28. Hours (1999)
That Is a Fact: Always one to be drawn to the internet and the wave of everything being “cyber” that took place in the ‘90s, Hours was one of the first albums by a major artist that was available online before the physical version came out. Many of the tracks were conceived as a part of the soundtrack for a Dreamcast video game, Omikron: The Nomad Soul, a futuristic adventure game with characters loosely based off of Bowie. Apart from that, there wasn’t much to the recording of Hours that set it apart, especially after the collaborators and concepts that served as the driving force between his albums earlier in the decade.
Sound and Vision: The most memorable thing about this dud of a record may be the album art, which features an image of a digitally altered younger Bowie cradling an older, likely weaker version of the singer, as if his past self was serving as his own guardian angel. The cover is all over the place with both Bowie’s decked out in cheesy, white outfits with the kind of fonts you’d find on a Backstreet Boys or 98 Degrees record. This is the most ‘90s cover made by an artist who was over 50 at the time, and its embarrassing sprawl is a bit of juxtaposition to the actual songs on the record.
Someone’s Back in Town: Hours marked the last album that found Bowie working with Reeves Gabrels and marked the end of an era of experimentation and unhinged willingness to seemingly try anything new that Bowie exuded throughout the decade.
Ch-Ch-Changes: Hours found Bowie making a nearly complete 180-degree turn from the aggressive electronica of Earthling, going into a more stately form of art-pop that he was known for. While not quite classic Bowie-revival, Hours was Bowie’s attempt to make a late ‘90s adult contemporary record, and unsurprisingly the results are as interesting as that sounds.
In a Most Peculiar Way: Sadly, Hours represents one of Bowie’s less weird albums of the decade, much to its detriment. The album finds Bowie playing it too safe, without many interesting contributions from an artist who, even if he doesn’t always get it right, usually has something more intriguing up his sleeve than this.
After All: As a whole, Hours stands as one of Bowie’s more unanimously reviled releases. It’s not actively terrible, just dull and uninspired, and at 47 minutes feels twice as long to get through as his winding records like Outside. Much of Bowie’s work in the ’90s was called a failure, but much of it holds up better than you may think. At least when Bowie failed or missed the mark, it usually wasn’t for lack of trying. Hours is Bowie’s biggest slog because it feels phoned in.