You can add [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]David Bowie[/lastfm] to the rather lengthy list of non-American musicians who compose lyrics going on about all that’s wrong with the U.S. then proceed to set them to music that borrow heavily from American musical stylings. But then, it was the 1970s when Bowie minted “Young Americans,” and there was a great deal in the 1970s that didn’t seem to make sense (and if anyone ever noticed you not making any, you could always claim you were just being ironic).
“Young Americans” was the title track to a 1975 Bowie album that was the first concrete result of his mid-’70s obsession with soul-styled music, an obsession that he did his best to consumate in song. It was a phase he would later apparently attempt to minimize, at least a little, as an older and possibly wiser Bowie referred to his sound at the time as merely ‘plastic soul.’
Lack of authenticity and cynical lyrics about the U.S. (touching on the subjects or Watergate, racism, and that eternally-resurrected bogeyman, McCarthyism) aside, the song was nevertheless a hit with, of all people, young Americans. It was a breakthrough for Bowie in the U.S. market, and the album greatly boosted his career.
The song reached #28 on the Billboard chart. Not at all shabby for ‘plastic soul’.
The video below actually dates from prior to the release of “Young Americans,” from a 1974 Bowie appearance on the Dick Cavett show.
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