sold the World, The Thin White Duke, The Earthling, and the various characters from Outside (specifically Det. Nathan Adler). And that's not even including his various film characters, such as Thomas Jerome Newton and Jareth.
  • Concept Video: A favorite trope of his from the turn of The Eighties onward—see "Look Back in Anger", "Ashes to Ashes", "China Girl", "Day-In Day-Out", "Jump They Say", "Thursday's Child", etc. His contributions to the medium made him one of the original recipients of the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the first Video Music Awards ceremony in 1984, and his only competitive Grammy win was in 1985 for Best Short Form Music Video (Jazzin' for Blue Jean).
  • Contemptible Cover: The original covers for Diamond Dogs and Tin Machine II had to be censored to remove male genitalia (or, well, half-man half-dog genitalia in the former case).
  • Continuity Nod
    • Major Tom, the protagonist of "Space Oddity", is revisited in "Ashes to Ashes" (Scary Monsters), and is referenced again in the Pet Shop Boys remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" (1. Outside).
    • On the Diamond Dogs Tour (1974), Bowie performed "Space Oddity" in a chair that was lifted by a cherrypicker over the audience; he sang the song into a telephone. Thirteen years later, the Glass Spider Tour opened with Bowie again in a chair, this time lowered onto the stage by wires as he recited the Opening Narration of "Glass Spider" into a telephone.
    • Bits and pieces of the cover art for Aladdin Sane and the Berlin Trilogy albums appear on the back cover of Scary Monsters.
    • The border surrounding then-present day Bowie in the video for "Fame '90" consists of a bunch of little screens. Several of them are showing looped montages of stills of Bowie over the years (both from his music and acting careers) or clips from previous videos and TV appearances. In fact, one screen simply runs Bowie's 1975 performance of "Fame" on Cher's variety show!
    • The ending of "The Buddha of Suburbia" revives that of "All the Madmen" (see Gratuitous Foreign Language below), and shortly before that, the guitar break from "Space Oddity" is quoted.
    • The "Little Wonder" video incorporates a Ziggy Stardust lookalike into its action.
    • The filmed-but-unreleased Concept Video for "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell"—the title of which combines Hunky Dory's "Oh! You Pretty Things" and Iggy and The Stooges' "Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell"—was based around Bowie encountering four of his "past selves" (The Man Who Sold the World, Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, and Pierrot) as played by life-sized, mannequin-like puppets.
  • Costume Porn: His Glam Rock period had a lot of this, but it turns up later too—from his Pierrot outfit in the "Ashes to Ashes" video to his Unlimited Wardrobe in Labyrinth to his Earthling-era, Alexander McQueen-designed frock coats. In-story, Screamin' Lord Byron's onstage look in Jazzin' for Blue Jean is all about this.
  • The Cover Changes the Meaning: The title track of Tonight is a cover of an Iggy Pop number he co-wrote...minus the opening that establishes that the sweetheart the singer is addressing is dying of a drug overdose, turning it from a Teenage Death Songs into a straightforward, optimistic love song (and duet with Tina Turner).
  • Cover Album: Pin Ups.
  • Cover Version: Since Hunky Dory, most of his studio albums contain at least one cover version, showing that Bowie is as good a musician/singer as he is a songwriter. The original performer is listed in parentheses.
    • Hunky Dory -- "Fill Your Heart" (Biff Rose)
    • Ziggy Stardust -- "It Ain't Easy" (Ron Davies)
    • Aladdin Sane -- "Let's Spend the Night Together" (The Rolling Stones)
    • Young Americans -- "Across the Universe" (The Beatles)
    • Station to Station -- "Wild Is the Wind" (Johnny Mathis, though Nina Simone's version was the one that inspired Bowie's take)
    • Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) -- "Kingdom Come" (Tom Verlaine)
    • Let's Dance -- "China Girl" (Iggy Pop)
    • Tonight -- "Neighborhood Threat" and "Tonight" (Iggy Pop), "God Only Knows" (The Beach Boys), "I Keep Forgettin'" (Chuck Jackson) [2]
    • Never Let Me Down -- "Bang Bang" (Iggy Pop)
    • Tin Machine -- "Working Class Hero" (John Lennon)
    • Tin Machine II -- "If There Is Something" (Roxy Music)
    • Black Tie White Noise -- "I Feel Free" (Cream), "Don't Let Me Down and Down" (Tarha), "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" (Morrissey),[3] "Nite Flights" (Scott Walker)
    • Heathen -- "Cactus" (The Pixies), "I've Been Waiting for You" (Neil Young), "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" (The Legendary Stardust Cowboy)
    • Reality -- "Pablo Picasso" (The Modern Lovers) and "Try Some, Buy Some" (George Harrison)
    • He frequently covered The Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat" and/or "Waiting for the Man" in concert. Jacques Brel's "My Death", a staple of Ziggy Stardust-era shows, was brought back for the Outside Summer Festivals Tour and the Earthling Tour.
