'hours...' is the twenty-second studio album by David Bowie, released in 1999. It is notable for being not only his last album with both the EMI sublabel Virgin Records and EMI as a whole (with all following albums being released through Columbia Records), but also the first complete album by a major artist available to download over the Internet, preceding its physical release by two weeks (it wasn't the first music of any kind distributed in this manner, though; that would be Bowie's earlier single "Telling Lies"). Given the comparatively slow state of the dial-up form of internet that was common in the 1990's, Bowie launched his own ISP, BowieNet, the year prior to this album's release partly as a means of giving fans a way to more readily download the album in its entirety.
A major departure from the preceding two albums, being a mix of art rock and pop rock with heavy electronic leanings and a much more Lighter and Softer style both musically and lyrically (save for the Hard Rock-influenced "What's Really Happening" and "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell"), every song on this album was both used in and originally recorded for the video game Omikron: The Nomad Soul, essentially making this Bowie's sole foray into VGM. In addition, the song "What's Really Happening?" was also recorded live using lyrics that were submitted as part of a "Cyber Song" fan competition on Bowie's official website, later advertised on the tray art for the album's CD release.
Like its predecessor Earthling, 'hours...' was commercially successful (peaking at No. 5 on the UK albums chart and being certified silver in the UK and gold in France) but divisive among fans and critics, with many negatively comparing it to Sting (not helped by the fact that Sting himself had released his own electronic-tinged pop rock album Brand New Day the month prior). In the US, it would also gain the dubious distinction of being Bowie's first album since The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars to miss the Billboard Top 40, peaking at No. 47. Unlike Earthling, however, 'hours...' would maintain its divisiveness even after Bowie's death in 2016, largely due to it repeating the adult contemporary style that had previously embodied the equally divisive Black Tie White Noise six years prior. The album was also a point of contention between Bowie and co-producer and former Tin Machine member Reeves Gabrels, who intended for a rawer, Diamond Dogs-esque sound on the album. The Creative Differences between Bowie and Gabrels resulted in them breaking professional ties with one another, though on a personal level the two didn't seem to hold much animosity after the fact.
The singles released from this album were "Thursday's Child", "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell". "Survive", and "Seven"
- "Thursday's Child" (5:24)
- "Something in the Air" (5:46)
- "Survive" (4:11)
- "If I'm Dreaming My Life" (7:04)
- "Seven" (4:04)
- "What's Really Happening?" (4:10)
- "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" (4:40)
- "New Angels of Promise" (4:35)
- "Brilliant Adventure" (1:54)
- "The Dreamers" (5:14)
Japanese-exclusive bonus track
- "We All Go Through" (4:10)
You're still troping, but you don't know why
- Auto-Tune: Used mainly for distorting his vocals. This is most prominent in "Something in the Air" and "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell"
- Epic Rocking: "If I'm Dreaming My Life" at 7 minutes long.
- Instrumental: "Brilliant Adventure"
- Leet Lingo: Appears in the form of the alphanumeric sequences spelling "David Bowie Hours" beneath the album cover's fake barcodes, with some of the numbers reoriented to better match certain letters. With the numbers properly oriented, the code reads "D6V1DB0W1340URS".
- Letters 2 Numbers: The section for "Seven" in the liner notes features "7EVEN" written across the lefthand page in large type; may be a possible Shout-Out to the film 7 (which included Bowie's 1995 song "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" in the credits).
- Lighter and Softer: To Earthling in both respects, as reflected in the cover photo
- Miniscule Rocking: "Brilliant Adventure" is just under two minutes long.
- New Sound Album: Neoclassical, ethereal-sounding art rock with some pop leanings.
- One-Word Title: The album, "Seven" and "Survive".
- Other Common Music Video Concepts — Band from Mundania:
- Both the official 'hours...' videos put Bowie in domestic settings and then ease in fantasy elements. In "Thursday's Child", he and his current lover are getting ready for bed when in the bathroom mirror he sees a reflection of his younger self and an old lover. In "Survive", he broods alone in a cluttered kitchen over a romantic breakup— and then gravity goes askew. The unreleased video for "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell" would kept the trend as well (see What Could Have Been in the Trivia section).
- Pietà Plagiarism: The album cover has an older long-haired Bowie cradling a (slightly!) younger short-haired version of himself, representing his shift to a Lighter and Softer sound following the much-heavier 1. Outside and Earthling.
- Rearrange the Song: Both "Seven" and "Survive" saw releases as remixes by Marius DeVries.
- Religious Russian Roulette: "Seven"The Gods forgot they made meSo I forgot them too
- Snakes Are Sinister: A Black Mamba can be seen laying at the feet of the three Bowies on the back cover, hinting at the album's occasional darker undercurrents.
- Soprano and Gravel: "Thursday's Child", though Bowie's voice isn't exactly gravelly.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: The exception being "Thursday's Child" where Holly Palmer is featured quite prominently (see Soprano and Gravel)
- Three-Dimensional Episode: Early releases of 'hours...' feature a lenticular cover, which can be tilted to shift the perspective in the cover photo, providing a pseudo-3D effect.
- Title Track: One of Bowie's five albumsnote that doesn't feature one (depending on whether or not you count Space Oddity, which was originally a Self-Titled Album, and Tin Machine II, which depends on whether or not you treat Tin Machine as a true Bowie project or an independent entity, the number goes up to either six or seven).
- Variant Cover:
- Initial pressings of the CD release feature a lenticular cover, meant to evoke a 3D effect with both the two Bowies and the hallway they're lying in. Later releases simply used a regular print of the image.
- For reasons unknown, the spinal portion of the tray art featured different backgrounds between the initial UK/European and US CD releases. The UK/European version featured a series of orange stripes similar to the ones throughout the rest of the album art, with the "davidbowie.com" text in white and in the same font as his logotype on the front cover. The US version, meanwhile, features a white background for the spinal portion of the tray art, with the "davidbowie.com" text being in a mock barcode. Some releases across regions completely omit this portion altogether, leaving a solid white background on the upper spine. As of Parlophone Records' 2016 repressing of the album, the UK/Europe variant of the spine art is considered the standard one.
- Some versions of the album totally omit the text, stripes, and mock barcodes from the front cover, leaving just the main image against a white background.