Will music ever see another David Bowie? Caspar Llewellyn Smith doubts it. In a recent Guardian piece, he argues that the recent Bowie revival, from Lady Gaga to a new covers compilation, is shallow and misses the point. “Yes, image was crucial to Bowie,” Smith writes, “but it wasn’t just his look that mattered; through the invention of multiple, subsequent personalities, he invited a different perspective on his art – his music.”
Now, we agree that it takes more than guyliner (hi, Brandon Flowers) or ringmaster status (what’s up, Mark Ronson) to earn a Bowie comparison. But we also think Smith is missing out on a handful of current musicians who really could live up to that legacy — and that he’s made up his mind on Gaga too early, considering that much of the Bowie legend has to do with how long he’s remained relevant. Page through our list of seven potential heirs to Bowie’s legacy and defend your own picks in the comments.
Gaga is the obvious starting point here, the pop star who never misses a Bowie shout out opportunity and, for a while, often walked around with a variation on Ziggy Stardust’s signature lightning bolt adorning her eye. Smith scoffs at what she’s said about him: “I look at Bowie as icon in art. It’s not just about the music. It’s about the performance, the attitude, the look; it’s everything. And that’s where I live as an artist…” But doesn’t that quote actually speak to how much she’s internalized Bowie’s approach? She collaborates with fashion designers and highbrow performers and visual artists. She realizes that true glamor means never allowing your fans to spot you in sweatpants. And, like Bowie’s, her aesthetic is about the juxtaposition of opposites, from high art and camp to beauty and ugliness. Since she’s only released roughly an album and a half, we don’t yet know how capable she is of transformation. But something tells us she’ll always have something up her fishnet sleeve.