  • Crapsack World: "Hunger City", the setting for the Diamond Dogs album, was this—not surprising as much of the material on it was originally intended for a musical version of 1984. If one sticks to a Bowie-verse, this setting may or may not be as a result of the catastrophe predicted in Ziggy Stardust's "Five Years".
    • Other Crapsack Worlds appear in the songs "Scream Like a Baby," "Bombers," "Oh! You Pretty Things," "Sons of the Silent Age" (the lyrics that aren't a Silly Love Songs) and the album 1. Outside, and possibly "All The Madmen," though that one's subject to Ambiguous Situation (is the narrator mad or the outside world?)
  • Creator Breakdown: Low was written and recorded while Bowie was starting to wean himself off cocaine, and while his marriage to Angela was showing fissures that would soon lead to divorce. That set the tone for both the album and its title.
    • And this was the album where Bowie was recovering (it has been described, not inaccurately, as "a cocaine come down put to music"). His previous album, Station to Station, was recorded in LA while Bowie was suffering a full-blown cocaine-induced psychotic breakdown. He has claimed in interviews he remembers nothing about the recording other than describing the guitar sound he wanted on the title track to the session musician, but there are many stories about his behaviour at the time.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Apocalypses, dystopias, cocaine, mental instability, celestial imagery, and science fiction imagery/subject matter turn up again and again. The Onion's article "NASA Launches David Bowie Concept Mission" is built around references to his "spacier" work, and mentions other common subjects of his when it notes that "the mission will primarily study paranoia, decadence, and the fluidity of sexual identity in a zero-gravity environment". There is also a reflective, often melancholy bent to his last three studio albums.
  • The Criterion Collection: Appears in three films that have made it into this august series: The Man Who Fell to Earth (also participated in the audio commentary for it), Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and The Last Temptation of Christ. He also figures into the special features on the La Jetee disc via a French TV excerpt that looks at how the "Jump They Say" video directly homages that Short Film, and another Criterion title, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, has a soundtrack featuring translated cover versions of his songs.
  • Darker and Edgier / Lighter and Softer: His albums alternate between these a lot. Space Oddity -> The Man Who Sold The World -> Hunky Dory is one example—though Hunky Dory only counts as lighter musically, as lyrically it's incredibly dark.
    • The Buddha of Suburbia -> Outside -> Earthling would be another example.
    • With regards to his stage personas in The Seventies, the flamboyant, messianic Ziggy Stardust was followed by the variants of Aladdin Sane and Halloween Jack (Diamond Dogs)...and then came the depths of darkness with The Thin White Duke.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: "Wild Is the Wind", "The Drowned Girl", and most of the non-film clip portions of "Absolute Beginners" and "As the World Falls Down". "China Girl" and "Loving the Alien" alternate between color and black-and-white scenes.
  • Domestic Abuser: "Repetition" is about a bitter man who verbally and physically abuses his wife.
  • Door Step Baby: The protagonist of "Day-In Day-Out" starts this way...and life does not, it is strongly implied can not, get better for her as an adult unless she indulges in shady behavior. Even then, happiness is only fleeting.
  • Drag Queen: Certainly not full-time, but he posed in a "man's dress" for the original album cover of The Man Who Sold the World, wore a stewardess uniform for his Saturday Night Live performance of "TVC15", and in the video for "Boys Keep Swinging" his three "backup singers" are all him in drag (and get their own Fashion Show at the end, complete with the first two whipping off their wigs and smearing their lipstick).
  • Driven to Suicide: The protagonist of the song and video "Jump They Say".
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: In the very late '60s/early '70s, thanks to his long, flowing locks. See the aforementioned Man Who Sold the World cover and the back cover of Hunky Dory.
  • Eighties Hair: Just look at Labyrinth, the Never Let Me Down videos, and the Glass Spider Tour. Of course, he knew the power of a nice mullet back in The Seventies as Ziggy Stardust...
  • Eldritch Abomination: More prominent in his earlier works than later on in his career. "The Width of a Circle" features Bowie having sex with one while "The Supermen" describes them as "guardians of a loveless isle". Both songs are from The Man Who Sold the World.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: The title track of Station to Station starts with over a minute of train sound effects, then over two minutes of instrumental rocking before the singing kicks in. (In live performances, the band approximated the train effect.) On the same album, the instrumental opening of "Stay" takes over a minute.
  • Epic Rocking: "Cygnet Committee", "The Width of a Circle", "Time", "Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)", "Station to Station", ""Heroes"" (the album version).
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: He trained as a mime in an avant-garde theater troupe in the late 1960s and incorporated it into some Ziggy Stardust shows, but later realized that "Nobody in the world likes mime."
