Discover music similar to Bowie
What music sounds like Bowie? Our global musicto social network responds to this question by adding tracks to our community playlist: Sounds like David Bowie.
Who is David Bowie?
Born David Robert Jones on January 8, 1947, David Bowie is considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. While most often associated with pioneering glam rock, Bowie’s blend of rock, pop, and avant-garde over his 54-year career inspired countless artists. In fact, even though the English singer-songwriter died in January 2016, his unique influence traverses genres and, from Lady Gaga to the Arctic Monkeys and Kanye West, continues to influence modern music and artists.
What makes an artist or a piece of music sound like Bowie?
What sounds like Bowie to one individual may differ from another. We all hear different things in music. However, there are at least five that listeners might see or hear when making a connection between a piece of music or artists similar to David Bowie.
1. Similarities to David Bowie’s musical style
Along with Mark Bolan of T-Rex, Bowie was a pioneer of glam rock. While both experimented with new musical styles, Bolan’s death in 1977 cut short further innovations the artist might have made. Bowie, on the other hand, continued to incorporate elements of funk, soul, electronic, and other genres into his music, making him one of the first musicians to create a unique sound not limited to any one genre.
Similar to Bowie, the American rock band Phish is known for blending genres. Curator Matt McCalpin picked their appropriately titled “David Bowie” from their debut studio album Junta (1989) to add to this playlist. While not one of the more obvious choices on this list, the song is a prog rock, jazz fusion piece with a funky jam, written in celebration and in the spirit of the Bowie.
Other songs on Sounds like David Bowie that either blend genres, have elements of funk, soul, or jazz, or incorporate elements of Bowie’s unique sound into their own music, while also adding their own personal touch include Arcade Fire’s “Black Mirror” picked by Molly Taylor and the dreamy Beach House track “PPP” added by Brandon Hauser.
2. Connections to Bowie lyrics and themes
David Bowie’s lyrics were often introspective and thought-provoking, dealing with themes such as sexuality, identity, and societal issues. He confronted controversial topics head-on in his music and his unique perspective has had a lasting impact on the music industry. This influence can be heard in the music of artists like St. Vincent and Radiohead, who create complex and politically charged music, or in the themes of The 1975, whose anthemic, epic quality is also similar to Bowie’s work.
There are a few introspective and/or thought-provoking lyrics similar to David Bowie on this playlist too: the Gorillaz inward-looking “On Melancholy Hill,” added by musicto community creator Joshua Thomas; the complex “Spring” by Angel Olsen, from curator Ariana Pizzuto; “Marijuana’s a Working Woman” by Of Montreal; and others.
3. Likeness to the vocal sound of David Bowie
Considered distinct, versatile, powerful, and emotive, Bowie’s vocal delivery is marked by its dramatic flair. Although categorized as a baritone singer, he often showcased his tenor voice and was known for his use of distinctive vocal techniques, such as falsetto, vibrato, and sustained notes, which helped to create an otherworldly quality in his music.
Some vocalists who have been compared to Bowie include Freddie Mercury, Brian Eno, Iggy Pop, and Peter Murphy. In fact, comparisons to the latter are so strong that you’ll find two songs featuring Murphy on this playlist. First, musicto community curator Liv Robinson added “She’s in Parties” from Murphy’s days as the lead vocalist of Bauhaus; and, shortly afterward, Otis Galloway added “Cuts You Up” from his solo career.
When listening to our music like Bowie playlist, you’ll find that what many of the chosen tracks have in common is something in the vocalists’ voice, whether in style, delivery, range, or technique similar to Bowie’s vocals.
4. Relationship to genres pioneered or influenced by David Bowie
While many might connect an artist’s lyrics and themes or musical or vocal style to David Bowie, others might hear the artist’s influence in music across an entire genre.
Widely regarded as one of the most innovative and influential musicians of the 20th century, Bowie inspired and paved the way for many artists in different genres and is credited with pioneering or influencing glam rock, art rock, the new romantic movement, and electronic music, for example.
As a pioneer of glam rock, alongside Mark Bolan of T-Rex, some listeners might draw parallels between the music in this genre. Although the sound of glam rock varies between artists, some common characteristics include big stomping guitar-driven rock’n’roll sounds with catchy hooks and upbeat melodies with a danceable pop vibe, theatrical vocals, and the willingness to experiment with different genres, as previously mentioned.
Without getting into Bowie’s influence on art rock, electronic music, the new romantic movement and more, a couple of glam rock tracks were added to our Sounds Like David Bowie playlist, including “Mambo Sun” from T-Rex, and a track submitted by Chris McCann: “Looking for a Kiss” by New York Dolls, who were themselves influential in the New York rock scene.
5. Hearing influences in Bowie’s music
No musical artist develops ex nihilo and David Bowie is no exception. So far, we have focused on connections between Bowie and those he had an impact on. However, some listeners, particularly those familiar with the music of bands who came up before Bowie, might hear similarities in reverse. For example, on listening to a Bowie song, a person might hear the influence of The Beatles or John Lennon, or the rock avante-garde fusion and provocative themes of The Velvet Underground, or some of Bowie’s other influences like Little Richard, Syd Barrett, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Charles Mingus, and Boards of Canada, Kendrick Lemar and Death Grips, who Bowie took inspiration from while working on his last album Blackstar, to name a few.
While this playlist doesn’t feature much in the way of music that influenced Bowie, musicto founder Andrew McCluskey did manage to sneak in “Heroin” by The Velvet Underground.
There are many more reasons why an artist or music might sound like David Bowie. For example, Bowie wrote the song “All the Young Dudes” for Mott the Hoople, which curator Andie De Guzman added. The Brazilian band Nenhum de Nós adapted Bowie’s “Starman” for their song “O Astronauta de Mármore,” which was added by Brazilian music champion Abdallah Harati.
We all hear different things, so when you listen to Ben Young’s addition “Forever You & I” by Diane Coffee, you could hear Bowie or you could hear Elton John. Similarly, Jane Asylum’s selection “How Cool Are You” by Walt Disco might give you Sparks instead of Bowie vibes. But that’s the beauty and anticipation of any Sounds Like… playlist: you never know what you’ll get, because we all listen and hear differently.
How would Bowie react to a Sounds Like David Bowie Playlist?
We can’t know how Bowie would react to a playlist of music that sounds like David Bowie. In the 1970s, he might have hated it as much as he disliked the statement, “image is to be copied,” made by Gary Numan. In the 1990s, he might have thought “who gives a flying fuck.” And by the 2010s, maybe he’d have been flattered.
We hope it’s the latter because Bowie’s music and image continue to inspire new generations of musicians, and his innovative spirit continues to influence the music industry. His unique combination of musical talent, experimentation, and innovation have made him one of the most beloved and influential artists of the 20th century — and whether you are a Bowie fan looking to discover artists or music like Bowie or someone who has yet to discover Bowie and hear his lasting impact on music, Sounds Like David Bowie is the playlist for you.
Other musicto community curators who contributed music to our collaborative playlist Sounds Like David Bowie include: Nuno Nogueira, Jon Ewing, and Juan Amigo.
Stay tuned for more Sound Like… playlists, and while you’re waiting check out more collaborative community playlists like Music to Dream in Black, Censored and Music to Go Solo!