“Hello, I love you. Won’t you tell me your name?”
Not a Bowie lyric. An example, however, of a lyric that’s easy to understand. There are not many layers of meaning to that one.
“My father and the prison,” however, repeated over and over in a haunting refrain, could mean just about anything. Especially when followed by, “I am a seer. But I am a liar.”
When I first heard Modern Love — not sure when in the roaming template of my childhood it was, but I was young enough to be shocked at the words, “no religion” in a mainstream pop song — I assumed it was about abandoning the church and abandoning organized faith. But this came from a man who visibly wore a silver cross around his neck. Trying to interpret a Bowie lyric, Bowie image, or Bowie jewelry is really an exercise in futility. Who really knows; at any moment there could be in those words several layers of profound meaning or, more likely, they are just syllables chopped together to sound cool.
(A downside to The Next Day iTunes stream is not having access to a lyric sheet; but believe me, I am not complaining about hearing the album a full 12 days earlier than I’d anticipated).
Some have said “Dancing Out In Space” on The Next Day sounds like “Let’s Dance.” If anything, it sounds like Modern Love. The revised arrangement of later performances of this song — on display in this video from 2004 — make it closer to a rock song than a pop hit. Somehow, it works, whether you choose to give second thought to the lyrics or not.