Let's Dance is the 15th studio album by David Bowie. It was originally released in April 1983, almost three years after his previous album, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). Co-produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers, the album contains three of his most successful singles: the title track, "Let's Dance", which reached No. 1 in the UK, US and various other countries, as well as "Modern Love" and "China Girl", which both reached No. 2 in the UK. "China Girl" was a new version of a song that Bowie had co-written with Iggy Pop for the latter's 1977 album The Idiot. It also contains a re-recorded version of the song "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)", which had reached No. 1 in New Zealand, Norway and Sweden a year earlier.
Let's Dance was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy Award in 1984 but lost to Michael Jackson's Thriller. It has sold 10.7 million copies worldwide, making it Bowie's best-selling album.It was Bowie's eighteenth official album release since his debut in 1967, including two live albums, one covers album (Pin Ups, 1973), and a collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra (1978). At one point Bowie described the album as "a rediscovery of white-English-ex-art-school-student-meets-black-American-funk, a refocusing of Young Americans". Let's Dance was also a stepping stone for the career of the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who played on itThe album was released as a limited edition picture disc in 1983. The album was re-mastered in 2018 and included in the Bowie box set Loving the Alien (1983–1988) (2018).
Critical reviews for Let's Dance as an album were mixed, although Rolling Stone later described it as "the conclusion of arguably the greatest 14-year run in rock history" Bowie felt he had to continue to pander to the new mass audience he acquired with the album, which led to him releasing two further solo albums in 1984 and 1987 which, despite their relative commercial success, did not sell as well as Let's Dance, were poorly received by critics at the time and subsequently dismissed by Bowie himself as his "Phil Collins years".Bowie would help form the hard rock and grunge-predecessor band Tin Machine in 1989 in an effort to rejuvenate himself artistically.
Iggy Pop and David Bowie during their years in Berlin, first appearing on Pop's debut solo album The Idiot (1977). The song became more widely known when it was re-recorded by Bowie, who released it as the second single from his most commercially successful album, Let's Dance (1983). The UK single release of Bowie's version reached No. 2 for one week on 14 June 1983, while the US release reached No. 10.
Paul Trynka, the author of David Bowie's biography, Starman, explains the song was inspired by Iggy Pop's infatuation with Kuelan Nguyen, a Vietnamese woman, as a metaphor for his Stooges career.
Nile Rodgers, the producer of David Bowie's 1983 version of the song, imagined his own meaning: "I figured China Girl was about doing drugs ... because China is China White which is heroin, girl is cocaine. I thought it was a song about speedballing. I thought, in the drug community in New York, coke is girl, and heroin is boy. So then I proceeded to do this arrangement which was ultra pop. Because I thought that, being David Bowie, he would appreciate the irony of doing something so pop about something so taboo. And what was really cool was that he said 'I love that!'
The music video, featuring New Zealand model Geeling Ng, was directed by David Mallet and shot mainly in the Chinatown district of Sydney, Australia. Along with his previous single's video for "Let's Dance" with the critique of racism in Australia, Bowie described the video as a "very simple, very direct" statement against racism. The video consciously parodies Asian female stereotypes. It depicted as a hypermasculine protagonist in an interracial romance. The original video release includes the two lying naked in the surf (a visual reference to the film From Here to Eternity).Unedited versions were banned from New Zealand and some other countries at the time. The uncensored version was issued on the 1984 "Video EP" issued by Sony on Betamax, VHS and LaserDisc. Versions of the video included on subsequent video and DVD compilations (including EMI/Virgin's Best of Bowie) are censored to remove the nudity. The original video went on to win an MTV video award for Best Male Video.