David Bowie releases first single in a decade

 

Watch a clip of Where Are We Now: video courtesy Sony Music

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Singer David Bowie has released a new single on his 66th birthday, following years of silence and speculation.

The glam-rock legend has released the recording Where Are We Now? as a video and download. It will be followed by a new album, The Next Day, in March.

Bowie has not performed live since 2006 and has rarely been seen in public since then.

The new track was recorded in New York and produced by the singer's long-time collaborator Tony Visconti.

Speaking to the BBC, Visconti admitted that keeping the project a secret has been difficult.

"People have asked what I've been working on and I've said 'I can't tell you... a mystery project... Project X,' so its such a relief that its out on that level."

Visconti continued: "The material is so strong and beautiful - if people are looking for classic Bowie they'll find that on this album, but if they're looking for innovative Bowie, they'll find that on this album too. It's all there."

Bowie's long absence from the industry and heart surgery in 2004 had prompted speculation about his health. However, Visconti insisted the singer "is extremely healthy and rosy cheeked."

"His stamina is fantastic," he added.

The single's appearance online was "a genuine surprise", said John Wilson, presenter of BBC Radio 4's Front Row.

Analysis

David Bowie, pictured in 2003

David Bowie has confounded expectations countless times since he shot into public consciousness with Space Oddity. Now, after a retirement that seemed worryingly permanent, he surprises once more with a new sentiment: Nostalgia.

Released on his 66th birthday, his first new song in almost exactly 10 years is filled with imagery of Berlin, the city to which he disappeared in 1976 to record his most enduringly influential albums, including the electronic masterpiece, Low.

Where Are We Now reunites Bowie with producer Tony Visconti, a key figure on Low, but where their 70s collaborations were angular, harsh, forward-looking, this new single is reflective, sweeter in tone - yet also haunting and full of doubt.

The lyrics directly reference Bowie's Berlin haunts: The KaDeWe department store where he shopped, the Dschungel club where he hung out with wildchild artist Martin Kippenberger, and the apartment on Haupstrasse which he shared with fellow rock'n'roll refugee Iggy Pop. The tone is downbeat, the melody dark, until finally he evokes the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. This was a barrier few thought could be crossed - now Bowie addresses his own unthinkable barrier, the gulf between the ambitious 30 year old, and the reflective senior citizen.

Age, mortality, has certainly mellowed him; the recording is lush, perhaps conventional, reminiscent of Heathen and Reality, albums Bowie recorded with Visconti just before the heart attack which forced him to abandon a world tour in June 2004.

The recent flurry of excitement around the re-release of Ziggy Stardust reminded us of Bowie the ambitious young buck, intent on making his mark. Where Are We Now? is a haunting depiction of the doubt that always lay behind that youthful arrogance; today he might be older, damaged, but he has the confidence of a man with nothing to prove.

"He's a proper artist. He doesn't release records because it's time for another record. He releases records when there's something for him to say."

Where Are We Now? is a simple, unfussy ballad - Bowie singing mournfully over a piano motif that slowly builds to an understated coda.

The song includes several references to the city of Berlin, where Bowie and Visconti produced a critically-acclaimed trilogy of albums - Low, Heroes and Lodger - in the 1970s.

"If you listen to each of the verses, there are lyrical references to Berlin, to Potsdamer Platz, to Nuremberg Strasse," said Wilson. "Places where he lived when he was making those albums. And there is an elegiac quality. There's a sadness, I think. A weariness to his voice."

The artwork for the new album, which has surfaced on iTunes, is an altered version of the cover to Heroes, suggesting a further connection to the Berlin Trilogy.

'Mystique'

By breaking his 10-year musical silence, Bowie unsurprisingly prompted a flurry of praise on Twitter.

"I'm so insanely excited," journalist Caitlin Moran wrote. "It's like hearing King Arthur's voice from the cave."

Comedian David Walliams added: "I love that Bowie has kept his mystique. No word from him for years and then out of nowhere this beautiful song appears.

"I wonder whether Bowie will go on Loose Women to promote it?"

Music fan Chris Lilley wrote: "It's quite an elaborate way to apologise for not performing at the Olympics."

While Bowie's son, film director Duncan Jones, chipped in: "Would be lovely if all of you could spread the word about da's new album. First in ten years, and its a good 'un!"

Acknowledging the stealthy release of the single, the pop star's press representative said in a statement: "Throwing shadows and avoiding the industry treadmill is very David Bowie".

The Space Oddity star, it continued, was "the kind of artist who writes and performs what he wants when he wants".

Where Are We Now? is accompanied by a video directed by multimedia and installation artist Tony Oursler, which harks back to Bowie's time in Berlin.

The BBC's Ros Atkins visits the street which featured in Bowie's album cover Ziggy Stardust

The promo, which can be viewed via the singer's website, features his face projected onto the body of a puppet.

The face of a woman is projected onto the mannequin beside him, with Bowie appearing in more conventional form later on in the video, clutching a notebook and wearing a T-shirt with the logo for the classic operetta Song Of Norway.

