BBE Music has announced a tribute to David Bowie, Modern Love, out May 28th.
Featuring an array of artists such as Jeff Parker, We Are KING, Meshell Ndegeocello, Khruangbin, Matthew Tavares, L’Rain, Nia Andrews and more, Modern Love seeks to champion Bowie’s lesser known connection to soul, R&B, jazz, funk, and gospel, musical genres traditionally pioneered by artists of color. The prominent jazz influences throughout his final album, Blackstar, were a key inspiration for curating this collection of reimagined Bowie songs with these artists. The resulting album is an eclectic tribute featuring a group of artists who not only fit together creatively, but who, like Bowie, straddle different worlds musically, with soul and jazz at their core.
Modern Love was curated by music executive and DJ Drew McFadden, alongside BBE Music founder Peter Adarkwah. "I felt that the connection between Bowie and R&B, jazz, funk, gospel and all things soulful, had never really been explored before — at least not so much in covers, which tend to lean more towards rock and pop,” says McFadden. “Certainly, there's been plenty of Bowie covers over the years, but none that have really tapped into what seems to have been a big part of his core musical style and direction."
Who is the Bowie you first met? Where and when?
Perhaps you were seated at a busy lunch counter when your first sonic taste was served up between Top 40 Elton John and T. Rex. Maybe it was on a morning drive, drifting up in an 8-track mix cozied up between Kool and the Gang and Labelle. Or quite possibly, it was while sweaty on a dance floor and the DJ found a clever way to join the dots between “Putting Out Fire” with the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.”
Generations of David Bowie-devotes encountered the shape-shifting artist at one or another crossroads—or crossover. The David Bowie they began with wasn’t necessarily the Bowie that trailed them through decades of listening. But he stuck.
He offered all of us a spinner-rack of vivid avatars: Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke, The Goblin King, The Blind Prophet, and even, “David Bowie”—his first reinvention from his birth name David Jones. You could never fix a label on him nor stretch a fence around him. His images on album covers were astonishing — the captivating asymmetry of his eyes; the runway-model silhouette. An industry cynosure, he always upped the stakes. His acolytes never knew what would next emerge from the shadows: that was the thrill of it.
Beyond his powers to spin a spell, what was the message Bowie was transmitting with the swirl of costume changes, the persistent persona slipping and gender/genre blurring? The quick answer often was that he cleared space for outsiders, eccentrics and freaks to abandon their corners and convene out loud. But it was far more powerful than that:. His example implored us to find more room inside ourselves.
Bowie wasn’t invested in simply surface transformation. The evidence is the multi-dimensional range of music he left us —and indelibly marked us. It opened our eyes and our imaginations.
His death in 2016 felt stupefying. Cruel. In his finest stagecraft illusion, he kept breathing life into—while simultaneously retiring—grand creations, long before their expiration date. This would ensure that whatever came next, he could keep his word: “I promise it won't be boring.” We’d come to expect that there was always another card to play: Prime example; He frequently threatened retirement, yet would shrewdly reconfigure himself, bounce back, entirely remade, transmitting from some unexplored musical geography.
Modern Love is an interactive sonic map. Here, seventeen artists make their way into the varied regions of his sundry catalog and circle back with seventeen unique re-imaginings of both his cornerstone and lesser-known tracks. Some, in atmosphere, feel like a sly alternate take from original sessions (Khruangbin’s ethereal, funk infused version of “Right” from Young Americans); others nod at the source, then wink before diving into the deep waters of another musical stratosphere (Sessa’s sexy Tropicalia-drenched “Panic in Detroit” from Aladdin Sane). Still others take tunes down to the studs and then re-arrange the moody interiors: MeShell Ndegocello’s pensive “Fantastic Voyage” from Lodger and Tavares clever take on “Heroes'' which is restructured into a kinetic hardbop-esque backdrop, fronted by ice-cool, held-back vocals. The bullseye these artists aim for is Bowie’s fearlessness. “Fame was an incredible bluff that worked,” he once reflected. “Very flattering. I’ll do anything until I fail. And when I succeed I quit too.”
Modern Love packs us off on a journey that balances on risk’s sharp blade. Track-to- track, it explores what happens when a musician throws out notions of should and safe and stretches beyond the known. These artists use Bowie both as a guide and a prism: A way of being and seeing. Their offerings, widely divergent, explore the inheritance from an artist who freed himself from labels, genres and, consequently, pigeonholes. While he was at it, he decimated fixed notions about territory (or terra) itself: Boundaries hemmed-in his creative process, but more his essence. He may have vanished in earthly form, yet, as he also promised in the lyrics of “Modern Love,” But I never wave bye-bye . . .” This compilation assures us that his spirit swirls around us. His force is alive to all of us and it’s summoned with an incantation that celebrates possibility.
01. Miguel Atwood-Ferguson - "Life On Mars"
02. Healdo Negro - "Sound & Vision"
03. Kit Sebastian - "Lady Grinning Soul "
04. Jeff Parker and The New Breed (feat. Ruby Parker) - "Soul Love"
05. Sessa - "Panic In Detroit"
06. The Hics - "The Man Who Sold The World"
07. Khruangbin - "Right"
08. Nia Andrews - "Silly Boy Blue"
09. Foxtrott - "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family"
10. L'Rain - "Move On"
11. Jonah Mutono - "Modern Love"
12. Bullion - "Where Are We Now"
13. Eddie Chacon & John Carroll Kirby - "TNGHT"
14. Léa Sen - "Golden Years"
15. Meshell Ndegeocello - "Fantastic Voyage"
16. We Are KING - "Space Oddity"