Critics hail 'New Day' as Bowie's best since 1980:
David Bowie breaks 10-year silence with new album


David Bowie Next Day Record
Photo courtesy of Sharlene Celeskey

David Bowie reworks his old "Heroes" album cover for his new release, "The Next Day."

The press was very busy on Jan. 8 announcing, “David Bowie releases new song and video.” Bowie shocked both music fans and journalists when the rock icon’s first song and video for “Where Are We Now?” came out on his 66th birthday.

Why was this so newsworthy that music and entertainment writers worldwide rushed to report it? Bowie, one of rock’s most important and popular musical forces in the ‘70s and ‘80s and a major influence on music since 1972 had been absent for 10 years.

Bowie put out 11 critically acclaimed albums from 1970–1980. Although his ‘80’s output did not match the ‘70’s, the theatrical star’s popularity soared with the rise of MTV. He staged his most elaborate and extravagant tour, “The Glass Spider,” in 1987 and played in only the largest stadiums and cities. Bowie’s output was sporadic in the 90 s as he struggled to find a place in the grunge- and pop-fueled decade and he abandoned his ever-changing stage character personas. His popularity declined as he stripped down his stage show, and by his final tour in 2004, he was playing modest sized venues and his performances were lackluster. After his heart attack backstage during a concert that year, he quietly retired from the music world, rarely went out in public and stopped making albums.

The new song and video “Where Are We Now,” was done in complete secret and caught everyone by surprise. It features the heads of Bowie and an actor portraying his wife atop finger puppets and seems like a strange choice to announce his comeback. It is a serious and introspective video with a tired looking Bowie reminiscing about his past years in Berlin where he produced some of his greatest work in the late ‘70s. The song sounds almost depressing and the entire look of the video is very dreary gray.

Shortly after, every music magazine heralded the coming of Bowie’s return with his new album, “The Next Day,” due to be released on March 12. The excitement continued to build when his second video, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” premiered on Feb. 26. This video is the antithesis of the previous one and is funny, upbeat and colorful. It cleverly casts Bowie look alike Tilda Swinton as his wife and the well-heeled couple find two young tabloid celebrities invading their everyday life and dreams. These youthful celebrities resemble Bowie and wife and at times manipulate their very movements. This six-minute short film is very entertaining and well produced.

“The Next Day,” is Bowie’s 27th studio album and is a winner, his best since his “Golden Years ” (1970 – 1980). Surprisingly, Bowie, the master of reinvention, admitted he was not very creative in an interview. Cameron Crowe, music journalist and director of”Almost Famous” asked Bowie in a “Playboy” interview, September 1976, if he was an original thinker, and Bowie answered, “More like a tasteful thief.” One of his real talents is his ability to combine different elements from other artists and make them into something entirely new and exciting. On “The Next Day,” he steals from his past catalogue and creates a first rate album with dynamic sounding songs.

Although the songs remind you of past albums, they sound contemporary and new. (Long time fans can probably name what albums influenced each song.) The album sounds very rock and roll with a variety of faster harder songs sprinkled with slower serious songs and lively pop dance songs.

The title track is an upbeat and fast rock song that makes you immediately listen and a great track to set the tone of the album. The album then switches to a very funk jazz song, “Dirty Boys.” After the upbeat tempo of “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” the album changes to “Love is Lost,” which relies heavily on the keyboards to create a techno style song. The album switches to a slower pace with “Where Are We Now.” Next, one of the loveliest songs on the album, “Valentine’s Day,” deceives as it starts out as a pop song about Valentines but twists into something very different. The album picks up speed with “When The Grass Grows,” one of the catchiest and liveliest songs on the album with a wonderful keyboard arrangement and chorus. “(You Will) Set the World on Fire,” is heavy on the guitars and rocks harder than any song on the album. The slower “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die,” deals with getting older with Bowie singing very dramatically with some of his best vocals on the album. “Heat,” a slow dirge like song, ends the album on a rather down note.

The album cover is a repackage of his “Heroes ” album (1977) with a big white square with the title on top of it. The lyrics are included in a fold out but printed in light colors on bright paper and are hard to read. The special edition cd is disappointing as it is $3 more and contains only three average sounding bonus tracks. “I’ll Take You There,” is the best and a very rocking upbeat song. “So She,” a dreamy pop song that sounds very early ‘60s, and “Plan,” a hard-edged instrumental song, does not seem that interesting.

Bowie chose successful American producer Tony Visconti for the “The Next Day.” Visconti had worked on some of Bowie’s best albums and played bass in their very short-lived band, “Hype,” in 1970. Bowie is very involved with the album and wrote or co-wrote all the songs and plays guitar and keyboards on some. No one that worked on the album, which took two years to complete, was allowed to say a word until it was released. Although there is an aggressive media campaign for the album, Bowie has said nothing and given no interviews.

Rumors are circulating that Bowie will release a second album in the future and to the disappointment of many that he will not be touring. Fans and critics are glad to have him back and making new and brilliant music again. Right after the album came out, Bowie’s official Facebook page urged the public to go out and buy “The Next Day,” and make it number one on the charts the first week of its release. Time will tell if this critically acclaimed album joins the ranks of his classics from his “Golden Years.”

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