[An abridged version of this post can be viewed at ReDigi’s music blog.] “Stars are never sleeping,” David Bowie mourns on his new track “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, “They’ll burn you with their radiant smiles, trap you with their beautiful eyes”– a chilling criticism of celebrity and fame, though its far from the first time Bowie has show his distaste for the toxicity of status in our culture.
Early on, Bowie of course adopted the stage persona of tortured artist Ziggy Stardust, who lamented the loss of space explorer and fallen star Major Tom in “Space Oddity.” Ziggy even told the tale of his own fall from grace, “Making love to his ego”, in the titular song “Ziggy Stardust.” The glam rock god hasn’t been above outright calling his send-ups to stardom “Fame” or “Heroes”, but has also long toyed with the cosmos as a metaphor for infamy with songs like “Star,” “Starman,” “Lady Stardust,” “The Prettiest Star,” “Shining Star,” and even “New Killer Star” from his ’03 release Reality.
The uncomfortable yet compelling video for the his new single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” also features exactly that Ziggy-era sort of fascinating Bowie incarnations and reflections on himself as an icon: perfectly played by sleek, wide-eyed, and aggressively androgynous models Saskia de Brauw and Andrej Pejíc. The duo infiltrate and manipulate the psyche of a charming suburban couple Bowie and his doppleganger actress Tilda Swinton eerily portray. Director Floria Sigismondi (who brought the The Runaways story to the big screen and has directed two decades worth of videos with acts like Incubus, Fiona Apple, Muse, and more) does an incredible job of echoing what we already know as Bowie’s inability to escape himself, and winking at his infamous gender-bending.
A less scathing sample from the new album The Next Day, his first new single “Where Are We Now?” is a ballad that debuted on Bowie’s sixty-sixth birthday last month. The March 12th release is “quite a rocker” according to producer Tony Visconti, Bowie’s right hand man on all of his albums since Space Oddity. Visconti said, “If people are looking for classic Bowie they’ll find it on this album. If they’re looking for innovative Bowie, new directions, they’re going to find that on this album too.”