David Bowie, Let’s Dance

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 06.04.12 in Reviews

Let's Dance

David Bowie
Bridging a seemingly irreconcilable gap between roots rock and cutting-edge dance music

David Bowie was unquestionably one of England’s biggest stars of the ’70s, but the very things that made him culturally and artistically crucial — alienation, theatricality, androgyny and a whole lot of nerve — also kept him from reaching the top tier of American popularity. Let’s Dance changed all that, and made him one of the biggest international stars of the ’80s. Released in the spring of 1983 just as MTV hit its stride as the decade’s key hit-maker and as hybrid dance/rock/pop/R&B took disco’s place as the era’s defining crossover, Bowie’s all-time best-selling album bridged a seemingly irreconcilable gap between roots rock, as represented by virtuoso lead guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who got his first mainstream platform here; and cutting-edge dance music, as represented by virtuoso rhythm guitarist/producer/bandleader Nile Rodgers, who morphed from disco avant-gardist to pop production superstar. The sound is tough and angular, the vibe retro-futurist: Bowie emotes throughout like a ’50s jazz crooner who crashed the new wave dance club in a low-riding Cadillac UFO.