  • Everything Is an Instrument: Reeves Gabrels used a vibrator (yes, as in the sex toy) to make buzzing sounds on the guitar during the Tin Machine years.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Ziggy Stardust lived up to his name when it came to makeup -- including, on occasion, a glittering circle in the middle of his forehead. Jareth has enough sparkle that, at least at Deviant ART, Twilight comparisons/jokes have been made (though the general consensus among fans is that the Goblin King glitters rather than sparkles).
  • Evil Redhead: The Thin White Duke.
  • Expy
    • Aladdin Sane is this to Ziggy Stardust; Bowie was worried about the issue of Secret Identity Identity with Ziggy's success and decided to wean himself away from that persona via an expy who, more or less, represented Ziggy's decline.
    • The Thin White Duke is a loose, mean expy of Thomas Jerome Newton, one reason that the album cover of Station to Station is a still from the movie.
  • Eye Scream: Twice in Real Life! His left eye's permanently-dilated state was the result of a childhood fight, and during a Reality Tour show in 2004, the same eye was struck by a thrown lollipop. By the by, he featured one of the most famous examples of this trope on his 1976 tour, showing the entirety of Un Chien Andalou before taking the stage...
  • Fading Into the Next Song: The "Sweet Thing"/"Candidate"/"Sweet Thing" (reprise) sequence on Diamond Dogs.
  • Fake Band: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
  • Fluffy Fashion Feathers: As Ziggy Stardust he occasionally donned a feather boa; according to Word of God in the retrospective book Moonage Daydream, this was "a rather feeble visual pun" on Alice Cooper's use of boa constrictors in his stage shows.
  • Freaky Fashion, Mild Mind: As seen in this interview from the Ziggy period.
  • Freaky Is Cool: A view held by both the artist and his fanbase.
  • Genre Roulette: Just pick a concert setlist or Greatest Hits Album and you'll get this.
  • Grandpa, What Massive Hotness You Have: He's in his sixties. He's still good-lookin'.
  • Glam Rock: One of the best-known examples of this genre; in exchange, it's the one that made him truly famous.
  • "God Is Love" Songs: "Word on a Wing".
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Japanese on "It's No Game Part 1" and French on "All the Madmen" and "The Buddha of Suburbia." The former is the Japanese translation of the English lyrics, and the latter translates to "Open the dog."
  • Greatest Hits Album: Unlike a lot of musical artists, Bowie is actually very open to the concept of compilations. This and his frequent label swapping has resulted in 46 of these over the past four decades. 2002's Best of Bowie is notable for how much work was put into making it complete; see the other wiki for more details.
  • The Grim Reaper: "Look Back in Anger" is about an encounter with a tired, bored Angel of Death.
  • Heavy Meta: "Hang on to Yourself" is perhaps the best example of this from Ziggy Stardust.
  • Homage: In his music videos...
    • "Look Back in Anger" is a variant on The Picture of Dorian Gray.
    • "China Girl" ends with a steamier take on the lovers-in-the-surf scene from From Here to Eternity.
    • The framing device for the film clips in "Absolute Beginners" comes from a vintage British cigarette commercial. The brand and its slogan -- "You're never alone with a Strand"—are quoted by Bowie's character in the film.
    • The experiments conducted on his character in "Jump They Say" are visually the same as those conducted on the protagonist of the French Science Fiction Short Film La Jetee. (The Criterion Collection's DVD of the short includes an excerpt from a French TV program about this video and its homage.)
  • Impractically Fancy Outfit: His glam rock period, in particular, featured a lot of these.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: The plot of the early song "Little Bombardier": a lonely old veteran strikes up a friendship with some little kids, but his intentions are taken the wrong way by the local authorities.
  • Isn't It Ironic?: Dating back to the BBC using "Space Oddity" (which has a Downer Ending) as part of its moon landing coverage in 1969, several of his songs have been subject to this trope over the years. "Fame" may be the most frequent victim of this, often being used to celebrate glamour and the celebrity life when it's actually about the hollowness of those things. And Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life", which Bowie wrote the music for, is not the most appropriate choice for advertising Royal Caribbean Cruise Line...
  • Japandering: Twice—in Japan for Jun Rock sake in 1980 (with an instrumental that became an A-side there and a B-side in the U.K.), and in Italy for Vittel bottled water in 2003. The latter, a cheeky spot in which Bowie shares a house with most of his 1970-80 personas, was re-edited with a different song and turned into the U.S. ad for Reality.
  • Jukebox Musical: Lazarus, one of the last works by Bowie before his death, is a 2015 musical featuring songs from his back catalogue to tell a story inspired by The Man Who Fell to Earth.
  • Large Ham: Yes, he's capable of subtlety and delicacy as both a singer and an actor, but he has rarely (if ever) passed up an opportunity to be hammy if that's what's called for. Two of his videos from Lodger are good examples, as is the original soundtrack version of "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (which is—more or less—the lament of a lovelorn Reluctant Monster).
