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David Bowie Earthling album cover
2.97 | 190 ratings | 8 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1997

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Little Wonder (6:02)
2. Looking for Satellites (5:21)
3. Battle for Britain (The Letter) (4:49)
4. Seven Years in Tibet (6:22)
5. Dead Man Walking (7:26)
6. Telling Lies (4:50)
7. The Last Thing You Should Do (4:58)
8. I'm Afraid of Americans (5:00)
9. Law (Earthlings on Fire) (4:49)

Total Time 49:33

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / vocals, guitar, alto sax, keyboards, samples, producer

- Reeves Gabrels / programming, synthesizers, real & sampled guitars, vocals
- Mark Plati / programming, loops, samples, keyboards
- Mike Garson / keyboards, piano
- Gail Ann Dorsey / bass, vocals
- Zachary Alford / acoustic & electronic drums & programming (loops)

Releases information

CD Arista ‎- 7432143077 2 (1997, Europe)

Thanks to classicrocker for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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Buy DAVID BOWIE Earthling Music

DAVID BOWIE Earthling ratings distribution

(190 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(25%)
Good, but non-essential (46%)
Collectors/fans only (13%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

DAVID BOWIE Earthling reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy

If you think that "Outside" was a one shot album to feature techno beats or deep house investigations; you were wrong. Here comes "Earthling".

Although some of the songs could be considered as straight forward Bowie numbers, these background rhythms are completely denaturizing them. But this is only my opinion.

I have never been into this type of music, and even being a Bowie fan, I'm not deaf, dumb and blind (remember the no more heroes stuff). Lots of heavy post-grunge sounds as well, make this album rather difficult to bear.

I particularly hate "Dead Man Walking" and its house beat. But actually I don't like this album at all. At least "Outside" had an interesting storyboard, even if the music could never move me. "Earthling" doesn't have this feature.

As usual, the clips are highly creative and might be sufficient to apprehend this album. The live version of "Telling Lies" recorded in Amsterdam (Paradiso) and available on "" is far much superior to the studio one. Simply rocking. But I like this.

One of the only bearable song to my ears is "I'm Afraid Of Americans". It depicts the invasion of the American "culture" all over the world (David once mentioned that he first thought of this while seeing the opening of the Mac Donald's in Indonesia).

The song is not a new one, it was co-written by Eno and Bowie and appeared in the movie "Showgirls" from the Dutch film director Paul Verhoeven (1995).

This album could have maybe been a decent one if restricted to a more straight-forward rock sound (like while played live). As such, I just can't stand it. What did you do David? One star.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars So, here we have a good example how one can kill the good music. The recipe is - use heavy simplistic drum machine!

Bowie's last album from "new-electronic" era. There are some good songs - "I'm Afraid Of Americans" or "Little Wonder", some good instrumental arrangements ( in "Seven Years In Tibet "or "Law" songs). In fact, there is enough of strong material for good Bowie album. But the realisation killed it!

I don't think it's done by mistake - Bowie is too professional for that. I think the idea was just to catch young fans , so the main accent was put into heavy techno/house rhytnms.

The result we know - no new listeners, and negative reaction from old fans. And there isn't a classic case with Bowie experimentation. I think, music just was killed by that. It's pity, I think from that material strong Bowie album could be produced.

Review by tarkus1980
3 stars Bowie sounds like a damned fool on this album. For his latest effort in proving how hip to the times he was, Bowie embraced the cutting-edge programmed percussion styles of 1997, and he often lets the songs go for long stretches where his programmed percussion is the only important part of the sound. The harder he tries, though, the clearer it is that he's a poseur (he was 50 when this album came out!!!) and the more I wish he would just go back to arranging his songs like on Buddha of Suburbia. This album has aged horrendously, and in my observations has been one that has been disproportionately easy to find used at very cheap prices.

And yet, out of the nine tracks on here, only two seem flat-out bad to me. "The Last Thing You Should Do" is notable only in how un-notable it is, and the closing "Law (Earthlings on Fire)" is every bit as embarrassing as "Pallas Athena" was in 1993, but once I get used to the monotonous percussion choices, I find myself enjoying every other song on here. "Dead Man Walking," for instance, sounds at first like Bowie has made one of the tackiest songs of his entire career, and yet I wasn't surprised at all when I saw a video of him performing an acoustic version of the song that sounded like a career highlight. The arrangement is hideous, mind you, but the song itself is good enough that I wouldn't mind hearing it again once in a while. And the rest just sounds like a bunch of solid, tweaked pop songs crossed with horrible techno monsters. The opening "Little Wonder" is basically just a lightweight pop ballad, except in the moments where it gets dark in the "so far away" repeated vocals, and it definitely sets a pleasant tone for the album. The "SATELLIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITES" backing vocal part is a strong enough hook to make "Looking for Satellites" enjoyable, and I even like the endless noisemaking of Gabrels' guitar playing. "Battle for Britain (The Letter)" is a little too noisy and chaotic to work completely given how relatively simplistic it is at its core, but I like the individual ideas, and the song works better than it probably should. "Seven Years in Tibet" annoys me more than a bit when the "trance" beat is pushed to the forefront, but whenever it slips out of that mode into a heavy guitar rocker, I'm thoroughly sucked in. It's got a nice vocal melody, anyway, even if I don't pay much attention to the lyrics. And "Telling Lies," well, I crack up every time I hear that dead-man croak saying the title of the song; I just have to get around the drums, as usual.

