David Bowie will never sing you an emotionally vulnerable love song or proclaim his undying adoration — no, even in this song, a 1975 soul-influenced number about youthful love in a youthful America, he paints a rather depressing picture. Bowie describes two lovers’ first sexual encounter as something that “took him minutes, took her nowhere.” (Not exactly glowing praise, is it?) Elsewhere in the song he evokes images of racial inequality, a man begging on the streets of Washington, President Nixon, pimps in Cadillacs and lonely women with broken hearts. At one point, he muses about the bills we all have to pay. And yet somehow, with the innocent refrain, “I want the young American,” he makes this hustling, bustling, mixed-up nation sound as beautiful as the one we usually sing about — you know, the one with amber waves of grain.
Musically, “Young Americans” and the similarly titled album on which it appeared were a departure for Bowie: here, he moved from a strictly glam-rock sound to one that borrowed heavily from Philadelphia soul.
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