  • Last-Note Nightmare: "Space Oddity" has a particularly nasty one.
  • Lean and Mean: The Thin White Duke.
  • Leave the Camera Running / Throw It In: The closing track of Diamond Dogs ("Chant of the Ever-Circling Skeletal Family") ends with a tape loop, the result of a blunder in the studio that Bowie and company decided to keep in.
  • Limey Goes to Hollywood: Bowie moved to the U.S., ultimately settling down in Los Angeles, after the release of Diamond Dogs to work on courting American audiences (the Ziggy Stardust period was merely a cult success there); the Diamond Dogs Tour solely toured North America. During this period he recorded Young Americans and Station to Station and filmed The Man Who Fell to Earth (a British production shot in the U.S.)...the downside was his Creator Breakdown unfolding during all this; he didn't think well of L.A. for a long time afterward.
  • Limited Special Collectors' Ultimate Edition: Several of his albums have received this treatment, but none more so than Station to Station in 2010—the Special Edition included an additional two discs containing his much-bootlegged Nassau Coliseum concert from '76. The Deluxe Edition...oh my...all for an album that has a less-than-40-minute runtime and six songs.
  • Limited Wardrobe: It was rare to see The Thin White Duke in anything besides a suit consisting of black trousers, a white shirt, and a black vest with a pack of Gitanes cigarettes in the front pocket.
  • Loads and Loads of Roles: On 1. Outside, he gives voice to a 52-year-old detective, a 14-year-old female murder victim, mad artists of both genders, a 78-year-old shopkeeper, etc. (There are pictures of most of them in the booklet, via the magic of makeup, costume, and image manipulation.)
  • A Load of Bull: One of the mad artists in 1. Outside, pictured in the booklet, is known only as "The Minotaur" and conceals his face beneath an elaborate bull head mask. Bowie wears a similar mask in the video for "The Heart's Filthy Lesson".
  • Love Before First Sight: The plot of the video "As the World Falls Down", and it applies to both people in the "relationship".
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Songs such as "Janine", "Cygnet Committee", "Bombers", "Oh! You Pretty Things", "Young Americans", "Fantastic Voyage", and "Day-In Day-Out" set lyrics on such topics as love martyrdom, the apocalypse, troubled youth, and so on to deceptively upbeat music.
  • Mad Artist: 1. Outside is based around a mystery involving mad artists. He also played the equally mad Julian Priest in the second season premiere of the horror anthology The Hunger (yes, inspired by/named after the movie he starred in years before), and hosted the remainder of the season as that character.
  • The Messiah: The "Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud". The protagonist of "We Are Hungry Men" thinks he's this.
  • Messianic Archetype: Ziggy Stardust, who is worshiped to the point that he believes the hype about him by the time he dies at the hands of his fans. Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth undergoes a similar journey to save his people, but his sacrifices, betrayal, and suffering tragically amount to nothing.
  • Mismatched Eyes: A childhood fight resulted in one of his eyes becoming permanently dilated, causing him to sometimes be mistaken for actually having different-colored eyes.
  • Missing Episode: Toy, which would have come after hours.... (See What Could Have Been on the Trivia page for more details.)
  • Mohs Scale of Lyrical Hardness: The bulk of his work ranges from 4 to 8. The world his songs chronicle isn't the most optimistic at its best, and at its worst it's a tragically-portrayed dystopia. This is summed up surprisingly well in the liner notes of his first album, which were written by then-manager Kenneth Pitt:

It [Bowie's "line of vision"] sees the bitterness of humanity, but rarely bitterly. It sees the humor of our failings, the pathos of our virtues. David writes and sings what he sees to be the truth, and the truth is rarely an ode to the moon and to June. His moon is pock marked and grey. June is not for brides, it is for the birds -- if it isn't raining.

  • Money, Dear Boy: Bowie was pretty open that the purpose of Let's Dance was "to have hits". (Although a big seller in the 1970s, a disastrous deal with his manager meant he saw very little of the money.) He also cited this trope when explaining why he did the Pepsi ad...indeed, he said it's probably the only reason anyone would do an ad.
  • Mood Whiplash
    • "Rebel Rebel" is much more upbeat than most of the rest of the songs on Diamond Dogs.
    • "Boys Keep Swinging" is a joyfully Camp tune; on Lodger it comes between "Look Back in Anger" and "Repetition"—which are about The Grim Reaper and Domestic Abuse, respectively.
  • Monster Clown: The mysterious Pierrot of the Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) artwork and the "Ashes to Ashes" video, played by Bowie himself.
  • Music Is Politics: Faced this issue more than once with managerial and money problems in the mid-1970s and record labels wanting an old sound rather than a new one in the '70s (RCA wanted him to do more blue-eyed soul as opposed to Low) and the turn of The Nineties (he left EMI over their reservations about a second Tin Machine album).
