A very strange thing happened to pop music this year. David Bowie released a new album, and it is awesome, so awesome that it rocketed the 66-year-old singer to the top of the charts for the first time in 20 years. The music world whipped its head around on Sunday evening when the Official Charts Company announced that Bowie's new record "The Next Day" had climbed to the number one slot in the United Kingdom. Initial sales figures and critical reception — one music writer said the album "may be the greatest comeback in history" — suggest that Bowie will win the number one spot in the United States as well. That is, unless Bon Jovi, who came in number two in the UK last week, beats him to the punch.
Wait what? David Bowie and Bon Jovi are battling it out for the top of the music charts? Billboard was already buzzing about the Bowie-Bon Jovi face-off on Saturday, over 24 hours before news of the British results arrived. However, even though the final lineup for next week's Billboard 200 won't be released until Wednesday, the data point to Bon Jovi selling around 90,000 albums and topping US charts with its latest album, "What About Now." Pending any last minute surge in sales — topping the charts in the UK certainly can't hurt his chances — David Bowie's expected to slide into second place having sold a respectable 80,000 copies of his latest. This would still be a big win, since the best Bowie's ever done in the US is a number three hit with his 1976 album "Station to Station."
At this point, the extent to which Bowie needs a number one hit in the US to prove his comeback potential is more or less moot. Few thought the one-time glam-pop pioneer would ever return to the stage much less the recording studio after having a heart attack in 2004 and making his last on-stage performance in 2006. Plus, Bowie's popular reception after his last number one album in the UK, 1983's "Black Tie White Noise," has been pretty mixed. Remember the song he recorded for The Rugrats Movie in the late 1990s? No? There's a reason for that.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.