Written by Kevin Dunne. Media by Mikey Trieb.
Davy Jones. Ziggy Stardust. The Space Oddity. The Thin White Duke. Halloween Jack. The Goblin King. Call him whatever you like, David Bowie, the Man from Mars, is back with a down-to-earth album. A secret two-year project, it was announced on Bowie’s 66th birthday that the album would be released, and The Next Day dropped mid-March.
It has been over a decade since Bowie last released an album, and The Next Day was a delightful surprise to the music lovers around the world. Bowie worked alongside longtime cohorts on several of his albums for The Next Day, and the synergy was present in the sounds and overall feel of the album. Bowie had largely been touring for the past couple of years, until he had heart surgery and largely disappeared from the music world. Despite the occasional role in a movie (if you haven’t watched his portrayal of Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, you’re missing out), or singing with bands like Arcade Fire once in a blue moon, Bowie had all but retired. Thankfully, that was not the case.
The album draws from influences from throughout Bowie’s illustrious career. The Next Day combines elements of glam rock, industrial, pop, and jazz. The lyrics are rich and personal, full of intelligence and wisdom. You’ll find Bowie singing about his past in a revealing way, the parasitic effects of war, remorse, and the dangers of being self-absorbed. Bowie has background sax and synths, mesmerizing beats, and those hard-edged and hypnotic guitar riffs that made his songs so appealing in the first place in almost every song. Add his magnetic voice to the mix,and you have a rare commodity; a pop album that isn’t injected with artificiality and unnecessarily complex themes. We haven’t seen an album like this, well, since Bowie last released an album. Such honesty and personal strife are themes that seem to be lost on the current generation of singers. With singers who only sing about how their hearts get broken on a week-to-week basis topping charts week after week, it is refreshing to hear an artist of such magnitude as Bowie weigh in on the situation. The Japanese release of The Next Day has three bonus tracks (“So She,” “Plan,” and “I’ll Take You There”), so if you haven’t already picked up the album, you can always listen to it or the bonus tracks on Spotify. That is, if you can sit through the insufferable ads.
In a manner of speaking, The Next Day takes a minimalistic approach in reflecting upon weighty personal themes and world issues. The cover itself, which is Bowie’s Heroes with a white box covering up his face, really gives an aesthetic sense to those ideas addressed throughout the album. The Next Day isn’t a comeback album, nor did it seem like one. Bowie doesn’t seem set out on touring again, or at least not too much, which I am strangely fine with. The man has influenced the world of fashion, art, film, television, and music during his career, so who can be sure if there will be more from Bowie in years to come? A self-described chameleon, nobody can be sure what change Bowie will make next. Heck, the man surprised us all with this album, so if he continues making music, then that’s fantastic. If this he doesn’t, then that’s equally okay. All in all, it’s good to have David Bowie front and center in the music world.