Bowie had been mostly out of the public eye since the end of A Reality Tour in 2004, and had not released any new music since the previous year’s Reality. There had been rumours of ill-health and retirement, and expectations of new music were low.
The video for ‘Where Are We Now?’ went live on Bowie’s YouTube and VEVO channels, followed by news of the forthcoming album The Next Day. The single came with artwork by Jonathan Barnbrook. It featured a live shot of Bowie taken at New York’s Radio City in 1974, rotated 180°.
Bowie did no promotion for the release, although producer Tony Visconti did give several interviews about the song and The Next Day. Visconti described the sense of anticipation he and Bowie had in the run-up to the release.
I couldn’t sleep. I’d kept a secret for two years, I knew the release date for two months, it was a count- down, 47 days to go… the final day we were e-mailing each other. I’d say, ‘I’m biting all my nails down, it’s 2 hours and 35 minutes’, and he would write back, ‘2 hours and 26 minutes’. Then I saw some posts on Bowie Worldwide just after midnight: ‘Holy shit’, ‘Oh my God…’ Everyone had written him off. The next day he was very happy about how well it had been received. ‘Well, what did you expect?’, I said.
The Times, 12 January 2013
The single received much airplay, and topped the iTunes download chart by 3pm on its day of release.
‘Where Are We Now?’ was initially deemed ineligible for the British singles chart because it was free to advance purchasers of The Next Day, but the Official Charts Company resolved the matter and on 13 January it charted at number six on the UK singles chart. It was Bowie’s biggest UK hit since ‘Absolute Beginners’ in 1986, and his first top ten single since 1993’s ‘Jump They Say’.
On 8 January 2013, the day pre-orders opened, The Next Day topped the iTunes charts in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. It reached the top 10 in Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and the United States on the same day.
The Next Day was released on 8 March 2013 in Australia, Germany and Ireland. In the UK it came out on 11 March, and the following day in the USA.
In Japan the album was issued on 13 March with four bonus tracks including ‘God Bless The Girl’.
The vinyl edition was a double-disc set. It was initially announced for release on 25 March 2013, but was delayed to 1 April. The vinyl edition contained the additional songs ‘So She’, ‘Plan’ and ‘I’ll Take You There’, as well as a CD copy of the album.
The Next Day Extra was released on 4 November 2013. The box set contained two CDs and a DVD. The first CD was of the standard album, while the second disc contained the additional tracks ‘Atomica’, ‘Plan’, ‘The Informer’, ‘Like A Rocket Man’, ‘Born In A UFO’, ‘I’ll Take You There’, ‘God Bless The Girl’, and ‘So She’, as well as two remixes: ‘Love Is Lost’ (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy for the DFA) and ‘I’d Rather Be High’ (Venetian Mix).
A digital EP was also released to coincide with the box set. This consisted of seven songs from the second CD, excluding ‘Plan’, ‘I’ll Take You There’, and ‘So She’.
After The Next Day, I sent him a letter of thanks and I said, ‘You could work with anybody and I don’t know why you’re working with me but thank you anyway. I really enjoyed the ride.’ I haven’t done every one of his albums, obviously, and sometimes I think I’m going to do the next album – like Let’s Dance – and suddenly I’m not!
Mojo, January 2016