Top 5 Duran Duran Songs
Since 1978, Duran Duran helped define pop music and influenced a wide variety of artists. Hailed as pioneers of the New Romantic movement early in their career, then as a video band, they proved time and time again that they are much more than that. As a die-hard Duranie, I feel like the band doesn't get the recognition it deserves. Plenty of their songs are timeless classics ; for instance, who can't hum the chorus to Hungry Like the Wolf or Save a Prayer ? While Duran Duran might have attained the peak of their popularity (at least commercially) in 1984 with the release of the No. 1 Hit The Reflex, they kept releasing interesting and popular material after that, even with the band lineup changing through the years. DD remains one of my favorite musical acts and I find something to like in all their albums, even the ones that failed to attract much attention at the time of their release. Their boundless energy is contagious ! Choosing my 5 personal favorites won't be an easy task, but here they are :
Honorable mentions (these would have been in my top 10) : Save a Prayer, The Reflex, Skin Trade, Ordinary World, Come Undone.
5. Girl Panic! (from All You Need Is Now, 2010)
All You Need Is Now was hailed as a return to form for DD, since their previous album had failed to gain much success on the charts or with critics (2007's Red Carpet Massacre). While RCM is an album I enjoy, I admit it does sound more like a Timbaland feat. Simon Le Bon record instead of a true DD album. After its failure, the band was in need of a hit. Enter producer Mark Ronson, a Duranie himself. His goal was to help DD create an album that would sound like a modern follow-up to Rio (1982), the album that is often quoted as their best. In many ways, they succeeded. All You Need Is Now features plenty of songs with very strong melodies and creative instrumentation and will likely be considered a highlight of their discography in a few years time. My favorite off that album is Girl Panic!, a highly energetic dance track about having fun with girls and what happens the following morning. Everything about the song is classic DD and wouldn't have sounded out of place on Rio (1982) or Seven & the Ragged Tiger (1983). The chorus is highly infectious and I can't help but dance when I listen to the song (which happens very often). It was released as a downloadable single and a few 7″ physical copies were produced. The music video, directed by Jonas Akerlund, is already a classic among DD fans and features the iconic early 90's supermodels (Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Helene Christensen, etc) as members of the group. It fits the song perfectly; a true gift for the eyes and the ears !
4. Out Of My Mind (from Medazzaland, 1997)
Meddazaland is probably one the band's most obscure albums, as it is incredibly dark (with lyrics about loss, suicide and pain) and was not even released in Europe, meaning not even in their home country ! Before the recording of the album was completed, bassist and founding member John Taylor left the band, with his work remaining on only three songs. The future of DD was unsure and the late 90's-early 2000's would prove to be a troubled period. Medazzaland was released following the critical bomb that became their cover album Thank You (1995), a record that probably killed off any momentum created by The Wedding Album, which had been a huge success and comeback in 1993. For these reasons, Medazzaland remains overlooked in DD's discography and while it is far from a favorite of mine, there are a few songs I like, especially lead single Electric Barbarella and Out Of My Mind. The latter is a gorgeous alternative rock song about how to deal with loss (Simon Le Bon wrote it about his friend David Miles who died of a drug overdose in the late 80's). I first heard it at the end of The Saint (1997), a film that happens to be a personal favorite. As such, Out Of My Mind was also included on its soundtrack and peaked at No. 21 in the U.K. However, I think the music video fails to match the beauty of the song and looks more like a Marilyn Manson project than DD. It's very dark and brooding but features some impressive makeup effect to age singer Le Bon. I would have preferred if they had created a tie-in video with scenes from The Saint instead. Nonetheless, this song means a lot to me and I could listen to it on repeat !
3. Hungry Like The Wolf (from Rio, 1982)
What could be said about this one that has not been said before ? This is probably the band's signature song and was released as the 2nd single of the Rio album in 1982. Contrary to popular belief, the song did not become an instant hit upon release. If DD was considered as a video band for most of the 80's, then the iconic video for Hungry Like The Wolf must be held largely responsible. Directed by Russell Mulcahy, it features the band in Sri Lanka in an Indiana Jones-like adventure that is very imaginative and actually tells a story instead of showing only the band performing the track, as was usual back then. The cinematic qualities of it still impress me to this day and the quality of DD's videos would remain very high, as evidenced by gems like The Wild Boys. Following the exposure of the video, put in heavy rotation on MTV, the song reached No. 3 in the U.S. and No. 5 in their native U.K. The video is amazing but the music itself is even more. John Taylor's bass work is always a highlight but here it's a delight, I can't get enough of it. The lyrics deal with sexual appetite (at least from my point of view) and the chorus will likely stick in your head forever. It sure is stuck in mine ! I really consider this a perfect pop song. The album mix is excellent and is the best known mix of the song but is not my favorite. That would be the David Kershenbaum remix, a longer and slightly altered version made for nightclubs in 1982, known among fans as the Night Version. It's even more danceable than the album cut, without removing its original appeal. Seek it out !
2. A View to a Kill (from the A View to a Kill Soundtrack, 1985)
The greatest James Bond theme ever is also one of the band's very best. A View to a Kill is a song worth killing for (pun intended). It deservedly reached No. 1 in the U.S., thus becoming the only Bond song to ever do so as of 2016 (take that, Adele !). The story of how the song became the masterpiece that it is also famous. Bassist John Taylor supposedly met James Bond producer Cubby Broccoli at a party and asked him (with a little extra courage given by alcohol) when they were going to get another decent theme song for their films. The producer then proposed the job to DD. The collaboration with composer John Barry did not go smoothly but the end result made it all worthwhile. Barry's orchestral arrangement elevates the song to another level but I still have trouble understanding the meaning of the lyrics. Who cares when the melody is that gorgeous ? A View to A Kill also holds the distinction of being the last song recorded by the band with the original lineup until the Astronaut album in 2004. By the time it made it to No. 1, DD had already split in half, resulting in side projects Arcadia and The Power Station. The band performed the song live for the first time at Live Aid and their performance was average at best, with Le Bon struggling to reach the higher notes and the band seemed like they wanted to be somewhere else. However, the music video is also iconic in its own right as we get to see the band playing secret agents at the Eiffel Tower. How cool is that?
1. Notorious (from Notorious, 1986)
Wow. Following the departure of drummer Roger Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor at the height of their success in 1985, some thought DD would remain a thing of the past. Wrong ! DD not only overcame what destroyed so many bands, they managed to keep going forward, to reinvent themselves and create interesting material. Now a trio, DD released my favorite album, Notorious, in 1986. The record sounded very different than what fans were used to with Rio or Seven & the Ragged Tiger, as it tends more toward funk and arena rock with heavy bass and brass than new romantic music. That might explain why it met less success than previous releases, peaking at No. 16 in the UK and No. 12 in the U.S. The band, helped by legendary producer Nile Rodgers, crafted a few pop gems, such as Skin Trade and the title track. The latter opens the album and is a perfect introduction to the new DD. It became a smash hit, reaching No. 7 in the UK and No. 2 in the U.S. DD had never sounded so funky before and the track is infinitely danceable. Fun fact : the line "Who really gives a damn for a flaky bandit" was a direct dig at Andy Taylor. I wonder what went through his head when he performed the song when the band reunited in 2003... The music video is very stylized and features the band performing the song intertwined with shots of a beautiful woman in a field. While not very original compared to other high-concept DD videos, it's quite sensual and I love the new look of the band ; it's extremely classy and timeless. No-no-notorious !
Thank you for reading ! DD, thank you for the music !