Bowie, who was last reported to be living in New York with his wife and daughter, has not released material since his 2003 album Reality.

In September, the singer denied reports he was involved in an upcoming exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in London charting his career.

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 160.

    At times like this I thank goodness for Classic FM.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 159.

    He swallowed his pride & puckered his lips
    And showed me the leather belt round his hips
    My knees were shaking my cheeks aflame
    He said "You'll never go down to the Gods again"
    (Turn around, go back!)

    He struck the ground a cavern appeared
    & I smelt the burning pit of fear
    We crashed a thousand yards below
    I said "Do it again, do it again"
    (Turn around, go back!)

    Lyrics: Bowie

    He turned around!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 158.

    Welcome back David, my favourite album at the moment is the Reality tour - god, what was I thinking when I sat this tour out - what a band and some of the best tracks off reality and heathen. Doubters should listen.
    Really hope there is a tour not at the rip off 02 and via promoters acting as resellers a la Stones.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 157.

    Not sure what to think of this new one.

    I am a Bowie fan and think Let's Dance is one of the best albums ever made. I wish Bowie would appear more often and replace MCartney from all these gigs we see him in; there are more English Bowie fans than The Beatles fans I am sure. The Beatles is more of a foreign phenomenon.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 156.

    David Bowie - who's he? I prefer Ziggy Stardust.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 155.

    18 Domskileeds said "Not really that bothered"

    Obviously you are bothered or why else did you post? Desperate for attention?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 154.

    @130.thrill_vermilion

    ....er...Mozart a "cripplingly overrated hack" and "Get a grip" ...?

    either you were intentionally ironic, or you demonstrated irony unwittingly.

    I will assume it was humour, I can't believe anyone would publicly reveal their lack of knowledge in the significance of Mozart's contribution in world history.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 153.

    Big deal. Most over-rated performer I've ever had the misfortune to hear.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 152.

    What is all the fuss about an OAP releasing a record, when there are far more important things going on

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 151.

    I read an article 5 or 6 years ago that said Bowie might release something in 2013, after waiting 10 years for his EMI contract to expire. At the time I thought it was wishful thinking. Guess I was wrong. Really looking forward to the album!

    As for the nay-sayers, if you can't handle music that hasn't come off an X-Factor production line then don't listen to it…

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 150.

    @ Steve 120: I laughed when I read your comment! Bowie's fans are of a demographic that actually do buy music. Not like the under 35s, most of whom expect it for free or the under 25s, most of whom don't even understand why ripping off downloads is wrong. This is a very classy song, far beyond 99.9% of what contemporary artists are producing. But with a market like that why did he even bother?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 149.

    @141.Rainfordian

    what's new? even talents such as kubrick, matisse, beatles etc. had dubious output. People will pay, artists will make.

    Bowie and tin machine's questionable music output for business (as usual a matter of taste and market demand) is a great deal more acceptable than other "talents" such as stella mccartney and damian hirst.

    Talent is no match against marketing and patronage.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 148.

    For me, this is a rather lovely piece of music. Bowie's career has always been fascinating and frustrating in equal measures. Ziggy, Pin-Ups, the Berlin era, all great, then Hours and Earthling not great (just OK) then back to great/good again with Heathen/Reality. Reflective music always divides people, doesn't it? Today's pop mongrels are useless in comparison.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 147.

    21.Andrew = Wish he'd shut up and disappear. Dreadful noise
    5.Elmo = It is an awful song
    8.Linense = Ziggy played guitar.. with the help of a zimmerframe

    Watch out folks, Troll alert
    (Thankfully and deservedly all marked down)

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 146.

    //Simon Of The Naki
    23 MINUTES AGO
    @132.Bob
    "I like Bowie - but this is news??"

    Bob, I can assume you cannot read - this article is under "Entertainment & Arts".

    Please stick to the sections of the BBC website of which you consider "news" instead of moaning about things you dont consider "news".//

    Unfortunately Today featured this as 'news' this morning. Poor choice.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 145.

    Heard this record this morning. Awful dirge. He hasn't done anything worth listening to for 30 years. Should have stayed in hiding and not bothered.

  • rate this
    -65

    Comment number 144.

    Bowie hasn't done anything listenable for literally 30 years. What a ridiculous nostalgia-driven fuss about nothing.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 143.

    I'm not a huge Bowie fan, but I quite like this song. I'll be interested to hear the rest of the album.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 142.

    Andrew - sorry you don't like Bowie. Everyone is entitled top their opinion of course. Those of us that do - and we may be of a certain age - recognise an unmatched, unique, massively influential creative genius. From glam rock to soul, pop to far out oddness, always stylish and for a long time far ahead.

  • rate this
    -18

    Comment number 141.

    Utter rubbish! If this had been submitted without the name Bowie to the BBC it wouldn't have got past the junior researcher. The lyrics are terrible!! shocking from a man of Bowie's calibre.

 

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