As usual, it’s not the witty banter or the cigarette. It’s not the bold-coloured shirt, or the well-placed flop of hair (remember, this is 1999, two short years after the orange-spiked cut of Earthling). It’s the voice, the impeccable song and the flawless performance.
Seven, which speaks (to me) of the loss of memory, feels more authentic than the album’s companion piece, Thursday’s Child, which speaks (to me) of the loss of youth. Perhaps because the lyrics of the latter were not written by Bowie himself, but a contest winner; whose prize, apparently, was to be flown to the studio to watch Bowie record the track. Not a bad payoff, in addition to a permanent place in the Bowieverse.
**Addendum: This would make logical sense, of course, if I had been correct in that the contest winner (Alex Grant) wrote the lyrics for Thursday’s Child. He actually wrote the lyrics for What’s Really Happening. Still not a bad payoff, even if avid fans like myself sometimes misstate his place in the Bowieverse.**
Seven is an ultimate example of the rarity that Bowie is: a genius of a creator — a lyricist and musician — and a genius of a performer. Few, if any, artists in history have so brilliantly pulled off both. Remember, again, it was three short years after this that he released the extraordinary song Heathen, which explored the effectiveness of lyrical sparity (“sparingness”) more than anything else.