The release of The Next Day exposes listeners to a close look into the artist’s ongoing musical metamorphosis
It’s been a decade since David Bowie released original material, but the glam-rock god has once again sealed his fate in perpetual stardom with the release of his 26th album, The Next Day, which will be made available for purchase throughout the U.S. on March 12.
Beyond the excitement surrounding Bowie’s return, The Next Day explores uncharted territory in his career. While some tracks are reminiscent of the anomalous artist’s peak of performance — found throughout Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs — there’s nothing particularly nostalgic about The Next Day. Rather, sentimentalism of the past wraps itself around autobiographical bits and pieces of the legend’s life that are scattered throughout the album.
That’s not to say that each and every song is saturated in Bowie’s introspection, however. Like most of his albums, The Next Day features a number of characters’ stories. Some may hint at the man himself, but Bowie’s personality appears to remain just as porous as it was during the years of Ziggy Stardust. Interpretations of social and political complexities of the time are fittingly fixed into The Next Day, as listeners are invited on an odyssey through the musician’s critical observations.
The album opens with the track “The Next Day,” an energetic tune propped up by electric riffs. Bowie sings of a man stalked by death who’s “not quite dying,” leaving listeners with the artist’s sense of defiance in the face of an inevitable end. For fans, “The Next Day” makes for an immediate favorite due to its rattling tambourine and funky familiarity.
The third song featured on the album, “The Stars (Are Out Tonight),” was released as a music video just a few weeks before the album was made available for streaming or download on iTunes. Awash in androgyny and symbolism, the video features some of today’s greatest gender benders, including Australian model Andrej Pejic and actress Tilda Swinton. The track is transfixed on the rift between the realities of celebrities and common folk, while hinting at the notion that there’s a gritty underbelly to a life of glitz and glamor.
“Where Are We Now” is one of a few ballads featured on The Next Day, offering Bowie’s fans a classically crafted side of the musician that’s rarely seen or heard. The track is the most introspective on the album, touching on pieces of Bowie’s past in his hometown of Berlin. Artistically arranged, “Where Are We Now” features simple piano chords that carry the artist’s fragile vocals through his descriptions of familiar places. The song is laden with imagery that’s crafted around the delicate meanderings of Bowie’s voice, causing the track to be somewhat reminiscent of 1971’s “Life on Mars.”
On a different note, “I’d Rather Be High” tells the tale of a teenage, desert combatant. One can make assumptions about the allusions being made throughout the track, as the soldier claims: I’d rather be high / I’d rather be flying / I’d rather be dead / Or out of my head / Than training these guns on the men in the sand. The song slides along with the help of a spacey guitar that has a certain ‘60s twang to its tuning, giving the track a sense of otherworldliness.
It’s hard to imagine anyone topping the artistic androgyny and cutting edge music that David Bowie is credited for. It seems that time poses no threat to the artist when it comes to his ability to maintain an intriguing act — a characteristic of Bowie that continues to thrill fans to this day.
Though The Next Day may in fact serve as a closing curtain on the musician’s colorful career, Bowie will undoubtedly remain in rock ‘n’ roll history as the starman of stellar performances.