But of course, the big highlight is "I'm Afraid of Americans," originally a collaboration with Brian Eno and infamous for getting remixed by Nine Inch Nails. This is the one case on the album (in my opinion) where the percussion is used in service of the song and not as a gimmick, as it works with the jittery synth line and the stuttering backing vocal sounds in a nearly ideal manner. The lyrics are really great as well; I feel like the minimalism helps amp up the paranoid vibe of the song even further, to the point that when Bowie cuts in with, "God is an American" it almost sounds horrifying. It's a freaking classic on an album that badly needs a freaking classic.

So ok, I can't say I love this album, and I'm not even sure I would recommend it, but if you can cut through the jungle of, um, jungle, there's some awfully good material here. If you can find it for a couple of dollars (and believe me, you probably can), consider getting it.

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
3 stars Hardly a little "wonder", but good still

This album is not very highly regarded here on our beloved archives, but at the time of its release in 1997 Earthling was (in my personal opinion anyway) the best Bowie effort since 1980's Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and thus something of a comeback for the man. I used to listen to this album a lot at the time when I discovered it, which must have been a few years after its release. Listening to it again now several years later, the quality of the album does not hold up as well as it used to for me. But I still find enjoyment in several of the tracks, particularly the opening Little Wonder. Many Rock fans will undoubtedly be turned off by Bowie's seemingly wholehearted embrace of contemporary production and particularly the programmed drums (sometimes mixed with real drums) that occasionally creates the feeling of a re-mix album. But one might keep in mind that Bowie has always been embracing new sounds and technology throughout his long career - sometimes with success and other times with less success.

Some tracks on Earthling are admittedly a bit annoying due to their repetitiveness, like Looking For Satellites and The Last Thing You Should Do. But generally, Bowie sounds inspired and you can tell that he had fun in the making of this album. Several of the songs have witty lyrics. What this album lacks is one or two more relaxed tunes that would let the listener catch his breath a bit.

Bowie would go on to make better albums in 'hours...' and Heathen, but Earthling somehow indicated a new beginning. Overall, it is a worthwhile listen.

Review by Warthur
4 stars Bowie spent the 1990s dipping his toes into a range of then-current musical genres, rarely embracing them wholeheartedly but instead using them to provide a new flavour to his usual art rock approach. Earthling perhaps took this further - even Outside, which was steeped in industrial rock of the Nine Inch Nails school, still had one foot in classic rock, whereas this time around Bowie's exploration of then-current drum and bass dance music saw him diving into the deep end.

The industrial touches of Outside haven't completely gone away - check some of the guitar work on The Last Thing You Should Do, for instance - but Bowie seems to be having a bit more fun here, perhaps because Outside had this ambitious concept album and grim horror story associated with it whilst on Earthling he's just trying to produce some danceable, enjoyable music. As with Outside, Bowie seems to have a sincere admiration for the genre he's exploring here, but he seems a bit less self-conscious about the whole deal, and the end result is an album which is likely to be enjoyable if you have much patience at all for what he's doing here.

The real problem with the album is that what Bowie is doing here is quite far away from the musical genres he's more typically associated with - and from that perspective, it might leave you cold if you want more glam rock or art rock. But if you are willing to accept and explore Earthling on its own terms, I think it might actually be his best studio album of the 1990s. Certainly, I'm kicking myself for overlooking it for as long as I did.

Latest members reviews

2 stars It's fascinating to see Bowie experimenting with different modern styles in the 90's. He's able to dive in new music trends and often dig the best out of it. Raving and dancing, modern beats, focus on rhytms, bass guitar and textures but also fine aggressive guitar. You may be quickly tempted ... (read more)

Report this review (#2818689) | Posted by sgtpepper | Wednesday, September 7, 2022 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Rating: 8/10 Bowie recovers his underground and always advanced-for-the-time style, now in the '90s. Corrosive, aggressive; some times too much filled with claustrophobic and lo-fi beats but that's exactly what makes it weird, yes a WEIRD album in Bowie's catalogue after almost four deca ... (read more)

Report this review (#459201) | Posted by Mattiias | Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

1 stars When I listen to albums like these I get angry! I can imagine Bowie sitting on his own thinking: "Well...I guess I must create an album that appeals to all the youngsters out there that only know me by the single "China Girl" - I must show them that I am a hip dude. Letīs make an album with d ... (read more)

Report this review (#259488) | Posted by Matte | Tuesday, January 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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