The Next Day is the twenty-fifth studio album by David Bowie, released in 2013. His first album since 2003's Reality, its announcement on his 66th birthday took fans, critics and media by surprise, thanks to many of them assuming that he had quietly retired after suffering a heart attack in 2004 while on tour in Germany. The surprise was, by all accounts, an Intended Audience Reaction: Bowie had spent two years sporadically recording and producing the album in secret, requiring everyone involved to sign non-disclosure agreements and even going so far as to change studios when his presence at the first one was disclosed without permission. Even then, an unannounced visit to the second studio by Canadian band Metric nearly blew the lid off the whole thing when Bowie's saxophonist found himself tempted to give away everything that was going on. Despite these hurdles, the album was kept under tight lock and key for the entirety of its production, resulting in its sudden announcement and release becoming the mammoth curveball Bowie was hoping for it to be.
Sound-wise, the album continues the Alternative Rock sound of Reality, but mixes it in with Bowie's signature brand of theatrical art rock, thereby offering a more complex take on its 2003 predecessor. Both musically and lyrically, The Next Day also shifts to a much darker direction, reflecting Bowie's awareness of his advanced age (he was already 66 when the album released) and his desire to look back and examine where he'd been and where he was now going. Despite this, the album isn't a voyeuristic look into Bowie's head, instead conveying his thoughts through a series of allegorical vignettes focused on a variety of characters and themes, ranging from a former East German resident's reminiscing on the fall of the Berlin Wall to a school shooter's friend to a defiant Jesus. Tying in with the album's reflective tone, the album cover consists solely of a modified version of that for his landmark 1977 album "Heroes", the title scratched out and a white square with the 2013 album's title plastered over Bowie's face.
Like most of his 21st Century output, the album received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising the album's introspective sound and lyrics, particularly the repeated musing on Bowie's own mythos and awareness of the expectations placed by his prolonged absence. As of 2020, it sits at No. 1780 on Acclaimed Music's dynamic list of the 3000 most critically acclaimed albums ever made. The Next Day was also a major commercial success for Bowie, debuting at the top of the UK Albums chart (his first No. 1 in the country since Black Tie White Noise 20 years prior) and at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, further topping the charts in Argentina, Belgium (on both the Ultratop Flanders and Ultratop Wallonia charts), Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Switzerland. The album would also top Billboard's Top Alternative Albums chart and peak at No. 2 on their Top Rock Albums chart. The Next Day would go on to become the 26th best-selling album of 2013 in the UK and the third-best-selling album of the year in Finland, later being certified platinum in the UK, France, and the Netherlands, and gold in Australia, Austria, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, and Switzerland. With such heavy acclaim and success, it seemed like a veritable comeback for Bowie— however, this second wind would ultimately be cut short just three years later, when Bowie died after a two-year battle with liver cancer. His follow-up to The Next Day and consequent final album, ★, would release just two days before his passing.
Five singles were spawned from the album: "Where Are We Now?", "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", "The Next Day", "Valentine's Day" and "Love Is Lost".
- "The Next Day" (3:27)
- "Dirty Boys" (2:58)
- "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" (3:56)
- "Love Is Lost" (3:57)
- "Where Are We Now?" (4:08)
- "Valentine's Day" (3:01)
- "If You Can See Me" (3:15)
- "I'd Rather Be High" (3:53)
- "Boss of Me" (4:09)
- "Dancing Out in Space" (3:24)
- "How Does the Grass Grow?" (4:33)
- "(You Will) Set the World On Fire" (3:30)
- "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die" (4:37)
- "Heat" (4:25)
Deluxe Edition bonus tracks
- "So She" (2:31)
- "Plan" (2:02)
- "I'll Take You There" (2:41)
"Here they trope upon the stairs: sexless and unaroused"
- Call-Back: Loads:
- "Love is Lost" re-used puppets that had planned to be used for the filmed-but-unreleased Concept Video for "The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell". The remix of the same song also samples "Ashes to Ashes".
- The percussion on "Love is Lost" recreates the hollow drum sound that served as a crucial part of Low's sonic aesthetic.
- The first released track, "Where Are We Now?", references several Berlin landmarks (Potsdamer Platz, Nürnberger Straße, KaDeWe, etc).
- In the video for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", one of the new neighbors looks and sometimes dresses like Thomas Jerome Newton/The Thin White Duke and the cover of one of the tabloid magazines uses his alien form as an image◊ with the caption "Woman Goes To Oscars Without Makeup On".
- The penultimate track, "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die", ends with the opening drums from "Five Years".
- The director of the videos for "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)" and "The Next Day" is Floria Sigismondi, who also did two of his Earthling-era videos: "Little Wonder" and "Dead Man Walking".
- Celebrity Is Overrated: The point of "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)".
- Darker and Edgier: "Dirty Boys" is about gang violence, "How Does the Grass Grow" is about PTSD, "Valentine's Day" is about school shootings, and many of the other songs deal with violence, death, and destruction in some form, far drearier than the sarcastic lyrics of Reality.
- Fading into the Next Song: "I'd Rather Be High" segues into "Boss of Me".
- He's Back: The announcement of the album when virtually everyone in his fanbase and in the music press was sure he'd retired over (among other things) his health issues.
- In Medias Res: "Heat" begins with the line "Then we saw Mishima's dog," suggesting that this is not actually the start of the story.
- In the Style of...:
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Valentine's Day"— a song about a school shooting set to 60s-style pop music.
- Non-Indicative Name: "Valentine's Day" has nothing to do with the day in question. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest the song even takes place on the 14th February.
- Other Common Music Video Concepts — Band from Mundania: In "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", Bowie and Tilda Swinton play an ordinary, happy suburban couple who get their world turned upside down by some unsettling, younger newcomers (a celebrity couple known for their tabloid troubles, to be precise).
- Precision F-Strike: "I'd Rather Be High":I flew to Cairo, find my regimentCity's full of generalsAnd generals full of shit
- Refuge in Audacity: The video for "The Next Day", which has Bowie as a prophet performing in a bar with priests and prostitutes, one of whom, played by Marion Cotillard, has gruesome stigmata. The end of the video has Bowie Breaking the Fourth Wall by thanking everyone involved in the video, before vanishing. The video was accidentally removed by YouTube, before being re-added and given an age restriction— one of the only two Bowie videos to be subjected to one (alongside "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)").
- Regional Bonus: The Japanese version of the album includes the B-side "God Bless the Girl" as a bonus track on both the Vanilla Edition and the Deluxe Edition.
- Shout-Out: The opening line of "Heat" namedrops Yukio Mishima, a controversial Japanese writer known for both his innovative literature and the failed far-right coup attempt he led in 1970; Bowie had a portrait he painted of the author hung up in his Berlin residency and cited his writings as a lyrical influence.
- Three Chords and the Truth: "Valentine's Day".
- Viewer Gender Confusion: Invoked in "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", as a nod back to Bowie's famous subversion and criticism of gender norms in his youth: the celebrity couple are both played by women (the "male" by Saskia de Brauw and the "female" by famous transgender model Andreja Pejić.) There is also a young Bowie Expy played by Iselin Steiro— also a woman.
- War Is Hell: "I'd Rather Be High", "How Does the Grass Grow".