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: As one example, David Live captures the transition from Diamond Dogs (the album the tour was supporting) to Young Americans via a mostly-Glam Rock setlist with horn-heavy, soul-influenced arrangements; this approach became even more pronounced later in the tour, which introduced some of the Young Americans songs.
  • New Media Are Evil: Averted; Bowie was one of the first "old guard" rock stars to embrace the internet and use it to promote his work, communicate with fans, etc.
  • New Sound Album: All the time. His first full-length album was typical of 1960s British pop with touches of music hall, and then he moved on to...
    • Folk Music rock with Space Oddity
    • Heavy Metal with The Man Who Sold The World
    • Glam Rock with Hunky Dory
    • Funk with Young Americans
    • Kraut Rock and post-punk with Low
    • Mainstream New Wave with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
      • Side project—Cabaret (specifically Bertolt Brecht) with Baal (a tie-in EP to a BBC production of the play that he toplined)
    • Pop rock with Let's Dance
    • Hard Rock with Tin Machine
    • Jazz rock with Black Tie White Noise
    • Industrial and electronic with 1. Outside
    • Mainstream alt-rock with Reality
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: At the Video Game Lookalikes website, he warrants a separate page due to the surprising number of characters who resemble him, including several from the Final Fantasy franchise. There's even a Pokémon, Zangoose, who resembles Bowie's famous Aladdin Sane cover!
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Made a side career out of this in conjunction with One-Scene Wonder.
  • Not What It Looks Like: A low point of Bowie's Creator Breakdown was the infamous "Victoria Station incident" of 1976, in which Bowie was photographed appearing to give a Nazi salute to the English fans who had gathered for his return to the country. Bowie has always maintained that the photographer merely caught him in mid-wave.
  • Older Than They Look: Look at the page image and try processing that this man is now sixty-five.
  • On a Soundstage All Along: Jazzin' for Blue Jean ends this way, albeit on a city street rather than a soundstage.
  • One-Scene Wonder: To Memetic Mutation. (Just look at the page.)
  • One Word Title: Besides Tonight, he has had two stretches of using one word titles for his albums—first with the Berlin Trilogy and Stage, then with all his studio albums from Earthling onward.
  • Opening Narration: "Future Legend", the lead-off track on Diamond Dogs, is this; "Glass Spider" is a song that opens with spoken-word narration.
  • Orphaned Series: 1. Outside was supposed to have two follow-ups.
  • Other Common Music Video Concepts
    • Backwards Action: "Let's Dance" and "China Girl" both have brief segments involving this.
    • Band from Mundania: Both hours... videos put Bowie in domestic settings and then ease in fantasy elements. In "Thursday's Child", he and his current lover are getting ready for bed when in the bathroom mirror he sees a reflection of his younger self and an old lover. In "Survive", he broods alone in a cluttered kitchen over a romantic breakup—and then gravity goes askew.
    • Dance Hall Daze: "Never Let Me Down" is set at a dance marathon.
    • Dancing In the Streets: Though "Dancing in the Street" would better qualify as this if there were more than just him and Mick Jagger gadding about.
    • Monochrome Background: "Life on Mars?" and "Be My Wife" take place against all-white backdrops.
    • Movie Tie-In Music Video: "Underground" and "As the World Falls Down". Impressively, given the source film, only the latter incorporates film clips.
  • Performance Video: All his promo clips up through 1977's ""Heroes""; after this, the bulk of them are either Surreal Music Video or concept-based. "Modern Love", which was shot on the Serious Moonlight Tour, is the best-known of his post-'77 solo performance vids. The Tin Machine videos are all performance-based.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: An interesting variation on the album cover for 'hours...' wherein an older long-haired Bowie cradles a younger short-haired version of himself.
  • Pop Star Composer: Labyrinth, The Buddha of Suburbia, and Omikron: The Nomad Soul.
  • Pun-Based Title: Aladdin Sane.
  • Radio Friendliness: Suffered in the U.S. thanks to this trope—once he abandoned his Let's Dance-era sound, that was pretty much the end of radio support for his work there. Before that, Low and "Heroes" were radio-unfriendly everywhere, only yielding three singles between them.
  • Rearrange the Song: Often. Aside from many concert rearrangements, examples include:
    • "John, I'm Only Dancing" (1972) was given a funky revamp and some new lyrics as "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" in 1975.
    • "Space Oddity" was remade as an acoustic number in 1979, as a prelude of sorts to Scary Monsters's follow-up song "Ashes to Ashes".
    • "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" was given a poppier arrangement for Let's Dance.
    • "Fame '90" was this for "Fame" (1975).
    • The never-formally released Toy (it was leaked online in 2011) featured new takes on his mid-1960s work.
