Put on Your Red Shoes and Dance the Blues!

Dec 31, 2009 (Updated Dec 31, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:"Modern Love," "China Girl," "Let's Dance."

Cons:"Crap song 4," "Crap song 5," Crap song 6," "Crap song 7," "Crap Song 8."

The Bottom Line: Oh what great dance-pop Bowie offers us with the first three tracks. Oh what horrible pieces of doodoo the remaining five tracks are.


(Disclaimer: Those looking for a brief description of the album will find what their looking for in the "Review Body" section. The section titled "Track Reviews" is meant only for those who want to read detailed descriptions of the songs, and they do not constitute the essence of this review. Lastly and most importantly, this review is not necessarily written by the point of view of a David Bowie fan.)

Overall Score: 3.5/5
Best song: “China Girl”
Worst song: “Without You”

Review Body:

After a three year break from making music, Bowie decided that it was time for a big change. He bleached his hair blonde, put on a yuppie outfit, and wrote music that pandered to a wide international audience like he'd never done before. The result was Let's Dance, his biggest seller of all time. Its title track even hit #1 on the Billboard charts for a week, which was considered quite an accomplishment in the '80s.

Yes, he completely threw his artistic ambitions out the window; Let's Dance isn't interesting to my “art-loving brain” at all. This is an air-headed '80s pop album and little more. However, considering the first three songs on it totally kick butt, I think we all can forgive him. I'm sure most of you reading this either know these songs by heart or well enough to at least know what I'm talking about. But in case you forgot, here they are: “Modern Love!” “China Girl!” “Let's Dance!” There are five other songs on this album, and they suck my butt, but we're not going to talk about those. The three monster classics are loaded at the beginning, and it's pretty easy to forget the other ones exist. So, screw 'em.

“Modern Love” rules! You'll know that about it right away the moment those awesome, muted riki-tiki-tiki-tiki sounds make their way into your ear canal. But don't turn the volume up on your speaker too high, because it won't be long before those huge stadium drums start blasting away like Greek gods playing with thunder. Not that I'm usually a fan of loud, '80s style stadium drums, but when it's done in a danceable fashion to a catchy riff, it can be extremely fun. Bowie's singing is done with gusto, too, even though the lyrics make no sense to me. Lyrics aside, I love listening to every second of it. I love getting it stuck in my head, and it even makes me want to dance. I mean, seriously makes me want to dance. I'm not a dancey sort of person.

Perhaps the song people remember the most from Let's Dance is “China Girl,” which Bowie had co-written earlier with Iggy Pop for 1977's The Idiot. I can't say for certain which is better, but this '80s dance slicked-up version is just about the coolest, suavest moment of Bowie's career. The Oriental-esque riff is memorable and so is the main vocal melody, which Bowie sings with the smoothest, deepest vocals that he was able to muster. That's an awesome singing voice.

While “China Girl” might be the most well-known cut from this album today (probably thanks to Adam Sandler), it was the title track that made the hugest splash at the time being the fourth best selling single of 1983. And why shouldn't the gum-popping teenagers have bought it in droves? The moment it starts playing, I want to do nothing else but get up from my chair and dance! ...Of course I never actually dance to it, because as I said earlier I'm not a dancey sort of person, but I'm dancing to it in spirit. If I listen to it when I'm walking around outdoors with my iPod, I pick up my step a notch! My only beef with that song is it's wayyyyy too long at 7 and a half minutes. The four-minute radio edit, however, cuts the fat beautifully.

The rift in quality between that trio of golden pop masterpieces to the remaining five songs is so great that it's almost hard to believe. I've listened to this album all the way through probably 30 times in my entire life, and I'm still crapping my pants over it. I will say that some people rather like “Cat People (Putting Out Fire),” and I'll concede that it's OK. But even then, I find zero urge to dance to it. It's not interesting at all in the artistic sense, so it's just an ordinary, forgettable '80s pop song in the end. You can read about what I think of the other songs in the track reviews, but I warn you that they're pretty grim. He should have known better.

Track Reviews:

Modern Love A+
My God, this is an awesome song! I wasn't into ordinary '80s pop music at all before I heard this (I was only into '60s and '70s music, and I only got this album because I liked Ziggy so much), and now I am a bigger fan of '80s pop than I probably should be. So, thanks Bowie. You've completely ruined me. But anyway, this is such an awesome song! Don't you like that riki-tiki-tiki-tiki sound he makes with the electric guitars? Don't you find those loud stadium drums to sound awesome for once? Doesn't Bowie sound dreamy muttering that stuff at the beginning that makes no sense? Don't you find this melody to be so freaking catchy that it'll stay stuck in your head for years, and you actually want it there? Wow. Even those swinging saxophones keeping a tight groove are cool as hell. I might not particularly appreciate that Bowie completely sold out and wrote music directly for gum-popping teenagers, but with “Modern Love,” he did it with style.

