Seemingly out of nowhere, David Bowie announced The Next Day, his first album in nearly 10 years, in January. The music legend has influenced artists like Lady Gaga, Madonna and The Killers over the years, and with his new LP, he even inspired himself. The cover art is an adaptation — or continuation — of Bowie’s 1977 album “Heroes,” while lead single “Where Are We Now?” references the singer’s time spent in Germany in the 1970s, when he recorded his iconic Berlin Trilogy.
So how does the new music hold up compared to David Bowie’s classics? Head below for our roundup of what the critics are saying.
:: English paper the Independent raves, “Recorded over the past two or three years in complete secrecy, and heralded by the sudden appearance in January of the single ‘Where Are We Now?’, David Bowie’s The Next Day may be the greatest comeback album ever. It’s certainly rare to hear a comeback effort that not only reflects an artist’s own best work, but stands alongside it in terms of quality, as The Next Day does.”
:: Likewise, the Telegraph gives Bowie’s latest a five-star review: “It is an enormous pleasure to report that the new David Bowie album is an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.”
:: The NME concurs: “As not just the title, but the sleeve art of The Next Day, with its gleeful, meme-tastic defacement of ‘Heroes’ suggests, this is a record that while happy to acknowledge Bowie’s titanic past and borrow, magpie-like from it, is anything but navel-gazing, self-referential or reverent, instead leaping forward with a restless energy to tomorrow.”
:: The Guardian is just slightly more contrary: “It’s priapic with saxophone and studded with riffs on old Bowie, rich with internal assonance (the vocal melody of “Where Are We Now” taken up by the guitar on “Valentine’s Day”) and many Davids singing (he’s like Scott Walker on the album’s closer, “Heat”). A week on from its debut on iTunes, it’s still hard to separate the quality of songs such as the excellent “Dirty Boys” from our collective need for this album to be a return to form, a scourge to those furred arteries, a bony two-fingered salute to the worms. If it is the mark of a satisfying album that you want to absorb every last note and reference, then The Next Day is a banquet, but one in which superfoods and gristle both feature.”
:: The A.V. Club has this to say: “The Next Day is Bowie’s first album in 10 years. It’s also the first he’s made since entering his 60s—and the first since having a heart attack in 2004. When it comes to his iconic, enveloping voice, seniority now augments sonority. It’s just one of the reasons why The Next Day is not just a strong comeback, but a stunning, resonant piece of expression — an intimate communiqué that whispers at the soul without denying the labyrinth of identity that once made Bowie a self-contained echo chamber. Rather than being hermetic, though, the naked, sculptural The Next Day demands undivided attention—when it’s being quiet as well as when it screams at the cosmos.”
:: USA Today is on board with the album: “The disc’s title and cover, with the 1977 ‘Heroes’ album photo papered over, clearly telegraphs Bowie’s determination to look forward, and he’s succeeded in sculpting a bracingly modern collection. Some tunes fly off into experimental realms that would leave listeners disoriented if not for the solid melodies and Bowie’s emotionally rich vocals. Yet his past echoes in the grooves of Next, whether it’s a sprinkling of Ziggy Stardust in the title track, a chunk of Hunky Dory in ‘If You Can See Me’ or smidges of Lodger dirges in ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’. Nothing feels like a throwback, however.”
:: Consequence Of Sound doesn’t find it to be an easy listen, but is up for the challenge: “Coming to terms with The Next Day has been an ordeal and a struggle of initial indifference. One has to dig deep and fight uphill to connect here, but that climb results in a rewarding, fascinating listen. Yet what’s more intriguing is speculating on what The Next Day could become and whether or not any of its mysteries will be solved. As always, Bowie remains in constant metamorphosis and here we are once again with a litter of erratic questions. Though, the mere fact that we’re spinning around in speculation only champions this as a success.”
:: The San Francisco Chronicle notes the “surprisingly loud” nature of the album: “Tony Visconti, the producer behind some of Bowie’s greatest work, puts serious muscle behind tunes such as the skronking ‘Dirty Boys’ and ‘Valentine’s Day,’ revealing that despite his heart troubles, the singer is still some ways off from settling in to contemplate the transience of life.”
:: SPIN, however, rains on all above’s parade: “…it’s difficult to imagine a context in which new Bowie product would work. Reality capped a decade of false starts and dead ends that often produced thrilling music; it was a bourbon before bed. The Next Day asks fans to pretend those years of courageous dormancy didn’t exist.”