Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Defiant new David Bowie release shows who's in charge

David Bowie released a bolt from the blue today posting the video for new single Where Are We Now? online on his 66th birthday. The chameleon's deliberate surprise to the music industry shows how everything he does remains on his own terms.

The icon hasn't performed live since 2006 and has rarely appeared in public in a period when a swathe of his original contemporaries have reformed for moneyspinning tours as live music revenues improve. Mystique has always been his drug of choice (ok, one of many) and the burst back on to the world's stage was typical of a man who could nonchalantly stamp on the combined attention seeking of Katy Perry and Russell Brand. However, what some would claim is po-faced arrogance was dispelled by his hilarious appearance joking at the expense of Ricky Gervais' Andy Millman in Extras.

The song itself, released as a video directed by Tony Oursler on his website, is a typical Bowie ballad very much in the mould created by his last two albums - Heathen and Reality, his last record released in 2003. The slow, piano-led love song name drops Bowie's favourite spots across Berlin - his favourite city shared by one time collaborator Iggy Pop as well as Velvet Underground antagonist Lou Reed - while the video shows scenes from Potzdamer Platz to the Dschungel and Nurnberger Strasse. He talks of a "man lost in time", whimsical for his time in the German city. For much of the video, Bowie's face sings from a puppet of a monkey sat next to a woman who looks like Zoe Wanamaker in a set in his original Berlin studio.

The single comes two months before new album The Next Day is released. In London, a spectacular exhibition including films, music and photographs (see left) will also be unveiled at the V&A Museum in March and has had the media salivating in anticipation of one of the art events of the year. This may be no coincidence but if this was deliberate scheduling it has been made to appear a complete revelation. With 'brand Britain' riding a high in 2012, 2013 could well be one of the country's quirkiest quintessentials finds a new generation of fans. A live tour would be welcomed, but is not expected.

David Bowie is arguably the most influential icon in pop music. His records, including personal favourites Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars, have changed the face of British music and given listeners exhilaration, solace and a reason to get through the day in equal measure. His return, when so many had declared his retirement or worse, terminal illness, is a defiance worthy of the king of counterculture.

View the new single's video on Bowie's website.

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