British glam-rock icon David Bowie has released a new single on his 66th birthday, surprising everyone who thought he had retired from public life.
The track, “Where Are We Now?” appeared on Bowie’s website shortly after midnight on Jan. 8, replete with a music video and news of an upcoming album, The Next Day, to be released in March.
Thrilled fans immediately took to Twitter, using the hashtag #BowieComeback2013 to celebrate Bowie’s first new song in 10 years. “I’m so insanely excited,” tweeted British writer Caitlin Moran. “It’s like hearing King Arthur’s voice from the cave.”
The surprise single comes at a time when most observers had assumed Bowie’s rock career, born in the 1960s, had run its course. Bowie had not released any music since the 2003 album Reality, has rarely appeared in public lately and was even rumored to be in bad health, reports the Guardian. Yet he was secretly at work in New York with longtime producer Tony Visconti, who has collaborated on a dozen of Bowie’s albums, including 1969’s Space Oddity.
Critics rushed to sound off on the new song, which references the German city of Berlin, where Bowie and Visconti produced three classic albums — Low, Heroes and Lodger — in the 1970s. The Guardian‘s Hermione Hoby described it as a “stately, down tempo reminiscence,” while the Daily Telegraph’s Neil McCormick applauded its “lush, stately, beautifully strange, weaving resonant piano chords, decaying synths and echoing drums around a simple chord progression and a weary, tenderly understated, quietly defiant vocal.” He concludes that the “elegiac new single may be the most surprising, perfect and welcome comeback in rock history.”
Fellow musicians were also full of praise, with Boy George calling the single “bloody gorgeous,” according to the Independent.
The song’s video, directed by installation artist Tony Oursler, shows Bowie’s face as part of a conjoined two-headed puppet, interspersed with moody black-and-white footage of Berlin streets. The track appeared on iTunes at 5:00 a.m. in London (midnight ET), with the album set to be released on March 11 in the U.K. and the following day in the U.S.