Red Right Hand: WHY DURAN DURAN IS PISSING ME OFF
*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.

 

WHY DURAN DURAN IS PISSING ME OFF

A little pop music history is in order. Regardless, of what your opinions of Duran Duran might be, they were a very forward thinking and influential band. Keyword: were.

These guys were at the forefront of what eventually became electronica. They were among the first bands to really put synthesizers and blatantly artificial sounds up front in the mix, though they still kept a healthy mix of real guitar and bass prominent as well. Additionally, they gout in front of video music, before music videos really gained the traction that they would hold on to so strongly through the eighties and early nineties (until MTV decided they could make more money with reality shows than actually being MTV). In fact, their first music video, "Planet Earth" was made before MTV went on the air.



Their videos stayed at the top of the form for many years. Most of them were sprawling epics that looked like they could be trailers for a feature films, and one of them "Wild Boys" essentially was a concept trailer for what was to become a sci-fi film, an adaptation of William S. Burroughs book of the same name, by Russell Mulcahy (who directed many DD videos before going on to Highlander, The Shadow and a downward spiral of insignificant movies (and the Skins pilot).



They even parlayed their success into two temporary offshoot bands, Arcadia (the arty eurotrashy one) and Power Station (more hard edged with bits of funk and something akin to, but not metal).

Then something happened and they succumbed to going into other, preexisting genres (because they helped invent the New Romantic genre, it was arguably theirs to play with at will and they eventually morphed into their own genre, a Duran Duran song from 1982-1985 was a unique thing no on else could or would pull off). A couple of band members left (neither a particularly creative force in the band), some new guys joined. They moved through some perversion of American white-boy funk and eventually landed in some watered-down house music style, until 1992, they came back a little bit with something more their own and had hits with "Ordinary World" and "Come Undone."



Then the Internet started to happen, and they failed to capitalize early, they way they did with music videos. They put out an all-covers album (yawn). Their music videos were uninspired. These guys were, at one point, an awesome science fiction band (just look at "Union of The Snake").



Now they were doing stuff that looked like what everybody else was doing years ago. Random shots of the band looking handsome or cavorting with models. That "Ordinary World" video looks like a perfume commercial. The epicness was gone.

When what they were doing wasn't working, they got rid of their non-original-member guitarist (who had worked to give Duran Duran it's own sound again, for better or for worse) and got the old line-up back together. Their Internet presence was no more or less than any other average band. The innovation factor was gone. In fact, it had gotten to the point where they were essentially living off their old fame. They sold out arenas, but on the strength of who they were once, not who they are now.

Here's where they really started pissing me off. The music was mostly pretty bland. They were looking to producers to help shape them. Including Nile Rodgers, an architect of their mid-eighties sound. TO my mind, that was a step twenty years into the past. Also, these guys have been in studios for twenty years and the prime move in DD, Nick Rhodes has occasionally produced himself, most recently The Dandy Warhols album that gave us the Veronica Mars theme.



Why weren't these guys shaping their own sound and looking to producers to simply help refine it?

Why is rap introducing more sound innovations (and abusing the shit out of them) than the original synth band. Duran Duran should have been all over the manipulation of autotune as an effect, but they were just basically retreading the same thing over and over again.

Also, they had no record label. These guys are Duran Duran, they are world famous and filthy rich. They don't need a label. At the same time, Trent Reznor (because I have to tie in Nine Inch nails) was itching for the end of his label contract, because he knew that once free of the big companies, he could do what he wanted and make tons of money doing it. Eventually they got on Sony. For no good reason.

Then they looked to yet more producers to help make them relevant. This time it was Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Once again, Duran Duran didn't sound like their own thing. Or, for that matter Duran Duran. The album sucked.

Now they've done it again. This time, Mark Ronson's trying to make them relevant and go backward thirty years by evoking Rio. Couple of good songs, but again...bland sound that belongs to someone else. I do really like this one though...(but THE video band, has no video for it.)



And their Internet presence is still lackluster. They could be harnessing it's broadband video power, but their not. They've got the band members blogging, but more often than not it seems like they're just dictating something to a web flunky because they have to. They're not as involved with the fans. They're not that engaged.

These guys just need to look to their history (and Trent Reznor) for their next move. They want to engage younger, club-going fans. These people are technologically savvy. Now, Duran Duran were known in the eighties for their remixes, in which they would sometimes rerecord the songs to expand them. Now, they look to popular remixers to do their dirty work (sometimes to excellent effect). Why aren't they looking to their fans. They don't have to go to the extent of NIN and set up a whole separate website (remix.nin.com) and release multitracks for every damn thing, but with every single or significant release date, they should be putting putting out separate tracks for some songs for the fans to remix and share. Yes, it's giving songs away for free in the end, but they're in a position to absorb that and gain from it.

And these pioneers of video should be harnessing the ability of the average consumer to create pro-quality video and they should having regular make-the-video-for-this-song contests.



Their Facebook is laughable. Example:
Hoping whoever is reading this isn't nursing a hangover. So tell us, whose New Year's Resolutions involve Duran Duran?!
And only Simon and John seem to be on Twitter and it looks like a recent development...and like their PR agency told them to do it. Nick is the one who needs to be out there.

They've finally embraced having their own label and they've embraced iTunes as a method of getting out there, but they've done in a bit of a skeevy manner in that they've put out a nine-song album in December, but in February, the CD release comes out with fourteen songs. It's a move that smacks of forcing the diehards to re buy the same product and to artificially keep the CD format alive. This is what everybody should have been doing ten years ago instead of crying about Napster and suing everybody. Now, it's just too late.

All this is by way of saying that media now is a wide-ranging proposition. You must engage. You must be original. Or you must be a reasonable facsimile of both.

It's 2011. I've got a new project on the horizon. I'll see if I can't incorporate some of these lessons (from a different medium) once it reaches the public stage.
©2016 Michael Patrick Sullivan