A new single for David Bowie, but I fear time has caught up with the thin white duke

He made his name(s) through constant self-reinvention; this fresh material, however, feels perilously close to a retread

Share
Related Topics

I once offended someone famous by asking how it felt to be a national treasure. My (admittedly rather limp) line of questioning was met with an alarmed, and evidently miffed, response from an interviewee who said she didn't see herself that way.

I was reminded of this while listening to David Bowie's (brilliant) first single in a decade “Where Are We Now?”, released yesterday morning. Its nostalgic, mellow feel, describing the glam godfather's days raving in Berlin with Iggy Pop, and – most markedly – its arrival on his 66th birthday, seem like an admittance of his modern icon status. He might always have avoided the mould, ch-ch-ch-changing the boundaries of sound, style and form beyond recognition. But yesterday Bowie admitted to being the equivalent of a national treasure. Welcome though the new song may be, the echoing dreaminess of “Space Oddity” it invokes feels a bit backwards. Especially as the release of his new album, The Next Day, in March coincides with the opening of a major exhibition called “David Bowie Is” at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Ziggy Stardust may have retired way back in 1973, but I doubt fans will stand for the signal that this double retrospective sends: that Bowie is re-evaluating his career, perhaps in readiness, to put it away for good. Particularly when similarly mummified Seventies rock gods The Rolling Stones are determined to put him to shame by rocking on till death (and raking in £20m per tour in the process).

For an artist who has always shunned the PR bandwagon (preferring rockets), the non-coincidental arrival of an exhibition and album in the same month feels rather manufactured. The former is a testament to how present Bowie has remained in British art culture despite the fact he has appeared in public, and on stage, only a handful of times since his heart attack at the Hurricane festival in Scheessel, Germany, in 2004 – collapsing just minutes after performing an encore of “Ziggy Stardust”. Bowie refused to promote last year's 40th anniversary reissue CD of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars and even declined a personal plea from Danny Boyle to appear at the Olympics opening ceremony, so I'm pleased that his return to view is to promote new music.

But his decision not to move things on, as he has always done (from Mod to mime artist and folk singer to R'n'B musician) rings alarm bells. Time has changed him. I hope the new album is not all about tracing it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Care Support Workers

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this care company base...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£21000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager - South East & East Anglia

£60500 - £65500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global leading software co...

Recruitment Genius: Junior IT Technician

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want the opportunity to ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Refugees try to cross the border from Greece into Macedonia, near Gevgelija, on Wednesday. The town sits on the ‘Balkan corridor’ used by refugees, mostly from Syria, to travel from Turkey to Hungary, the gateway to the EU  

The UK response to the plight of Syrian refugees is a national embarrassment

Kevin Watkins
The provincial capital of Idlib, Syria, which fell to al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra last week  

'I was sure I’d be raped or killed. I was terrified': My life as a gay Syrian refugee who had to flee Isis

Subhi Nahas
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent