Where Are We Now?

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"Where Are We Now?"
cover
Single by David Bowie
from the album The Next Day
Released 8 January 2013 (2013-01-08)
Format Digital download, 7" single
Recorded New York City
Genre Rock
Length 4:08
Label ISO/Columbia
Writer(s) David Bowie
Producer(s) David Bowie, Tony Visconti
David Bowie singles chronology
"Golden Years David Bowie vs KCRW"
(2011)
"Where Are We Now?"
(2013)
"The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
(2013)
Music video
Where Are We Now on Vimeo

"Where Are We Now?" is the first single from David Bowie's 24th studio album, The Next Day. The single was released on iTunes on 8 January 2013, Bowie's 66th birthday, along with a video by Tony Oursler, which was posted on Bowie's website.[1]

According to producer Tony Visconti, the timing of the release was Bowie's idea, and the single was simply "dropped" in iTunes for fans to discover, with no warning or fanfare.[2]

Release[edit]

Bowie had not released new material since 2003's Reality, or performed live since 2006,[3] and it was generally believed that he had retired.[4] However, on the morning of his sixty-sixth birthday, Where Are We Now? appeared on iTunes, along with information about Bowie's upcoming new album The Next Day. The release was unusual in that it was issued with no promotion, with fans discovering the existence of the single themselves.[5] The news was widely reported[6] and the single received much radio airplay, quickly topping the iTunes downloads chart[7] and eventually charting at number six on the UK Singles Chart. Despite the media attention surrounding the surprise release, Bowie made no media appearances whatsoever, with producer Tony Visconti instead taking media requests and accepting an interviewer's suggestion that he was Bowie's "voice on earth".

Lyrics[edit]

The lyrics are simple and repetitive, an older person reminiscing about time spent and time wasted: "Had to get the train / from Potsdamer Platz / you never knew that / that I could do that / just walking the dead," the last line of which, in the video, produces a grimace in the singer. He grimaces again just after: "A man lost in time near KaDeWe / just walking the dead," which precedes the refrain: "Where are we now / where are we now?"[8] Chris Roberts called it a "spectral, frail yearning without chest-beating, candid in its few, clipped phrases and sighs concerning the heart's filthy lessons."[9]

Graphic designer Jonathan Barnbrook, who created the cover for The Next Day, wrote that the song is a "comparison between Berlin when the wall fell and Berlin today."[10]

Music video[edit]

The music video, directed by Tony Oursler, shows Bowie and an unnamed female companion as conjoined "face in a hole" puppets sitting on a pommel horse, Bowie with the "permanently anxious eyes of the elderly Duke of Windsor," as Robert Everett-Green put it.[1] The woman was later confirmed as artist Jacqueline Humphries, Oursler's wife.[11] Bowie and Oursler reportedly wanted someone who looked like Bowie's PA, Corinne "Coco" Schwab, as she did in the 1970s in Berlin, where she, Bowie and Iggy Pop would hang out together.[2]

Bowie and Humphries as conjoined puppets

The video is set in what could be an artists' studio in Berlin, where Bowie lived from 1976, showing moving black-and-white footage of the city from the 1970s on a screen.[1] It opens with a shot of a large diamond and an empty picture frame lying on the floor, before moving into a studio containing a mishmash of items, possibly from Bowie's own life or apartment in Berlin: there are mannequins, bottles, an egg, an eyeball on a shelf, a crystal, a snowflake, and a giant blue ear.[12] Bowie is seen toward the end of the video wearing jeans, and a T-shirt that reads "m/s Song of Norway". Sophie Heawood writes that Song of Norway (1970) was a film (based on the operetta) that Bowie's girlfriend at the time, Hermione Farthingale, left him to appear in.[11]

The footage on the screen and references in the lyrics include the Berlin Wall and mention of the Bösebrücke, the first border crossing that opened when the Wall fell on 9 November 1989; 20,000 East Germans crossed over during the first hour the border was unofficially opened, wondering whether it was safe. The lyrics read: "twenty thousand people / Cross Bösebrücke / Fingers are crossed / just in case." Other reference points in the video and song are the Brandenburg Gate; the Dschungel nightclub; the Fernsehturm, or television tower; KaDeWe, the department store; graffiti from Kunsthaus Tacheles, an art centre; Nürnberger Straße; Potsdamer Platz railway station; the Reichstag, where the Bundestag sits; the Siegessäule, or Victory Column; and the auto repair shop below the apartment in which Bowie lived.[13]

Chart performance[edit]

