4. David Bowie – The Next Day
Release date: 8th March
This is one we didn’t expect to be expecting two weeks ago. In a modern media world where an artist can’t usually record an album without somebody leaking all of their demos (insert GIF of Marina Diamandis running about screaming ‘WHO’S LEAKING MY TRACKS?!?’) the world’s most important living pop icon, Lord David Bowie, somehow managed to write, orchestrate and record his first album in ten years without anybody knowing, then spring it on the world as a little surprise last week on his 66th birthday. Many people had wanted Bowie to write something new since 2003’s Reality, but nobody expected it. The closest the media got to guessing was when Bowie was seen in public last year, but that was put down to him buying a sandwich. You can’t help thinking now that perhaps he was doing more than buying a sandwich, we all told off the media for overreacting but perhaps they were right after all?!. After that little event, and the world’s overblown sandwich reaction, I wrote a piece about how I was pleased David Bowie had not come out of retirement and ruined his legacy like all of his peers, so I was in two minds about Bowie’s comeback, but this is the first time I’ve been artistically conscious enough to anticipate new Bowie music.
What can we expect?
First single ‘Where Are We Now?’ is not exactly a disco classic. It’s a down-tempo, fairly dreary track with far too many German words than I appreciate in one song and, as much as I truly love David Bowie, I don’t think I would be interested in it if it were by anyone else. Bowie’s voice sounds quite frail, but he himself looks far from it, thankfully. However, we need not worry that the whole album will be about walking the dead and sitting in the dschungel, as we have been assured by one of Bowie’s team, all of whom were asked to sign confidentiality agreements so as not to spoil the surprise before the big reveal, that there will be more rocky tracks on the album than the first single, so all is not lost. Track titles for the album include ‘Dirty Boys’ and ‘Dancing Out In Space’, which both sound like they would be far from ballad territory and maybe see the return of Major Tom? That’s mere speculation but who knows? Dave loves singing about space though, I wonder why he hasn’t signed up to one of Richard Branson’s voyages or jumped out of a big Red Bull balloon? Because he’s too dignified, that’s why! He doesn’t even want to tour anymore and he doesn’t need to, he probably wears diamond encrusted slippers and decorates his food with more gold leaf than everyone in the Great British Bake Off combines.
What about the artwork?
It’s the cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” album with a white square bunged on top of it and the title written on in a horrible font. Apparently it took ages to come up with the concept, and seemingly one minute for an eight year old to create the image on Microsoft Paint. The less said about it, the better really. I assumed it was a joke image at first, like when Lady Gaga released the artwork for Born This Way, everyone hoped she was having a laugh. Bowie’s people say the cover is supposed to represent ‘forgetting the past’ but I think a far more powerful image would be a 66 year old Bowie facing the camera in the same pose as the Aladdin Sane cover, but with the lightning bolt rubbed off his face, paint smeared across his cheek. That would be far more powerful.
What The Next Day should sound like.
What is the worst thing David could do now?
As much as I don’t want the album to be a disc of dreary ballads, without meaning to sound hypocritical here, Bowie does need to act his age. If he released a dubstep album featuring Nicki Minaj guest raps, about being a boy gone wild and wanting to romp and mutually swap genes with a younger generation, I would be tempted to say goodbye to him forever. I think there’s more chance of the whole album being Ziggy Stardust played backwards than that though. Artists need to realise they have gotten old, Madonna hasn’t realised this yet, but David has. Of course, an older artist can release songs that are more suitable to their age group without being as dull as Where Are We Now?, such as when Johnny Cash released his cover of Hurt at the age of 71.I would be happy if the songs were more in the vein of Absolute Beginners and Heroes, with the occasional guitar solo chucked in, rather than the industrial drum machine racket Little Wonder or Jump They Say. The best thing Bowie could do now is a Glastonbury headline set though.
How good does this album need to be?
The Next Day needs to be at LEAST a 9 to make Bowie’s comeback worthwhile, but I’m sure he wouldn’t have bothered doing all of this with a dud album.