Duran Duran Singles Ranked, 51-60

Duran Duran played 18 songs when they performed at Honolulu’s Neil Blaisdell Arena last month. 16 of those 18 songs were singles (the title track from Paper Gods and the deep cut “Hold Back The Rain” – were not) and 2 of those singles are in this section of the list.

Since the first chunk of this list only included four singles, this is still pretty much the bottom of the list. I begrudgingly admit that these are all well constructed songs for the most part with some good qualities, but they all have elements that annoy me. And so…

60. Skin Trade

From 1986’s Notorious, Second Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor

Back to back songs from Notorious here – 61 was “Meet El Presidente.” Duran Duran established their signature sound during their “Classic Line-up” era (1981-85) and then started exploring different musical styles. The sound that they most gravitated towards at this time was a sort of adult contemporary (almost easy listening) pop sound that ultimately reached its zenith with “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World.” Hey, pop stars gotta pop, I guess. “Skin Trade” was a minor hit in the UK and an even more minor hit in the US, but it sounds to me like they were sleepy when they recorded it. As I’ve discussed when writing about other artists, I’m a big supporter of musicians engaging in sonic exploration. I get that it can become boring to play the same songs (or even play in the same style) for years on end. Heck, everyone who has ever gotten annoyed after hearing a song they once loved for the millionth time can sort of grasp how awful it would be to feel that way about a song that you need to sing every night. So, with that all written, what I like about “Skin Trade” is Simon Le Bon’s lovely falsetto vocal. What I don’t like is virtually everything else. I still listen to it when it comes on though because – wow – Le Bon sounds so good. The video is pretty great, too.

59. Serious

From 1990’s Liberty, Second Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo, Sterling Campbell

A cursory web search suggests that Liberty is Duran Duran’s least loved album of original material. Sure, I’ve ranked this track higher than two of the three singles from Notorious, but that album also had the fantastic title track (no… no… now you’re singing it, you’re singing it). Furthermore, “Serious” (for whatever reasons) was so unsuccessful that the record label canceled plans to release any other singles from Liberty. Not a great way to start off the decade, though the failure of this album allowed Duran Duran to stage their much-discussed comeback on their next album. The band added drummer Sterling Campbell (who lasted one album then moved on to other bands – he’s currently touring with the B-52’s) and, fatefully, guitarist Warren Cuccurollo (formerly of Frank Zappa’s band and Missing Persons). Cuccurollo ended up writing some of their successful 90’s singles. Anyhow, “Serious” is a well constructed, smooth pop song but it sounds like the kind of third string pop tune you’d hear on the in-cabin speakers as you were boarding an airplane. It gets ranked slightly higher than “Skin Trade” because the band sounds a little more awake.

58. Want You More!

From 2004’s Astronaut, Promotional Single in Europe

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

Astronaut featured the return of the classic “Fab Five” line up for the first time since 1985’s “A View To A Kill.” This does not mean that the album sounded like classic Duran Duran, but they did craft several pretty catchy tunes. They also crafted this one. Released as a promo single in Europe only, I’m really at a bit of a loss to explain this tune. I appreciate that its high energy and like Nick Rhodes “whoop whoop” keyboards but I just… I mean… What is this?

57. Drowning Man

From 1993’s Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), Third Single (US Only)

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo

There are a whole bunch of singles on this list from 1993’s Duran Duran, the album frequently called “The Wedding Album” (because of its cover, which consists of wedding photos of the band’s parents) in order to distinguish it from their debut album Duran Duran. The band was a four piece again by this time. I almost legitimately love “Drowning Man.” It sounds like Duran Duran’s attempt at embracing the Madchester sound and they knock it out of the park on the chorus – but the song is dragged underwater by the verses and the bridge which border on dismal. Its extremely frustrating because, whoa, that chorus is so good – especially Nick Rhodes’ keyboard work (which is buried just a little too far back in the mix).

