The Hidden Meaning Behind David Bowie's Blackstar Album Cover

Ask a dozen people "What's your favorite David Bowie song?" and you'll receive a dozen unique answers. From "Space Oddity" to "Changes" to "Fame," David Bowie was the opposite of a one-hit-wonder, releasing hit after hit over the course of his decades-long career. Naturally, Bowie is remembered as one of the greatest musical artists of all time by websites like Rolling Stone.

On January 8, 2016, Bowie released his final work: the experimental rock album Blackstar. Just two days later, he died of liver cancer, per the New York Times. Many fans consider Blackstar Bowie's parting gift to the world.

At first glance, the album cover for Blackstar (shown below) is incredibly simple. It features a large, black, five-pointed star on a white background. Beneath the star, there appears to be an arrangement of several other star fragments. And that's pretty much it. Notably, Bowie himself doesn't appear on the album art — a career first for the stylish artist, according to The Guardian. But anyone familiar with Bowie's wit would not be surprised to discover that Blackstar's art was full of symbolism — as well as a number of Easter Eggs for fans to discover.

The 'Blackstar' symbol represents mortality, and the star fragments spell a secret word

Per Dezeen, the album cover for Blackstar was designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, a graphic designer who had already collaborated with Bowie on five other albums. Speaking to Dezeen about the significance of Blackstar's cover, Barnbrook explained that "The Blackstar symbol [★], rather than writing 'Blackstar,' has as a sort of finality, a darkness, a simplicity, which is a representation of the music."

Further, the term "Blackstar" can be taken as a reference to a black hole — one of the most destructive phenomena in the universe. "The idea of a black hole sucking in everything, the Big Bang, the start of the universe, if there is an end of the universe," Barnbrook told Dezeen, "These are things that relate to mortality." Bowie had known that he was batting cancer since 2014, according to Reuters, but decided to keep the diagnosis a secret from the public. So it's only natural that Bowie, who collaborated with Barnbrook on Blackstar's art, wanted his final album to be a reflection on mortality. (The Guardian points out that "black star" is also a term used for cancer lesions.)

And what about the little star pieces at the bottom of the album? If you stare at them long enough and cross your eyes a bit, you might start to notice that the fragmented symbols sort of resemble letters. Five letters, specifically: B, O, W, I, E.

Besides Bowie's name, Blackstar's album art is full of easter eggs

Explaining the bottom of Blackstar's album cover, Barnbrook told Creative Review that he spent "a painful many hours of working to try to get [Bowie's] name to be legible enough, but not too legible, to read it straight away." Barnbrook did just that; only dedicated fans with expert vision noticed that Bowie's name was on the cover all along, in the form of those mysterious star fragments.

Barnbrook and Bowie packed a lot of symbolism into a simple-looking album cover. Besides Bowie's name, Blackstar's album art was chock-full of Easter Eggs, some of which weren't discovered by fans until months after the album's release. According to Spin, some found that reflecting light off one side of the Blackstar vinyl record projects an image of a star (or maybe a spaceship) onto the opposite wall. Another fan discovered that shining a blacklight on Blackstar makes it shine bright blue. Other fans, perhaps more desperate in their attempts to find artistic secrets, supposedly discovered hidden constellations in the album's starry artwork. But the biggest Easter Egg, as reported by The Independent, comes when you leave Blackstar's vinyl gatefold out in the sun. With enough exposure to light, one Imgur user found, the album's iconic black star will be replaced by an image of a starry galaxy.

Blackstar is an unquestionably beautiful piece of art for the Starman, David Bowie, to leave behind on Earth.