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Designing David Bowie's big comeback

By Ramy Inocencio, for CNN
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Tue March 12, 2013
  • David Bowie's newest album "The Next Day" tops iTunes in at least 21 countries
  • Use of simple white box over old Bowie cover has spawned debate, Twitter meme
  • Barnbrook: album cover to push discussion on fan expectations of Bowie
  • Bowie, now 66, last released an album ten years ago

Hong Kong (CNN) -- After a decade of quiet, David Bowie has made his comeback -- and with a vengeance. After its early March release, "The Next Day" -- Bowie's 30th studio album and first recording in 10 years -- has topped the iTunes charts in at least 21 countries around the world so far. It is "the "greatest comeback album ever," according to the U.K.'s Independent, and an "absolute wonder," says the Telegraph.

David Bowie came to international prominence with 1969's "Space Oddity," then began a series of chameleon-like musical turns through glam rock, disco and hard rock.

But for as much praise as a now 66-year old Bowie is pulling in with his new music, the album cover is getting nearly as much attention.

Jonathon Barnbrook, album designer for "The Next Day," says the album has nearly taken on a life of its own, stirred up debate and even has a meme on Twitter.

David Bowie retrospective
Old friends talk about David Bowie

The reason: a prominent white square covers up most of the central image now purposely hidden in the background. Hard-core David Bowie fans will likely be able to make it out -- a previous album cover from Bowie's "Heroes," released in 1977.

Of album covers in general, "usually it's a nice picture of the artist. Here we want to interrupt that," said Barnbrook to CNN's Max Foster.

"Normally people don't even think about the album cover but here it's become a discussion on the expectation on what people's expectations are of David Bowie -- whether he's looking to the past or looking to the future."

Bowie fans may note that the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner may be asking the same question. On January 8, 2013 -- his birthday -- he released a new single track titled "Where Are We Now?"

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