Is The New David Bowie Song "Where Are We Now?" THE SHIT Or Just Shit?


David Bowie is a flat-out legend, a musical genius whose musical and visual shape-shifting during the '70s and '80s gave rock & roll some of its most colorful characters.  Funny, for all the different chapters of John Lennon's career, he was always only just the one guy.  Bowie, on the other hand, has lived many lives and they've all been glorious.

But, despite it all, time seemed to be catching up to Bowie, who underwent heart surgery for a blocked artery in 2004 and, since then, has maintained a low profile.  Rumors ran rampant that the Thin White Duke was wasting away in the privacy of his Manhattan penthouse and that there was nothing Alladin Sane, Major Tom, or The Man Who Sold The World could do about it.

And then last week, completely without warning, Bowie himself released his first new song in over a decade, a plaintive ballad called "Where Are We Now?", and announced plans to release a new album in March 2013.  As it turns out, the album had been recorded in secret over a period of two years with longtime producer Tony Visconti (the man behind such albums as Space Oddity, Young Americans and "Heroes", to name but a few).

While public response to the new song was almost universally positive, that is often to be expected when dealing with such a beloved legacy artist as Bowie.  However, we at The Shit are able to separate the artist from the song and to rationally critique "Where Are We Now?" on its own merits.

With that in mind, allow us to surmise that if this is any indication of what happens when a legacy artist disappears for a decade, more legacy artists should consider following suit.  As much as we might love Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty or Paul McCartney. none seem capable of taking even two years off, much less ten.  As a result, each new album arrives on a wave of respectful adulation that quickly subsides once the initial media push subsides.  In the case of McCartney, while many of us may have bought McCartney's Chaos And Creation In The Backyard, when's the last time any of us actually gave it a listen?

As we prepared to listen to "Where Are We Now?", we also prepared to be disappointed.  Mind you, we weren't necessarily expecting the song to outright suck, but listening to a mediocre David Bowie song is not as much fun as one would think.

Thankfully, "Where Are We Now?" doesn't suck.  It's not even close to being mediocre, either.  In fact, it's one of the most inspired songs Bowie has done since, well, "Under Pressure".  If you consider that a backhanded compliment due to some disdain you might feel for that particular song, allow us to state in no uncertain terms that "Under Pressure" was a fucking masterpiece.

What "Where Are We Now?" shares with "Under Pressure" is a complete sense of disillusionment that is expressed in terms that are achingly beautiful and brilliantly self-aware.  The same Bowie who railed against the brutal fist of silent oppression on "Under Pressure" is now older, wiser, and knows that not all fights can be fought, or won.

In fact, it could almost be argued that "Where Are We Now?" is a song of loss, sung by the last man standing as he gazes upon the ruins.  Even without knowing the words, one can feel the defeat in Bowie's voice and wonder if this same black cloud awaits all who achieve "victory at all costs".

Yet, at the same time, "Where Are We Now?" bears at least a passing resemblance to Johnny Cash's version of "Hurt", wherein an aging icon reduced to a shadow of his former self finds solace in a song that will ultimately stand as his swan song.

Whether or not "Where Are We Now?" goes down in history as Bowie's "Hurt", it would seem that Bowie has found yet another voice to explore and we, for one, cannot wait to hear The Next Day in its entirety.

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