  • Reclusive Artist: Became this in the late '00s—he only occasionally surfaces in public (usually attending the odd charity fundraiser) and hasn't performed live, recorded, or granted an interview in years. In 2011 biographer Paul Trynka effectively confirmed that Bowie has indeed quietly retired, unlikely to make another record unless it's "seismic".
  • Record Producer: In The Seventies, he gave a helping hand to some of his influences when he produced Transformer for Lou Reed, Raw Power for The Stooges, and The Idiot for Iggy Pop.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: In "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", the singer's eyes start as green as he warns his inamorata of his dangerous need for her...in verse two, they turn red, and he mentions that "Those who feel me near/Pull the blinds and change their minds".
  • Redheaded Hero: Ziggy Stardust, his expies, and Thomas Jerome Newton (The Man Who Fell to Earth), though in the case of the latter it's just part of his human disguise (he's naturally hairless).
  • Refrain From Assuming: It's called "Space Oddity," not "Major Tom". Although there is a song called "Major Tom (Coming Home)" by Peter Schilling that is about the same character.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: Several of his songs have been used for advertisements (see Isn't It Ironic? above), though the most elaborate case was the 1987 Pepsi ad he did with Tina Turner, which featured a rewritten version of "Modern Love".
  • Retraux: The "Wild Is the Wind" video's visuals mimic the look of American jazz programs of The Fifties.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: "Cygnet Committee".
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • "God Knows I'm Good" (see Can't Get Away with Nuthin' above) was inspired by a newspaper article.
    • "Joe the Lion" ("Heroes") is the No Celebrities Were Harmed version of Chris Burden, an artist who once had himself crucified on a Volkswagen ("Nail me to my car/And I'll tell you who you are"). Burden and this incident are directly mentioned in the liner notes of 1. Outside.
  • Rock Band: Songs of his that have appeared in this series:
    • Original game: "Suffragette City"
    • Track Pack Vol. 1: "Moonage Daydream" (also appeared on Bowie Pack 01)
    • Rock Band 3: "Space Oddity"
    • Lego Rock Band: "Let's Dance"...in a segment complete with his own Lego avatar
    • Bowie Pack 01: "Queen Bitch", ""Heroes""
    • Queen download pack: "Under Pressure"
    • Bowie Pack 02: "Ziggy Stardust", "Young Americans", "Fame", "Modern Love", "Blue Jean"
  • Rock Opera: 1. Outside, which is much more specific about its storyline and characters than his concept albums.
  • The Rock Star: A perfect Real Life example—his exploration of the trope, particularly with the Ziggy Stardust persona, helped pave the path to him living it as completely as anyone ever has. A critic interviewed for the Biography episode on Bowie actually argues (though not in tropes) that he is the Trope Codifier.
  • Rockstar Song: "Star" and "Ziggy Stardust".
  • Rule of Sean Connery: Whether you use him a little or a lot, your project will be cooler for his presence.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: "Breaking Glass" from Low, which came at a point when Bowie's sanity had indeed slipped.
  • Scenery Porn: His rock-meets-theater aesthetic made him one of the first to use this in concerts.
    • The "Hunger City" set of the 1974 Diamond Dogs Tour was not only elaborate, but hid all the musicians and backup singers from view. The second half of the tour dropped this, in part because it was just too expensive.
    • The stage of the Glass Spider Tour of 1987 was dominated by an 80-foot-tall representation of the titular creature; Bowie made his grand entrance in a chair that descended from its belly.
    • 1990's Sound+Vision featured huge projections of Bowie and others as backdrops and counterpoints to the live performers.
    • Averted with his 1976 and '78 tours, which eschewed setpieces and elaborate effects in favor of focusing on lighting to set the mood (to the point that the '76 tour was nicknamed the "White Light Tour").
  • Secret Identity Identity: Struggled with this issue in The Seventies where his characters were concerned, in particular Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. The threat of the heartless, Fascistic Duke, who was partly inspired and "aided" by Bowie's substance abuse problems, consuming him was the primary reason he stopped creating and assuming such stage personas.
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Frequently does his own backup vocals, but not always.
  • Self-Deprecation: Jazzin' for Blue Jean features the hapless Vic insulting Screamin' Lord Byron (an obvious parody of Bowie's alter egos) with "You conniving, randy, bogus-Oriental old queen! Your record sleeves are better than your songs!"
  • Self-Titled Album: Actually ended up with about 4 of these. His debut album, his second album (which would later be re-released as Space Oddity), and then Tin Machine and Tin Machine II, named after the hard rock band that he fronted.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: Called out by name in "That's Motivation" (Absolute Beginners), a Villain Recruitment Song that promises the target that they will be free to indulge in all seven with no fear of punishment if they join up.
  • The Seventies and The Eighties: A vital part of pop culture in both decades.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll: Lived this trope hard in The Seventies, as did his stage personas of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, etc. Songs on the subject include "Ziggy Stardust" and "Ashes to Ashes" (the latter of which looks back on this period).
