In general, I find the structure of The Next Day significant, because it plays like a collection of discreet singles — songs each in a different style, genre, mood — very much in the current mode of consuming music, downloading one hit, or potential hit, at a time. Yet the music also coheres as an album in the classic-rock sense: a unified statement that can be listened to at full length, to tell a story about one man’s progression through innocence, experience, arrogance, cynicism, doubt, redemption, and inspiration. Yes, that’s overstating it a bit, but not much. Yes, some of these steps falter in melody or in sustaining the desired effect. But in general, The Next Day is a thriller, not merely a return to form — partly because David Bowie never took one form to begin with.
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