Robert Frost once wrote that nothing gold can stay, but he obviously never encountered David Bowie. In the face of a music scene rife with neon-haired starlets and robotic voices over beats that may as well be alien greetings for all the musicality they embody, Bowie has managed to emerge, some 10 years after his last foray into the musical ring, indubitably victorious. But really, is anyone surprised?
The Next Day is Bowie’s 24th studio album and it shows in the best possible way. Where other established artists trying to make a comeback tend to work too hard to reinvent themselves within the confines of an industry that has moved on without them, Bowie sticks to what he knows how to do best — be himself. From its sound to its style to its pace, The Next Day definitely constitutes a blast from the past. It glides along without hiccup, even as Bowie alternates between the quiet philosophies and loud theatrics, opposite ends of the spectrum that somehow worked together to make him famous. A standout track in this respect would have to be “If You Can See Me,” which is rolled off in a style akin to the rock opera or musical theatre genres, essentially narrating a string of events through song.
Bowie’s voice has aged nicely, taking on a worn, hollow quality that lends a certain level of experience and authority to his more musing tracks. He takes on the persona of a wise mentee, someone who has been places and seen things — which of course, at age 66 with a career spanning 40 years, he very much is. As if Bowie’s denial to tour The Next Day weren’t indication enough, one listen to the record makes it evident that Bowie’s so-called comeback is not about giving his career a kick in the pants or trying to join a scene that, if we’re being frank, no longer cares the way it used to. Instead, The Next Day is David Bowie making music because he wants to, because he is a musician, because that’s what he does. The fact that it is doing well on the charts, earning him his first number 1 record in 20 years, is just a happy side-effect, and a testament to his indisputable talent at that.