Why is the arrival of a new song from David Bowie so moving? Several reasons.
First, the surprise of it. A decade in reclusive retirement, the inevitable rumours of ill health, little prospect of anything new, and then this, not only a song, but an entire album is in the can.
Second, the song itself. Cover designer Johnathan Barnbrook writes:
The song Where are we now? is a comparison between Berlin when the wall fell and Berlin today.
which has some authority since he worked with Bowie, but of course it is more than that, it is about Bowie then and now, and for those of us who grew up with this music, about ourselves then and now.
It is not a happy song, mournful and uncertain about the future (the song title ends with a question mark) but it is not an unhappy song; Bowie seems more at peace with himself than in the past.
I love the song and expect to play it frequently for a while.
Never forget though that this is art and comes from one skilled at hiding in plain sight.
Much respect for Bowie that is able to be his age (like Leonard Cohen) rather than re-enacting his youth (like Mick Jagger).
The cover of the album is also striking.
Do read Barnbrook’s questions and answers from the link above for some insight into why it is as it is, for example:
Obscuring Bowie’s image is also reference to his identity, not only in the past when he changed endlessly but that he has been absent from the music scene for the past ten years. Was this an act to hide his identity or that he has simply become more comfortable with it?
I can’t wait for the album.