The Times recently reported news that David Bowie’s 25th studio LP, ‘Blackstar’, will be released in January, saying it was possibly “oddest work yet from the 68-year-old singer” and suggesting it was a jazz record. Bowie’s camp have moved to clarify (some of) what’s going on. They’ve confirmed that there will be a new album, but they have some quibbles with the reports of what it will sound like, and the reported length (45 minutes, in seven tracks). So here’s everything we actually know about ‘Blackstar’, David Bowie’s 25th album, so far.
1. It’s definitely coming out on Bowie’s 69th birthday
In the original report, it was suggested ‘Blackstar’ would be released on January 8, 2016. This release date has now been confirmed by Bowie’s people. Back in 2013, Bowie released ‘Where Are We Now’, his first new single in a decade, on the same day.
2. The New single ‘Blackstar’ will be out on November 20 – the same day Adele’s album drops
Bowie’s reps have also stated that the new single – the record’s title track – will be released on November 20, which is the same day Adele’s new album ’25’ comes out, and a date even big names like One Direction and Justin Bieber have avoided releasing music on.
3. Part of the same single will be the credits music for new Sky Atlantic show The Last Panthers
As Bowie’s official site reports, the clip below features “a 47-second tease of ‘Blackstar’, the first new music from David Bowie since last year’s ‘Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)’”. It’s a melancholic, ghostly track, which doesn’t fit at all with reports that Bowie has been recording at the Magic Shop studio in New York with local jazz musicians. As Bowie’s people have put it, there may have been “inaccurate reporting on the sound and content of the album”.
4. Some of the weird reports about the album could be true
The Times had described the album as possibly Bowie’s “oddest yet” and “completely bonkers”. German electro pioneers Kraftwerk were referenced as a point of comparison, along with jazz influences. These details have been shot down by Bowie’s camp, but there’s a precedent for denial in Bowie’s 2013 album ‘The Next Day’.
After ‘The Next Day’’s surprise announcement in January 2013 – which was accompanied by its rapturously received first single ‘Where Are We Now?’ – producer Tony Visconti discussed how relieved he was that his non-disclosure agreement was no longer valid and he could finally talk about the project to his friends. “They’d go ‘it’s Bowie’. And I’d go ‘no, really it isn’t’”, he said. “I was a little uncomfortable with that, but it was the only way to do it.” That 2013 album was two years in the making, and Bowie may have intended for the utter secrecy that surrounded it to be upheld for ‘Blackstar’ too.
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“We just denied everything”, says Visconti about ‘The Next Day’. It’s probably safe to take the outright denials about the album’s sound with a pinch of salt.
5. It could be made up of unused ‘The Next Day’ material
In a 2013 interview, Noel Gallagher revealed that he’d heard that “there’s another album in the pipeline,” because 29 tracks were recorded for Bowie’s comeback album ‘The Next Day’ and only 14 were used on the final thing. Another four were used on the deluxe edition, which leaves a further 11. Some of those might be reworked for ‘Blackstar’.
6. He’s unlikely to tour it
It doesn’t look likely that a tour will follow the album – two weeks ago it was reported that Bowie has allegedly “retired from touring”. And that’s quite possible, because Bowie hasn’t performed on stage since 2006.
7. If this is his oddest album yet, it must be pretty out there
The Times’ report suggested it was potentially Bowie’s oddest album yet. But Bowie has recorded a drum’n’bass-influenced album (1997’s ‘Earthling’), an experimental, world music-tinged art-rock LP (‘Lodger’) and a film soundtrack of dated, synthy weirdness (‘Labyrinth’). Bowie’s created a career from delivering the unexpected – we can’t wait to hear what it’s like.