China Girl A+
My God, he does it again! (Why do these pop songs seem to have me taking the Lord's name in vain? Maybe rock 'n' roll is the Devil's music after all.) This time, he took a weird song that he and Iggy Pop wrote for the 1977 album The Idiot and turned it into an epic '80s radio-pop masterpiece. Bowie sings this suavely, using the lower parts of his vocal register, and he has never sounded cooler. He even looks cool singing this on that weird music video. This melody is so catchy that it shines with every uttered syllable. (I've listened to this song waaaaaay too many times.)

Let's Dance A
ANOTHER FREAKING AWESOME DANCE-POP SONG! This one actually hit #1 on the charts, which was a pretty big deal back then in the age of Michael Jackson. There's nothing more to say about this other than it's melody is infectious, and it's fun to dance to. The four minute single version of this gets an A+, but this full seven and a half minute version was just too much. It seems that the only reason he extended it was either to lengthen its danceability without adding anything else remotely interesting to it, or because he didn't want to write another song for this album. Maybe it was a little bit of both.

Without You C-
DAMMIT!!!!! That was faked anger because I've listened to this album maybe 30 times all the way through over the last eight years, but I still feel absolutely betrayed that this album gets extremely lame, extremely fast. I'm even wondering to what extent this can be called a “song.” This mid-tempo thing doesn't seem to be able to conjoin into anything resembling a strong melody. It's more or less someone playing a dead bass, boring drums, and a dumb synthesizer loop. Occasionally Bowie finds the time to sing something in a high voice, but his vocal melody is so boring that I'd much rather pay attention to that dumpy bass line.

Ricochet C-
Holy crap, man! If you're going to make pop music, the least you can do is actually make it something you could dance to! If you're not going to write dance music, then go back to doing those freaky Lodger experiments. This weird mid-tempo ditty has one of the world's least captivating grooves, and an utterly toneless melody. He makes some pretty lame attempts at 'funkifying' it with a horn section, but that just accentuates the fact that this thing is dead as a doornail. The only creature that could enjoy this song is a dead fish, because it knows how to dance to it.

Criminal World C+
It takes about a minute to get going, but at least this airheaded pop song has the basic “dance” ingredients to be at least mildly enjoyable. The drums are paced at a tempo that we like to tap our feet to. Still, even compared to Madonna, this doesn't even get enough of a thrust going, and I doubt anyone is actually going to want to dance to this. The hooks are extremely weak, and too evident that Bowie just wasn't applying himself. Good thing “China Girl” was so good that we would much sooner play that 1000 times than play this twice.

Cat People (Putting Out Fire) B
This is at least decent. It was a song that Giorgio Morder had written for the film Cat People, and he asked Bowie to write lyrics and sing for it. This is a pretty standard/boring '80s pop song, and it's definitely not up to Bowie's usual standards. The melody is OK, but not too interesting. It's danceable, but not infectiously so. If I was the dancing sort of person, I wouldn't feel much of a need to get up and start dancing around if the (lame) DJ put this thing on. Unfortunately, this is the best Let's Dance had to offer on its second side!

Shake It C
Sounds a little like the electro-funk of Prince, except this is pretty lame, and I was never much of a Prince fan, anyway. At least Bowie kept a regular, steady drum beat so it has the form of a good dance tune, but it doesn't have *dance* in its bloodstream. You know what I'm talking about. Something about “Let's Dance” makes me want to party like it's 2009, but this thing is so dead-in-the-water that all it makes me want to do is sit here and try to come up with insults for it. ...Come on, David Bowie. Don't suck like this.

Concluding Remarks:

The first three songs are dance-pop masterpieces, but everything else sucks my butt.

Read More David Bowie Reviews By Starcollector!

Early On (1964-1966) | The Deram Anthology (1966-1968) | Space Oddity (1969) | The Man Who Sold the World (1971) | Hunky Dory (1971) | The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972) | Aladdin Sane (1973) | Pin-Ups (1973) | Diamond Dogs (1974) | David Live (1974) | Young Americans (1975) | Station to Station (1976) | Low (1977) | "Heroes" (1977) | Stage (1978) | Lodger (1979) | Scary Monsters (1980) | Let's Dance (1983) | Tonight (1984) | Absolute Beginners (1986) | Labyrinth (1986) | Never Let Me Down (1987) | Tin Machine (1989) | Tin Machine II (1991) | Oy Vey Baby (1992) | Black Tie White Noise (1993) | The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) | Outside (1995) | Earthling (1997) | 'hours...' (1999) | Heathen (2002)


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