Despite that on Popthomology David Bowie is my imaginary film nemesis (see here, here, here, and here), in my unimaginary real life, my admiration for him has grown steadily over the years to where it now is quite lofty indeed. For me, Bowie's value and depth as an artist was fully revealed over time. I first became aware of him with 1969's "Space Oddity," which will forever be linked in my mind with seeing the first man on the moon. But in his records that followed, like 1971's "Hunky Dory" through "Ziggy Stardust..." and "Aladdin Sane," my little-kid-bullshit detector went off, put off by what I felt was overwhelming phoniness, personas put on only for the attention they provoked. I knew enough already about his earlier attempts to "make it" in the music business with a more conventional image, and the scarlet-haired skeletal makeup-wearing Bowie seemed...well, desperate to me. Oh, I liked all the songs quite a bit, and was particularly thrilled when he covered "Where Have All The Good Times Gone" by the Kinks on "Pin-Ups," and can't tell you how many times I cranked up "Suffragette City," to window-shaking volumes. But I felt wary and distanced from David Bowie as a person and as an artist, and saw him as a very, very clever illusionist; all flash, grabbing your cash.

It is only that with reflection over the years that I can appreciate that Bowie's musical work has always been rooted in the examination of the need for humans to create personas, of fame or the lack of it, of detachment and obsession, pretense and earthly realities. He has forever wrestled with the desire to transcend everything mundane and predictable, to shine as the biggest and brightest star, to be able to translate his substantial intellect and natural artistic sensibilities into commercial success, with a need to to have a family, to have love that is not based on his fame or notoriety, to have privacy and peace.

I don't think David Bowie will ever stop questioning what it is in us and in himself that is so fascinated by fame, and how the public's seemingly-insatiable lust for celebrity novelty and scandal skews perception. After a ten year hiatus, where it was often opined in the music press that he had retired and would never record or tour (again), Bowie is releasing "The Next Day," an album of new material due out mid-March. With this track, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," and its mini-movie video, we see Tilda Swinton and David Bowie as a "regular," older couple, doing their grocery shopping, exercising, watching TV, stalked by a glamourous young celebrity couple...and perhaps an earlier incarnation of Bowie himself. It can be interpreted in any number of interesting ways, which is why I am so grateful Bowie is working again. He makes us think of mirrors and invisible walls, of changing priorities, of the strangeness to be in something while hovering above it at the very same time.

Thanks, man. Welcome back.

David Bowie, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)"