Heathen album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: August-September 2001; October 2001 – January 2002
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 10 June 2002

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David Bowie: vocals, guitar, keyboards
David Torn/Gerry Leonard: guitar
Tony Visconti: bass guitar
Matt Chamberlain: drums, loops

‘A Better Future’ is the penultimate track on David Bowie’s 2002 album Heathen.

As with the same album’s ‘I Would Be Your Slave’, the song is addressed to God. Unlike that other song, however, the protagonist of ‘A Better Future’ is less supplicant and more assertive: “I might just stop wanting you/I might just stop needing you/I might just stop loving you/I demand a better future”.

‘A Better Future’ was really for my daughter. It’s a very simple song that says ‘God, if you don’t change things, I’m not gonna love you any more.’ There’s no skirting around the issue – it’s like, ‘What are you doing to us? Why have you allowed my daughter to come into a world of such chaos and despair? I demand a better future or I’m not gonna like you any more.’ It’s a threat to God! There are a few threats to God on this album, actually, but a lot of them sound like they could just be love songs.
David Bowie
Interview, June 2002

Bowie’s songs were rarely nakedly autobiographical, but ‘A Better Future’ was borne of his concerns for the world in which his daughter would grow up. Alexandria ‘Lexi’ Zahra Jones was born on 15 August 2000, in the months before Bowie began working on Heathen.

I want a place where my daughter can grow up safely, walking open-eyed into her ambitions – not having to dodge bullets.

I had rosy expectations for the 21st century, I really did. The whole idea was lifting my spirits quite a lot during 1998 and 1999. But it has become something other that what I expected it to be. And it’s obviously a pretty typical parental concern to wonder what type of a world you have brought your child into.

David Bowie
The Observer, 9 June 2002

The 5.1 SACD mix of Heathen reduced the length of ‘A Better Future’ by 15 seconds. A remix by French duo Air was one of four tracks included on the bonus disc with initial copies of the album.

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘A Better Future’ live on just two occasions – both at concerts in which he performed the Low and Heathen albums in their entirety.

The first was on 11 June 2002 at New York’s Roseland Ballroom, in a show for BowieNet subscribers, while the second took place on 29 June at the Bowie-curated Meltdown Festival at London’s Festival Hall.

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Next song: ‘Heathen (The Rays)’
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