David Bowie‘s new album ★ (pronounced Blackstar) hits stores in a little over three weeks, and he’s just released the single “Lazarus.” It will be familiar to anyone that has seen the new off-Broadway play Lazarus, since it’s the first song that Michael C. Hall performs in the stunning show. “I’ve got scars that can’t be seen,” Bowie sings, amid horns and a propulsive beat. “I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/ Everybody knows me now.”
The tune appears to have been written specifically for the play since it’s told from the perspective of a formerly wealthy, lost man living in New York that yearns to fly away, which is essentially the plot of Lazarus. The musical is a sequel to Bowie’s 1976 movie The Man Who Fell To Earth, though only the alien character Thomas Jerome Newton returns. Reviews have been mixed, with many critics loving the music but finding the plot convoluted.
★ was recorded in secret earlier in the year at the Magic Shop in New York. It was produced by Tony Visconti, who has been working with Bowie going all the way back to Space Oddity in 1969. “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” Visconti told Rolling Stone. “We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn’t do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll.”
In an effort to make something different, Bowie turned to jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin and his band for the sessions. “I thought, ‘This is David Bowie, and he chose me?'” McCaslin told Rolling Stone. “I tried not to think about it too much. I just wanted to stay in the moment and just do the work [he wanted].”
Bowie hasn’t done an interview since a near-heart attack prematurely ended his Reality Tour in 2004, and he hasn’t performed even a single song in public since appearing at a New York fundraiser with Alicia Keys in 2006. As of now, there’s no indication he plans on breaking either of those streaks to promote the new record.