Where Are We Now?

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"Where Are We Now?"
David Bowie Where Are We Now cover artwork.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album The Next Day
A-side"The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
Released8 January 2013 (2013-01-08)
RecordedThe Magic Shop
(New York, New York)
GenreArt rock[1]
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Golden Years David Bowie vs KCRW"
"Where Are We Now?"
"The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"
Music video
"Where Are We Now?" on YouTube

"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.[2]

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.[3]

Upon its release, the song received significant news coverage, which allowed it to peak at number six on the UK Singles chart. This proved to be Bowie's biggest hit since "Absolute Beginners" in 1986 and his last top ten hit before his death in January 2016. The success of the song also meant that Bowie has had a top ten hit on the UK Singles Chart in five different decades (1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2010s), something which few other artists have managed to achieve.


Bowie had not released new material since 2003's Reality, or performed live since 2006,[4] and it was generally believed that he had retired.[5] 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.[6] The news was widely reported[7] and the single received much radio airplay, quickly topping the iTunes downloads chart[8] 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".


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?"[9] 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."[10]

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".[11]

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.[2] The woman was later confirmed as artist Jacqueline Humphries, Oursler's wife.[12][13] 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.[3]

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.[2] 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.[14] 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.[12]

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.[15][16]

Chart performance[edit]

The single made it to the top of the charts in eight countries on the day of its release.[17] It was no. 1 on the British iTunes chart by 3 pm that day.[18] 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.[19] 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."[20][21]

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.[17]


Chart (2013) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[22] 78
Austria (Ö3 Austria Top 40)[23] 40
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[24] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Wallonia)[25] 7
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[26] 59
Denmark (Tracklisten)[27] 2
Europe (Euro Digital Songs)[28] 2
France (SNEP)[29] 9
Germany (Official German Charts)[30] 2
Greece Digital Songs (Billboard)[31] 9
Iceland (Tonlist)[32] 30
Ireland (IRMA)[33] 9
Israel (Media Forest)[34] 10
Italy (FIMI)[35] 10
Japan (Japan Hot 100)[36] 21
Japan Hot Overseas (Billboard)[37] 3
Mexico Ingles Airplay (Billboard)[38] 19
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[39] 28
Poland (LP3)[40] 2
Portugal (Billboard)[41] 1
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[42] 11
South Korea International Singles (Gaon)[43] 132
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[44] 9
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[45] 53
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[46] 6
US Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles (Billboard)[47] 16


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Terich, Jeff (11 March 2013). "David Bowie: The Next Day". Treblezine. Retrieved 28 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Everett-Green, Robert (8 January 2013). "New album, new Bowie (again): Where are we now with his music?". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b Halperin, Shirley (11 January 2013). "David Bowie Producer Talks New Music, Health Scare: 'Album is Physical Evidence That He's Fine' (Q&A)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  4. ^ Greene, Andy (9 November 2010). "When Will David Bowie Return to the Stage?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  5. ^ "David Bowie 65th birthday: Why glam rock legend is content to have retired from the limelight". Daily Mirror. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  6. ^ "David Bowie to release new album, with surprise single out now". The Guardian. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  7. ^ "David Bowie releases new single". BBC News. 8 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  8. ^ "David Bowie's new single 'Where Are We Now' is no longer banned and WILL make the top 40 singles charts". Mail Online. 10 January 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  9. ^ Wood, Mikael (9 January 2013). "David Bowie messes with mystery in 'Where Are We Now?'". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ Roberts, Chris (9 January 2013). "David Bowie: The Return Of The Thin White Hope". The Quietus. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  11. ^ Barnbrook, Jonathan (8 January 2013). "David Bowie: The Next Day. That album cover design". Barnbrook Blog. Archived from the original on 2 April 2013. Retrieved 25 January 2019 – via VirusFonts.
  12. ^ a b Heawood, Sophie (8 January 2013). "David Bowie has gone from new to old – and what a beautiful thing it is". The Independent. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  13. ^ Seale, Jack (8 January 2013). "David Bowie rocks music world with Where Are We Now? - video". Radio Times. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  14. ^ Jones, Lucy (8 January 2013). "'Where Are We Now?' - 6 Amazing Things About David Bowie's New Single". NME. Archived from the original on 11 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  15. ^ Pidd, Helen (8 January 2013). "Where are we now? Here are some hints, Bowie". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  16. ^ "New Website, Album, Single And Video For The Birthday Boy". davidbowie.com. 9 January 2013. Archived from the original on 11 February 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  17. ^ a b Hernandez, Brian Anthony (9 January 2013). "David Bowie's Album Tops iTunes Charts in 17 Countries Before Release". Mashable. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  18. ^ Levine, Nick (8 January 2013). "David Bowie's comeback single rockets to Number One on iTunes". NME. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  19. ^ Vincent, Alice (9 January 2013). "David Bowie's Where Are We Now? ineligible for place in singles chart". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  20. ^ "David Bowie single may reach UK chart". BBC News. 9 January 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2019.
  21. ^ Kreisler, Lauren (13 January 2013). "David Bowie secures first Top 10 single in two decades". Official Charts Company.
  22. ^ "Chartifacts". Australian Recording Industry Association. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  23. ^ "Austriancharts.at – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  24. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  25. ^ "Ultratop.be – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  26. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard.
  27. ^ "Danishcharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?". Tracklisten.
  28. ^ "David Bowie – Chart history" Billboard Euro Digital Songs for David Bowie.
  29. ^ "Lescharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" (in French). Les classement single.
  30. ^ "Musicline.de – David Bowie Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  31. ^ "Digital Singles Charts - Greece". Billboard.
  32. ^ "Icelandic Singles Chart". Tonlist.is. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
  33. ^ "Chart Track: Week 02, 2013". Irish Singles Chart.
  34. ^ "David Bowie – Where Are We Now Media Forest". Israeli Airplay Chart. Media Forest.
  35. ^ "Top Digital Download - Classifica settimanale WK 2 (dal 07/01/2013 al 13/01/2013)". Federation of the Italian Music Industry (in Italian). Archived from the original on 17 January 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
  36. ^ "David Bowie Chart History (Japan Hot 100)". Billboard.
  37. ^ "'Billboard' Japan Hot Overseas". Billboard Japan (in Japanese). 25 March 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  38. ^ "David Bowie – Chart history". Billboard Mexico Ingles Airplay for David Bowie. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  39. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – David Bowie" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  40. ^ "'Where Are We Now' – David Bowie". LP3 (in Polish). Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  41. ^ "Portugal Digital Songs - Peak". Billboard. Retrieved 19 May 2013.
  42. ^ "Official Scottish Singles Sales Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  43. ^ "South Korea Gaon International Chart (Week: 6 January 2013)". Gaon Chart.
  44. ^ "Spanishcharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?" Canciones Top 50.
  45. ^ "Swisscharts.com – David Bowie – Where Are We Now?". Swiss Singles Chart.
  46. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  47. ^ "David Bowie Chart search". Billboard. Archived from the original on 21 January 2016. Retrieved 21 January 2016.

External links[edit]