Birthday surprise from long-silent Bowie with first album in 10 years
The tender Where Are We Now augurs well for new album, due in March
It’s the return of the Thin White Duke – again. To say that yesterday’s announcements about a new single and album from David Bowie came as a surprise is an understatement.
After a near decade-long hiatus from the limelight, during which time his back catalogue continued to win new admirers and add to his legacy, Bowie chose the occasion of his 66th birthday to say hello again. He did so with Where Are We Now?, a beautifully elegant and simply adorned ballad.
Bowie has long resided at the musical cutting edge with a dedication during his career to experimentation and ch-ch-ch-changes, but this is not a track seeking to wow the masses with a clutch of diverse musical appendages. There was, thankfully, no David Guetta remix or Pitbull verse to go with the track.
Instead, Bowie and producer Tony Visconti turned in a tender, fragile tune, full of wistfulness and reflection. It reminds you of what Leonard Cohen and even Johnny Cash released in the autumn of their careers.
It augurs well for The Next Day, the album due for release in March, and Bowie’s first album since Reality in 2003.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of yesterday’s news was the fact that all involved kept things under wraps for so long.
In an age when every major or minor announcement comes with a carefully managed stealth campaign of teasers to prevent leaving anything to chance, Bowie’s return was completely under the radar.
This was not a surprise upstaged by tweets about Bowie visiting a studio in recent months or leaks of early recordings, occurrences that often precede similar entertainment launches.
Instead, Bowie left it to the quality of the song and the element of surprise to do all the heavy lifting. And it worked a treat.
It is interesting to note that the announcement did not contain any details about live shows. Bowie hasn’t toured since 2004 and that tour, which was due to see him play at the Oxegen festival at Punchestown Racecourse in Co Kildare, was cancelled after the singer developed health problems.
Considering every major act has hit the road in recent years and that he was a prolific live performer until 2004, it would be surprising were Bowie to decide not to tour.
However, given that few thought we’d be talking about a new Bowie record 24 hours ago, you wouldn’t bet against anything at this juncture.