David Bowie, 66, releases first new single in a decade | New music reviews, news & interviews
David Bowie, 66, releases first new single in a decade
theartsdesk reviews the song, the video and the event, and brings news of the album
Well, he was always ahead of the game. In a few years’ time 66 will become the new official pension age in his native United Kingdom, but David Bowie has chosen to celebrate his 66th birthday by coming out of what many perceived to be retirement. “Where Are We Now?” was launched without any previous fanfare earlier this morning, and you can listen to it and watch the video (directed by Tony Oursler) here.
Graeme Thomson writes: Produced by his long-term collaborator Tony Visconti, in many ways musically "Where Are We Now?" marks a fairly seamless progression from the last song on his last album Reality, the slow, jazzily downbeat "Bring Me the Disco King". It also has a little of the unhurried grace and grandeur of Heathen’s "Slow Burn". The overall atmosphere is of stately simplicity. It's a deep, melancholy swell of a song, and though his voice doesn’t appear to have quite the same power as it once had, it remains unmistakeable, and is now infused with a vulnerability which is hugely moving. Lyrically, "Where Are We Now?" is sad, ruminative, reflective; how fittingly contrary that Bowie should emerge after a decade with a valediction rather than settling for the forward-facing positivity perhaps more befitting a landmark return. The song references his old Berlin haunts of Potsdamer Platz and KaDeWe before moving on to a somewhat ambiguous climactic declaration of faith in the simplest, most elemental of life's certainties: "As long as there’s sun... / As long as there’s rain... / As long as there’s fire / As long as there’s me / As long as there’s you." Everything else seems to be in shift, up for grabs. It's a beautiful thing, and all the more beautiful for falling from a clear blue sky.
The Next Day is timed to coincide with the major exhibition coming to the V&A
Joe Muggs adds: I don't think there is faith or certainty in this record. David Bowie is too smart for that. Like the song's earlier reference to the precariousness of human actions, the "as long as..." lines come with no guarantees, no certainty of eternity. This is a man who knows that all things must pass, and this is one of the saddest songs he's ever written. And I'm extremely happy about that, as it doesn't disturb the sense we had of Bowie. His retirement from music, so dignified and seemingly complete, was just another of the brilliant moves he has made throughout his life to stay ahead of the fame game, even as the rules of that game were being written. So seeing the announcement of this record this morning made me nervous: was the cool cracking? Was he going to be just another old rocker vying for the spotlight again? But no. For all the classicism of this song's sound, the sense of incompleteness, of questioning, of a mind still questing and acknowledging its fragility, means we are still in a state of suspension; Bowie is still evading us, still one step ahead, not offering or seeking any resolution or closure. Whether that sense will remain when the album comes, who knows? For now, he's doing it just as he should.
Subscribe to theartsdesk.com
Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.
To take an annual subscription now simply click here.
And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?
more New music
Infectious disco tribute from a man who knows the genre inside-out
Latin rhythms mingle with a cool delivery and cerebral lyrics for a searching, substantial collection
Wallet-friendly compendium of one of Britain’s great singer-songwriters
Noel and his High Flying Birds aim for new heights without straying too near the Sun
A celebration of diversity and a historic addition to jazz’s political back catalogue
Tables turned as Fairport Convention are auditioned by their new singer
Barn-dance friendly Scandinavians find their own groove
Shiny-suited funk from the LA-Seattle supergroup
Philadelphia’s finest prove themselves to be more than the sum of their influences
Alternative Eighties noise-meisters tour their well-loved debut
Traditional Irish music meets Americana with spectacular results
Sublime blend of acoustic folk and Goth-flavoured electronica comes to Shoreditch