For the moment, at least, I’m a copywriter by profession. During interviews with clients we always ask whether they want their material to be written in the 1st person or the 3rd person: “I, we” or “the firm, the organization, the business…” The tone shifts distinctly depending on which one is used.
“Afraid” is written in the 1st person. It doesn’t mean Bowie’s talking about himself. But it gives the song a more personal feel, more experiential than observational. At the same time, the music is so rapid, the vocal so raucous you can easily lose what’s being discussed. Maybe that’s deliberate: another singer/songwriter might have chosen slow, open music to convey a feeling of exposure and vulnerability. Here, it’s like Bowie’s doing the opposite, conveying the sense of wanting to hide.
Telling, with lyrics like these:
If I put faith in medication
If I can smile a crooked smile
If I can talk on television
If I can walk an empty mile
Then I won’t feel afraid
An addendum again to my dream Bowie show. It would be a lot of Ziggy, a lot Earthling, Doors covers, a Cure cover, a lot of Heathen and a smattering of everything else. And, oh yes — since I know now what it sounds like — The Next Day, from beginning to end. It would be a long show. But one can dream.