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Just look at the page image! He loves rocking a nice suit, often and iconically enough that this is how he is portrayed in The Venture Brothers Specific examples include...
    • The Thin White Duke was famous for his Waistcoat of Style in '76; this look was adapted from some of his costumes in The Man Who Fell to Earth.
    • The famous pastel suits of the Serious Moonlight Tour.
    • Self-parody in Jazzin' for Blue Jean, as Vic attempts to be this by borrowing one of his roommate's suits.
    • His Live Aid outfit.
    • Vendice Partners in Absolute Beginners, being an advertising executive who knows the power of style over substance, dresses in stylish suits.
    • The album cover of Tin Machine; extends to the music videos he did with the group.
    • The black-and-white duds of the Sound+Vision Tour could be seen as a kinder, gentler version of the Duke's look (sometimes his shirts had lacy cuffs).
    • All his videos and TV appearances over 1993 when he was promoting Black Tie White Noise.
    • The cover of Heathen and the inner booklet of Reality.
  • Shout-Out: His work is replete with these. There's one right in the title of "Space Oddity". Elsewhere there are references to A Clockwork Orange ("Suffragette City"), The Beatles ("Young Americans" quotes "A Day in the Life" near the end), Aleister Crowley ("Quicksand", "Station to Station"), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer ("Magic Dance"'s famous opening is a variant on the film's closing lines), and so on and so forth.
    • The chord sequence to "Life on Mars" is identical to that of "My Way". David Bowie was asked to write the original English lyrics, but his version ("Even a Fool Learns to Love") was ignored in favour of Paul Anka's.
    • "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore", from Blackstar, is named after the play 'Tis Pity She's a Whore by John Ford.
  • Shown Their Work: The Bowie-penned short story that makes up the bulk of the liner notes for 1. Outside not only establishes the album's storyline and characters, but also weaves in stories of the grisly "precursors" of the art-crime movement. These are mostly Real Life 20th century artists of the True Art Is Incomprehensible school, and often particularly grisly ones at that: Hermann Nitsch, Chris Burden, Damien Hirst, Ron Athey, and Guy Bourdin. (Burden had previously inspired the "Heroes" song "Joe the Lion".)
  • Signature Song: As his first hit, "Space Oddity" is usually regarded as this, since the range of his career and resultant arguments over his best era make it hard to settle the question otherwise. However, "Life on Mars?" and ""Heroes"" have become competitors for the title in recent years. While relatively early in his canon, "Changes" kinda pokes fun at this, and (ironically) became another one of his signature tunes.
  • Something Blues: "Running Gun Blues".
  • Something Completely Different: His one Heavy Metal album with the Spiders, The Man Who Sold the World—his next album was the start of his glam phase, but still closer to his first two albums than this one.
  • Spiritual Successor: Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust.
  • Spooky Painting: In the "Look Back in Anger" video, one magically disfigures the face of the artist who painted it.
  • Spoken Word in Music: The countdown in "Space Oddity" and the recitation in "All the Madmen".
  • Stage Name/One Steve Limit: His real name is David Jones.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The singer in the early song "Love You Till Tuesday"—and on top of that, it's going to be a fleeting crush since he fell for the lady in question on a Sunday!
  • Stepford Smiler: "D.J." is about/sung by a radio deejay who is a male version of Type B ("I am what I play"); the video especially suggests he's turning into a Type C.
  • Storyboard: Bowie drew these up for the videos he did with director David Mallet at the turn of The Eighties.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: One of Bowie's lyrical trademarks is his use of blank verse, though he doesn't write exclusively in that style.
  • Surreal Music Video: Many, including "Fashion", "Loving the Alien", "Miracle Goodnight", "Hallo Spaceboy", and "Little Wonder".
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: A variant of this was done with "Fashion". It reworked the melody of "Golden Years", only louder, Darker and Edgier.
  • Studio Chatter: The ringing phone that's answered at the end of "Life on Mars?"
  • Ten-Minute Retirement: For his bigger hit songs, rather than himself, during the Tin Machine period. The solo Sound+Vision Tour in 1990 was hyped as the final tour in which he'd perform them in concert, as he wanted to move on from them. This stuck until 1996's Outside Summer Festivals Tour reintroduced ""Heroes"" to his set lists, and most of the "big" songs have since returned to the stage.
    • Bowie himself had one after the last Ziggy Stardust concert when he announced, "Not only is it the last show of the tour, it's the last show we'll ever do." He meant it was his last show as the character Ziggy Stardust, but the audience didn't know that at the time.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Perhaps not just three chords, but many of his songs are built around fairly simple chord progressions. Since this highlights his sophisticated vocal technique, it arguably qualifies as Awesome Yet Practical.
