This isn’t meant to be a top-10 list in a strict sense, which I would have great difficulty coming with for someone like Bowie. They are personal favorites, but ones that span his career. Contrary to certain wisdom, Bowie didn’t lose his talent after the ’70s.
1. Heroes (1977). No justification needed for this at the top. It will always be my favorite Bowie song, and I’m amazed at how futuristic it still sounds in the 21st century.
2. Space Oddity (1969). There are three particular songs whose stories vastly increase their power: Rush’s 2112, Pink Floyd’s In the Flesh (though the entire album of The Wall applies)… and of course Bowie’s Space Oddity.
3. Strangers When We Meet (1995). As I said, I have no use for those who say Bowie lost his talent after the ’70s, and this song is exhibit-A. It’s about old friends and fading memories, and probably the most moving piece of his career.
5. Modern Love (1983). From Bowie’s most commercial album (Let’s Dance), which I remember hating when it was released. Ironically, it’s the most mainstream sounding track which holds up so well. Modern Love is a lot like Peter Gabriel’s Secret World, the rare piece that everyone loves for good reason.
6. God Bless the Girl (2013). Bowie actually cut this from the album, including it as a bonus for the Japanese release. It seems to be an ode to a social worker, or a nun, or perhaps someone let down by the divide between the promise of heaven and the reality of hell on earth. But it’s a great song in any case, and massively underrated.
7. Suffragette City (1972). If Space Oddity was Bowie’s homage to Space Odyssey, this one is loaded with Clockwork Orange references, and the tempo alone shouts the sex boasts. From the Ziggy Stardust album, about the alien rock star exploring politics and drug use and bisexuality.
8. Under Pressure (1981). His collaboration with Queen needs no comment beyond the high replay value. Most people consider it more a Queen song than Bowie, but not me, no doubt because I was never a Queen fan.
9. Hallo Spaceboy (1995). Like #3, this is from the massively underrated Outside album, and has homages to #2 as it resurrects Ground Control and Major Tom. It has a great Nine Inch Nails vibe too.
10. Blackstar (2016). The new album has yet to settle, but I will say the title track is grand. And portentous in the extreme, being a rumination about death. It’s also the second longest track of his career (after Station to Station), and inspired by Gregorian chant. RIP.
Here’s a playlist I made, with most of the above songs plus China Girl.