David Bowie, 66, releases first new single in a decade | reviews, news & interviews
David Bowie, 66, releases first new single in a decade
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.
The interest lies in watching Bowie watching himself watching you listen to his music
Art critic Mark Hudson considers the video: As always the music is only part of it. Nobody turns on the new Bowie song to find out what Bowie thinks and feels – or not directly. There are manifold references to his past in Berlin, a desire to reconnect with someone who feels just out of reach, backed up with a minimal, but poignant melody that definitely grows on you. But rather than sitting down and just enjoying these things for their own sake, the interest lies in watching Bowie watching himself watching you listen to his music. Bowie is something hugely current, a multi-disciplinary artist – or perhaps that should be "total artist", whose choice of music as his principle art form has always felt oddly arbitrary. The visual aspect – the clothes, the shows, the abum covers, the videos – has always been hugely important, if indeed it can be divided from the music at all. Here Bowie makes his allegiance to Art with a capital A explicit by having an "artist" – fractured-narrative video splicer Tony Oursler – direct the video, setting the main action in what passes for an artist’s studio, heaped with random found objects and electronic gear. It is, apparently, Bowie’s old apartment, now an artist’s studio, and he contrives to appear more at home here than he would in any recording studio. Oursler projects Bowie’s face and that of a blankly seraphic woman onto a Siamese twin version of one of his trademark Teletubby figures, while tracking shots round Berlin play on a mirror immediately behind: taking us back to the Cold War city of Bowie’s great Berlin Trilogy, with a nod to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. At the end, Bowie and the woman detach themselves from the Teletubby figure and we see them moving away in real space. The song is borderline brilliant, the video merely quite good – and no more inherently "artistic" than the average good jobbing video would come up with. But then Bowie’s stature as a conceptual artist doesn’t lie in what his videos look like, any more than his genius as a pop musician lies in what his individual songs sound like. It’s the totality of the thing that’s important.
The Next Day. An album called The Next Day is to follow in March, timed to coincide with the major retrospective exhibition coming to the Victoria & Albert Museum on 23 March, featuring handwritten lyrics, original costumes, fashion, photography, film, music videos, set designs and Bowie's own instruments. The Next Day, which can be pre-ordered on iTunes, will be released in Australia on 8 March, while everyone else get to hear it on 11 March apart from the US which has to wait until 12 March. There is a 14-track album and a 17-track deluxe release. Here’s the tracklisting.
- The Next Day
- Dirty Boys
- The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
- Love Is Lost
- Where Are We Now?
- Valentine’s Day
- If You Can See Me
- I’d Rather Be High
- Boss of Me
- Dancing Out In Space
- How Does the Grass Grow?
- (You Will) Set the World On Fire
- You Feel So Lonely You Could Die
- So She (Bonus Track)
- I’ll Take You There (Bonus Track)
- Plan (Bonus Track)
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