  • Translated Cover Version: Bowie's song '"Heroes"' has been covered in French as '"Heros"' and in German as '"Helden"'.
    • Also, "Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola", a love song to the tune of "Space Oddity" (which Bowie hated; he thought he was singing a direct translation).
    • He also recorded a Mandarin version of Earthling's "Seven Years in Tibet".
    • The movie The Life Aquatic features performances of Bowie songs in Portugese.
  • Trickster: One never knew quite what the new Bowie album would be like for most of his career or, in The Seventies, which persona it would be... and even after you got it, there was guaranteed to be enough Lyrical Dissonance to keep you scratching your head wondering what it really meant for years. The visual presentation of his work (concerts, videos, live TV performances) varies wildly from period to period as well. He freely courted controversy and flaunted unconventional ways in The Seventies, and though he did mellow out come The Eighties, he never lost the strong sense of humor that served him well both on and offstage.
  • Trope Overdosed: There are more than 350 references to him on TV Tropes. Might be due to his constant ch-ch-ch-ch-changes?
  • Twenty Minutes Into the Future: 1995's 1. Outside as the main action starts on December 31, 1999.
  • Typecasting: Most of his roles, be they goodies or baddies, human or inhuman, are linked by a cool, mysterious aura—the trailer for the movie The Hunger referred to this as "cruel elegance".
  • Ubermensch: A recurring theme in several early songs, including "The Supermen," "Quicksand," and "Oh! You Pretty Things."
  • Uncanny Valley Makeup: A lot in his younger days, and the illustrations of the 1. Outside booklet. Arguably, Bowie is somewhat in the Uncanny Valley even without a specific makeup...
  • Unusual Eyebrows: Bowie shaved off his eyebrows one grumpy, drunken night in 1972, and liked the resultant look enough that he kept them shaved off until Young Americans.
  • Video Full of Film Clips: Several -- "This Is Not America" (The Falcon and the Snowman), "Absolute Beginners", "As the World Falls Down" (Labyrinth; crosses over with Movie Tie-In Music Video), "When the Wind Blows", "Real Cool World", and "The Buddha of Suburbia". He doesn't appear onscreen in any way, shape, or form in the first and fifth examples.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: The video for "D.J." uses this with the side effect of furthering the song and clip's premise: In the filmed city streets he's cheery and confident and surrounded by fans, but in the videotaped studio—where he's presumably alone—he's coming unhinged.
  • Villainous Cheekbones: His angular cheeks served him well as The Thin White Duke (which came at a time when he was downright bony) and such film villains as Jareth.
  • Villain Love Song: "As the World Falls Down" (Labyrinth).
  • Villain Recruitment Song: "That's Motivation" (from the film Absolute Beginners; also a Disney Acid Sequence).
  • Villain Song: "Please Mr. Gravedigger" (1967 debut album), "Running Gun Blues" (The Man Who Sold the World), "Magic Dance" and "Chilly Down" (Labyrinth). "Station to Station" may also apply due to the Fascist and Nazi-Occult ideologies that formed the Thin White Duke's character.
  • Vocal Evolution: His voice started to noticeably deepen between Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs.
  • Waistcoat of Style: The Thin White Duke's black one was vital to the character's look; as himself, Bowie would wear one for the Sound+Vision tour as well.
  • Wham! Line: "Ground Control to Major Tom/Your circuit's dead; there's something wrong..."
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Or in this case, "Zowie". Thankfully, Bowie saw fit to give his son the full name "Duncan Zowie Hayward Jones" on his birth certificate, in case young Zowie Bowie ended up hating his name and wanted to change to something more normal. He did, and is now famous in his own right as director Duncan Jones.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The plight of the title beings in "The Supermen".
  • Word Salad Lyrics and Word Salad Title: Bowie utilizes the "cut-up" technique often, resulting in some strange lyrical products. 1. Outside not only has examples of cut-up lyrics, but the technique is actually used in-story—in the liner notes' "The Diary of Nathan Adler", Adler takes computer database information on people who knew the victim of the art-murder and feeds it into a randomizer "that re-strings real life facts as improbable virtual-fact" with the hopes of finding "a lead or two".
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: On many albums, Bowie went into the studio with a few chord changes and wrote the songs on the hoof (""Heroes"" was being written as it was recorded). Averted, however, on Hunky Dory on which Bowie carefully crafted the songs on the piano before entering the studio.
  • You Are Not Alone: The point of "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide", the closing song on Ziggy Stardust.
  1. an attitude the industry drastically needs more of; if not, he at least isn't annoying about it -- who remembers the last time he plugged a candidate and/or issue?
  2. the high number of covers was the result of writer's block on Bowie's part
  3. Bowie noticed the song's similarities with Ziggy Stardust's "Rock 'N' Roll Suicide" and decided it would be fun to perform the song as he would have back in the '70s