David Bowie’s Blackstar album is a masterclass in ‘the gift that keeps on giving’

New facets to the album’s artwork continue to be discovered by fans as the singer’s spirit of invention lives on

Back in January, in perhaps the first sign that 2016 was to be decried as the world’s annus horribilis, David Bowie died at the age of 69.

Just two days before his death following a lengthy illness – kept entirely secret to the general public – he released his twenty-fifth and final album, Blackstar.

Critically lauded at the time, the album naturally took on greater significance following his death. And in meeting those expectations, Bowie proved himself to be a master of curation that all content marketers should aspire to.

Oh! You pretty thing

The clearest indication that Blackstar had been a parting gift for fans was in the video for the song Lazarus. As well as the titular figure being brought back from the dead in The Bible, the song’s video showed Bowie writhing on his death bed with the opening lines: “Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”

But beyond these parallels, the physical album itself has continued to offer up surprises.

In May, fans discovered that holding the record sleeve up to sunlight unveiled a galaxy of stars.

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More recently, it was revealed that placing the artwork under a UV backlight makes the sleeve glow a luminous blue.

Another recent discovery is that reflecting light off one side of the record at a certain angle creates the shape of a star on the wall.

On the back cover, the running times of the tracks seem to be in a font called Terminal, which appears in a design suite called Lazarus. (Lazurus being not only a song title from the record, but also the name of a musical composed by Bowie before his death.) Writing his last songs’ running times in Terminal: a final note of black humour from the ultimate showman?

The discoveries have been part of a remarkable final chapter of a life devoted to remarkable innovation.

Space oddities

As content marketers, we can only dream of curating our output with the degree of creativity and invention that Bowie did for over 50 years. But dream we must.

The hidden depths revealed in Blackstar are reward for the loyalty and passion that his music has inspired in others. The parameters for content marketing are, of course, different – but the striving invention is a lesson to be learned.

One quality which Bowie’s creative output possessed in abandon was a sense of mystery. This is a tricky area for content marketing – after all, too much mystery hides the message.

But there is something to be learned in the concept of ‘the more you look, the more you get’ exemplified in Blackstar’s hidden treasures.

To listen to the record and admire the artwork is already engaging with the content as it should be engaged with. The content works on a surface level thanks to its high quality.

The extra value from discovering the record’s new facets adds depth and emotion – while at the same time being essentially extraneous to the product.

As content marketers, we should aspire to create content that engages on a number of levels. And if it can inspire the kind of loyalty and engagement that allows eagle-eyed consumers to spot hidden treats such as the ones Bowie managed in his parting gift, then we are truly on the path to golden years of content marketing.

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