David Bowie – The Next Day
There’s much to ponder here – art, design, music, an iconic artist and an iconic image. My first thought was how David Bowie always repurposes his art and persona, although those two things are never far apart when it comes to Bowie.
Bowie has a new album, The Next Day, and the first single from the album has already been widely distributed thanks to the social web. The video for that song, Where Are We Now?, is incredibly haunting (watch it below.) Lyrically it’s hard to decipher Bowie’s mood – melancholy, despair, nostalgia, all of the above? Whatever the sentiment, and honestly it is impossible to really pin Bowie down, always has been, the lyrical references to Berlin suggest that he’s looking back to one of the most creative periods of his career when he produced Low, Heroes and Lodger, working with long-time producer Tony Visconti and bringing along new friends/artists, Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Punk rock had entered the lexicon and Bowie was polishing off his bonafides.
Bowie has always operated just so, ever so slightly ahead of the curve of what we still call ‘popular culture’ which, as a descriptor, when I write that, seems completely outdated today. My favorite Bowie lyric, taken from the song ‘Ashes to Ashes,’ is – “I never done good things, I never done bad things, I never did anything out of the blue” Mostly true, that. Coincidentally that song was another look back into his past career. It’s a revisiting of Major Tom, the character from Space Oddity, although this time Bowie opens up in the lyrics with a choral refrain – “Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, We know Major Tom’s a junkie, Strung out in heaven’s high, Hitting an all-time low.” That’s an interesting insight.
“Why not a new image for the cover?
We wanted to do something different with it – very difficult in an area where everything has been done before – but we dare to think this is something new. Normally using an image from the past means, ‘recycle’ or ‘greatest hits’ but here we are referring to the title The Next Day. The “Heroes” cover obscured by the white square is about the spirit of great pop or rock music which is ‘of the moment’, forgetting or obliterating the past.
However, we all know that this is never quite the case, no matter how much we try, we cannot break free from the past. When you are creative, it manifests itself in every way – it seeps out in every new mark you make (particularly in the case of an artist like Bowie). It always looms large and people will judge you always in relation to your history, no matter how much you try to escape it. The obscuring of an image from the past is also about the wider human condition; we move on relentlessly in our lives to the next day, leaving the past because we have no choice but to.”