Nobody could doubt for a second that we’re well and truly in the ’80s now. Let’s Dance is Bowie’s best selling album, but does that necessarily mean that it’s the best?
Modern Love is a song that doesn’t really do anything too challenging, the drums sound like a pattern from my first Casio keyboard. It’s certainly a popular song, but under a critical eye there isn’t really much to it. The saxophone is really the only instrument that’s doing anything particularly interesting here.
China Girl is a song that seems to divide opinion, and I think that for me it’s actually a thumbs up. There’s quite a lot of dynamic variety in this song, with Bowie’s voice going from soft to a scream and back again, the bassline sometimes just straight 8th root notes, and sometimes arpeggiating up and down all over the place, and I’m quite a fan of the guitar solos too.
Aaaah… aaaahhh…. aaaaaahhhh… aaaaaaahhhh… Let’s Dance! Under the moonlight! The serious moonlight! I fucking love this song. It’s probably partly thanks to the utterly delicious bass line. I find it hard to listen to this song without reaching for the nearest bass guitar and joining in, which can get a bit awkward in traffic. One criticism about the 7m37s album version, though, is that it’s 7m37s long, and I find myself reaching for the skip button two minutes from the end. Even the best houseguests can outstay their welcome eventually.
The first album track to rear its head is Without You. It’s all exceptionally ’80s sounding, and though there are a couple of melodically interesting lines in here, it’s lyrically bleh and musically uninspiring.
No idea what to make of Ricochet, it’s at least got some weight and drama to it, it’s not exactly easy to listen to. It’s strange how this album seems to go from one extreme to another. Bowie has remarked, in interviews, that Nile Rodgers basically screwed this one up. It was supposed to have a more flowing rhythm than the ungainly syncopated stagger that reminds me of a 7-legged baby giraffe learning to walk.
Criminal World starts off as a somewhat sleazy sounding ballad, rich in ’80s heritage with all the accoutrements that you’d expect, but then the chorus picks up the pace quite tastily. The song then drops into a guitar solo, which basically sounds like an entirely different song again. This song’s actually a cover version, the original being by a band that I’ve never heard of before called Metro.
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) is quite awesome, it’s great to hear Bowie really belting it out. Musically speaking, it’s not the most artfully constructed song, but the performance here has a really compelling energy that gives me a smile.
And then the album closes with the ridiculous Shake It which just drips with cheese. Cheesy keyboards, cheesy backing vocals.
From what I read, Bowie left a lot of the making of this album to Nile Rodgers, and the result has a certain directionless to it. I expect that Bowie was probably surprised that it sold so well, I certainly am. The consequence of this album’s success is that Bowie then had a new customer base to keep happy, but we’ll get to that with the next album.
Hits from this album: Modern Love, China Girl and Let’s Dance were all huge hit singles.
My favourite song from this album: Let’s Dance, by a country mile.
Next up: Tonight, and I’m not much looking forward to it.