The single made it to the top of the charts in eight countries on the day of its release.[14] It was no. 1 on the British iTunes chart by 3 pm that day.[15] It was at first deemed ineligible for placement on other British singles charts because, in addition to being sold separately, the song was also free to those who pre-purchased The Next Day on iTunes, making the sales difficult to separate.[16] The Official Charts Company resolved the issue, and on 13 January the song entered the UK Singles Chart at no. 6, Bowie's highest charting single there since "Absolute Beginners" reached no. 2 in 1986. It is his first UK top-ten single since "Jump They Say" in 1993. His first top-ten hit was in the UK in 1969 with "Space Oddity."[17]

The Next Day was no. 1 on the iTunes charts in 17 countries on 8 January: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. It made the top 10 in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and the United States on the same day.[14]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2013) Peak
position
Australia (ARIA)[18] 78
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[19] 40
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[20] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[21] 7
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[22] 59
Denmark (Tracklisten)[23] 2
Europe (Euro Digital Songs)[24] 2
France (SNEP)[25] 9
Germany (Media Control Charts)[26] 47
Greece Digital Songs (Billboard)[27] 9
Iceland (Tonlist)[28] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[29] 9
Israel (Media Forest)[30] 10
Italy (FIMI)[31] 10
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[32] 28
Portugal (Billboard)[33] 1
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[34] 11
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[35] 132
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[36] 9
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[37] 53
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[38] 6

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Robert Everett-Green, "After a decade of silence, David Bowie makes an intriguing return", The Globe and Mail, 8 January 2013.
  2. ^ a b Shirley Halperin, "David Bowie Producer Talks New Music, Health Scare: 'Album is Physical Evidence That He's Fine' (Q&A)", Hollywood Reporter, 11 January 2013.
  3. ^ When Will David Bowie Return to the Stage? | Music News | Rolling Stone
  4. ^ David Bowie 65th birthday: Why glam rock legend is content to have retired from the limelight - Mirror Online
  5. ^ David Bowie to release new album, with surprise single out now | Music | guardian.co.uk
  6. ^ BBC News - David Bowie releases first single in a decade
  7. ^ David Bowie's new single 'Where Are We Now' is no longer banned and WILL make the top 40 singles charts | Mail Online
  8. ^ Mikael Wood, "David Bowie messes with mystery in 'Where Are We Now?'", Los Angeles Times, 9 January 2013.
  9. ^ Chris Roberts, "David Bowie: The Return Of The Thin White Hope", The Quietus, 9 January 2013.
  10. ^ "David Bowie: The Next Day. That album cover design", Barnbrook Blog, VirusFonts, 8 January 2013.
  11. ^ a b Sophie Heawood, "David Bowie has gone from new to old – and what a beautiful thing it is", The Independent, 8 January 2013.
  12. ^ Lucy Jones, "'Where Are We Now?' - 6 Amazing Things About David Bowie's New Single", NME, 9 January 2013.
  13. ^ Helen Pidd, "Where are we now? Here are some hints, Bowie", The Guardian, 8 January 2013.
  14. ^ a b Brian Anthony Hernandez, "David Bowie's Album Tops iTunes Charts in 17 Countries Before", Mashable, 9 January 2013.
  15. ^ "David Bowie's comeback single rockets to Number One on iTunes", NME, 8 January 2013.
  16. ^ Alice Vincent, "David Bowie's Where Are We Now? ineligible for place in singles chart", The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2013.
  17. ^ "David Bowie single may reach UK chart", BBC News, 9 January 2013.
  18. ^ "Chartifacts". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013. 
  19. ^ "David Bowie – Where Are We Now? – Austriancharts.at" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  20. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  21. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  22. ^ "David Bowie Album & Song Chart History" Canadian Hot 100 for David Bowie.
  23. ^ "Danishcharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?". Tracklisten.
  24. ^ "David Bowie Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Euro Digital Songs for David Bowie.
  25. ^ "Lescharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in French). Les classement single.
  26. ^ "David Bowie – Where Are We Now?". Officialcharts.de. GfK Entertainment.
  27. ^ "Digital Singles Charts - Greece". Billboard. 
  28. ^ "Icelandic Singles Chart". Tonlist.is. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  29. ^ "Chart Track". Irish Singles Chart.
  30. ^ "David Bowie – Where Are We Now Media Forest". Israeli Airplay Chart. Media Forest.
  31. ^ "Top Digital Download - Classifica settimanale WK 2 (dal 07/01/2013 al 13/01/2013)" (in Italian). Federation of the Italian Music Industry. Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  32. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – David Bowie search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  33. ^ "Portugal Digital Songs - Peak". Billboard. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  34. ^ "Archive Chart". Scottish Singles Top 40.
  35. ^ "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: January 6, 2013)". Gaon Chart. 
  36. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" Canciones Top 50.
  37. ^ "David Bowie – Where Are We Now? – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart.
  38. ^ "January 2013/ Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart.

External links[edit]