The single ‘Telling Lies’ was the first release from Earthling. David Bowie’s website made three versions available to download in successive weeks from 11 September 1996, making him the first major artist to sell music in such a way.
Last September, Bowie set a precedent for an artist of his caliber by releasing a full unreleased track – ‘Telling Lies’ – exclusively on the Internet. In the first four days alone of its initial release, there were more than 46,000 downloads of the track – over 10,000 per day – with the website operating at maximum capacity. While mixes by drum and bass experts Adam F and A Guy Called Gerald of ‘Telling Lies’ made their presence on the Internet, a new mix appears on Earthling.
On 4 November 1996 the song was given a physical release by BMG. It contained three mixes: Feelgood Mix by Mark Plati, Paradox Mix by A Guy Called Gerald, and an Adam F mix.
Although the digital downloads were a success, the single was not a hit, and peaked at number 76 on the UK chart.
The second lead single was ‘Little Wonder’. This fared better than ‘Telling Lies’, reaching number 14 in the UK.
There were numerous remixes and edits across various formats. There was the 6:02 album version, an edit lasting 3:40, and a Censored Video Edit by Mark Plati. Junior Vasquez contributed four remixes – Ambient Junior Mix, Club Dub Junior Mix, 4/4 Junior Mix, and Juniors Club Instrumental. Lastly, there was the Danny Saber Mix and Danny Saber Dance Mix, with “sonic hair and make up by John X.”
Earthling was released on 3 February 1997. It became a top ten hit in Belgium, France, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number six. In the US it only reached number 39 in the Billboard 200.
The album received broadly positive reviews, with Rolling Stone predictably calling it “his best since 1980’s Scary Monsters.” At the 1998 Grammy Awards, Earthling was nominated for Best Alternative Music Performance, while ‘Dead Man Walking’ was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.
‘Dead Man Walking’ was the album’s third single. It was released in the UK on 14 April 1997, where it reached number 32 in the charts. The video was directed by Floria Sigismondi, who also did the promo for ‘Little Wonder’.
Various remixes were again included in the single’s many formats – three by Moby two by Danny Saber, as well as remixes of ‘I’m Deranged’, ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’, and ‘Telling Lies’.
Bowie’s version of ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ with vocals in Mandarin was released as a single in Hong Kong. It hit the number one spot there in June 1997, during the handover of control of the region from the United Kingdom to China. As a result, Bowie became the first non-Asian artist to top the charts there.
The English-language version was released as a single elsewhere on 18 August, accompanied with a video consisting mostly of live footage.
I thought, what a perfect time to release an anti-Chinese song in Hong Kong, just as the Chinese take over. It got super-popular, but I’m not sure we’ll be able to tour there now, of course. I’ll probably try and play there next year, but we’ll see. I’ve probably fallen out with the Chinese now.
BBC Radio 1
The final single released from Earthling was ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’, on 14 October 1997. The CD single was released only in the USA and Canada.
The song fared best in Canada, where it peaked at number 14 on the singles chart. In the US it reached 66 on the Billboard Hot 100, Bowie’s final placing on the chart during his lifetime.
Dom and Nic directed the video for the song, which was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.
The single was unusual for not including the album version. Instead it had remixes by Nine Inch Nails and Photek. A video was released of the V1 mix by NIN, and the remix appeared on the compilations Best Of Bowie (2002), Nothing Has Changed (2014), and Legacy (2016).