His voice is still warm and inspiring, and he seems to be acclimating well to his role as one of rock's elder statesmen. The key to the album's success is that he's always keeping his backdrops diverse. Scuzzy rock song "Dirty Boys" slithers about, but eventually emerges from its cocoon with a hearty horn solo, while "Valentine's Day" and "The Next Day" are standout guitar rockers. And lead single "The Stars Are Out Tonight" is a catchy and well crafted pop/rock nugget. But he also has a bit to get off his chest. He speaks out against war on "I'd Rather Be High," singing, "I'd rather be dead, or out of my head/than training these guns on these men in the sand/I'd rather be high."
Not all of his gambles pay off so well. "Where Are We Now" is a languid ballad that stumbles under the weight of its own solemnity, while his monotone refrain on "Dancing Out in Space" is a little too warbly and left field. But for each of his stumbles (and there are very few of them), there are plenty of winners like "Boss of Me," where he is at his most charming and charismatic" He's somewhat self effacing as he declares, "Who'd have ever thought it/who'd have ever dreamed/that a small town girl like you/would be the boss of me."
With The Next Day, Bowie once again reminds us of his undying vitality and continuing relevance with another record chock full of great tunes. If it ends up being his last album it will be a shame, but it's also a record he and his fans can certainly be proud of.