Let’s Dance was David Bowie’s most commercially successful hit, selling over ten million copies worldwide in 1983. However, This album has a few strong ties to other iconic artists as well, featuring songs like “China Girl” (a new version of a song Bowie co-wrote on Iggy Pop’s album The Idiot), and the album as a whole was a stepping stone to the enormous success of guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan. “Lets Dance”, although enormously successful on most fronts, caused a great deal of stress for Bowie, feeling inclined to make more music that appealed to the new large pop-listening audience he had gained. His next two albums would be flops, but his new band Tin Machine a few years later brought everything back.
When you open an album with a song like “Modern Love”, with an incredibly catchy drum beat and a piano line that should be played every time someone asks “What were the 80’s like?”, you are greeted with the promise of living up to every expectation you could possibly imagine: “I want synths!” check. “I want saxophones!” check. “I just want something to dance to!” that’s the name of the album, stupid. No matter the tempo or rhythm or instrument list within each song, each one can be something to dance to, which, as far as the 80’s population was concerned, was more than enough. As Bowie’s first album on EMI records, it was both a safe bet and a brilliant game plan to solidify his name in everyone’s household. “China Girl” gives us the relaxation period after dancing to “Modern Lover”, and we get back into the fun in no time with the title track “Let’s Dance”. The album, of course, lives up to it’s name, with every single song being a dance hit that still transcends generations.
Safe and brilliant, maybe. But true Bowie? No. Sadly, the album, though still incredibly well loved and received, was not at the hight of Bowie’s songwriting content. Artistically, Bowie left himself out of this album and it definitely shows, comparing to the more avant garde pieces we see from him over his near 50-year career. I however have always been so grateful for the diverse body of work Bowie released over those decades, mostly because it as a whole shows he really could become anything, even if it wasn’t what he truly wanted to create. But it has to be noted that even if it’s not what he wants, it’s still amazing.
Thank you, David Bowie.