In March 2013, David Bowie released his 25th studio album, The Next Day. The album turned yet another new leaf for the chameleonic master of creativity. The record cover shows this turned page with the monochrome image from the cover of Bowie’s iconic 1977 album Heroes covered over with a blank white square with the words “The Next Day” overlain. The original “Heroes” title was also shown to have been scribbled out.
The Next Day brought a new, darker side to Bowie’s songwriting that was complemented by an intriguing mix of art-rock styles across the 14 tracks. The album boasted five singles that were released following the full album. While the likes of ‘Where Are They Now?’ and ‘Valentines Day’ were more popular in the charts upon the LP’s release, it was the title track, ‘The Next Day’, that made the headlines.
Upon release, ‘The Next Day’ sparked controversy due to its perceived mockery of the Christian faith. To make matters worse, the official music video for the track, starring Oscar-winning actor Gary Oldman alongside Bowie, showed priests and bishops entering a seedy club where they proceed to indulge in vices, salacious and otherwise.
After an appeal, the video was allowed back onto YouTube, with a spokeswoman at the streaming giant asserting, “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
However, the reaction from the Christian community was far from comfortable with the release. Bill Donohue, the leader of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, labelled the video “a mess” and referred to Bowie as “a switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London”. The former archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, also dismissed the song as “juvenile” and urged fellow Christians to “rise above.”
He added: “I doubt that Bowie would have the courage to use Islamic imagery – I very much doubt it.”
Watch the controversial music video for David Bowie’s The Next Day’ below.