Lonely Starmen, Young Americans, and China Girls: David Bowie’s Critical Sexualities

Nadav Appel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Popular music is often analysed in terms of its sexual politics. Scholars generally concur that music’s cultural role is inseparable from its articulation of sexual identity, sexual desire, and gender roles. While David Bowie is often lauded for disrupting the gender and sexual orthodoxies of his time, the sexualities embodied in or suggested by his music are neither liberating nor celebratory per se. I term these in this article as ‘critical sexualities’: faulty, collapsing, morbid, and dissatisfying. By mapping the trajectories of blocked desire drawn across the length of Bowie’s oeuvre—from his much-neglected self-titled debut album, through classics such as Ziggy Stardust and Let’s Dance, to his final studio work Blackstar—I offer a detailed analysis of the artistic means by which Bowie’s music helps problematise the very conditions of possibility of a ‘normative’ sexuality in post-industrial societies and postmodern culture.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-213
Number of pages21
JournalContemporary Music Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 May 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Androgyny
  • David Bowie
  • Glam rock
  • Liberation
  • Orientalism
  • Sexuality


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