56. Sound of Thunder

From 1981’s Duran Duran, UK Only “Sampler” Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

This is my lowest ranked single from the classic “Fab Five” days and I wonder if there will be fans who are bitterly disappointed by this. Before discussing the single, let’s talk about the debut album. There was sort of a tradition that record labels had through the early 1980’s – a successful record in the UK would be altered significantly for release in the USA. Duran Duran’s self-titled debut album’s 1981 release existed in two different forms on either side of the Atlantic (The US version has a different cover, drops “To The Shore” and orders the songs differently). After Duran Duran broke big in the USA with Rio, their record label slapped a new song onto the debut album, changed the song listing again and rereleased it. This was a comparably mild treatment (Thomas Dolby’s debut was drastically altered, as we discussed last week). Anyhow, “Sound of Thunder” was released on both versions. It was released as a “sampler” single. I do not know what that means – maybe a type of promo? In my opinion, this song is what a generic Duran Duran song would sound like – like if you took all the elements of what they sounded like during their classic years, added them all together like a stack of numbers and then determined the average of all songs, this is what it would sound like.

55. Last Night in the City (feat. Kiesza)

From 2015’s Paper Gods, Second Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor

This was the sixth song Duran Duran played when we saw them last month. Its one of their newer tracks and it features guests vocals by Kiesza (best known for her song “Hideaway”). I’m having a hard time determining if this was released every where as the second single from Paper Gods or just in some places. Anyhow, Duran Duran in 2017 consists of four of the Fab Five (Andy Taylor split again after Astronaut) and several excellent touring musicians. “Last Night In The City” didn’t make an especially strong impression on me in concert (two of the other tracks from the new album did) and I can’t really hold most of it in my head for very long after listening to it. The two parts that stick are Kiesza’s guest vocal and the moment where Simon Le Bon sing-slides “Yeaaaaahhhh,” which is pretty impressive.

54. Wild Boys

From 1984’s Arena, First Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

Aw man, you know, this was going to be the bottom of my list but then I saw them perform it in concert and it was really pretty fun, particularly singing the fast little “wild boys” echo on the chorus (“wild boys”). My wife says that for years she through they were singing “Rob Roy,” (“rob roy”) which improves the song a bit for me. I don’t know it its the over-produced video or just that Duran Duran sounds like they are trying very, very hard to sound like Duran Duran, but this song has hacked me off for years (“wild boys”). That little echo is real delight though (“wild boys”). When I make these lists, certain songs serve as sort of quality markers. For example, when I was looking at where to place some of this songs, I asked myself “do I like them more or less than ‘Wild Boys.'” (“wild boys”) You might be surprised at how many songs I compared to this one (“wild boys”).

53. Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) (Live)

1982 Music Video Release

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Andy Taylor, Roger Taylor

I must have listened to this track twelve times before I even noticed there was a song there because this is an especially poorly mixed live single. Its a cover of a 1975 song by Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel. I encourage you to listen to the original and then listen to Duran Duran’s version to get a feel for how they both sort of improved on the original and sort of don’t come close to living up to the original (I know, its, strange) (“wild boys”). Anyhow, let’s just move alone.

52. The Last Day On Earth

From 2000’s Pop Trash, Japan Only Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, Warren Cuccurullo

You might have one last night in the city with Duran Duran in 2015, but back in 2000, you were going to have one last day on Earth. I have a hard time thinking of this song without hearing U2’s “Last Night On Earth” (53) in my head. Duran Duran was down to a trio again by the time they recorded Pop Trash sicne John Taylor had split while recording the previous album. Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo ended up writing most of the songs (many of them were from a side project the two had together called TV Mania) including this one. It should be noted that the only consistent member of Duran Duran from their beginning until now has been Nick Rhodes. Before I go too far off on this tangent, “The Last Day on Earth” is not a great song and its fairly forgettable, but there’s nothing hateful about it so this is an important turning point on this list.

51. Breath After Breath

From 1993’s Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), Brazil Only Single

Duran Duran on this track: Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo

Milton Nascimento provides a very appealing counter vocal on “Breath After Breath” that elevates it a bit above the rest of the songs on this list. The piece is otherwise a fairly generic (if pleasant enough) pop song. This song did make me track down some of Nascimento’s work – I especially like the mellow “Travessia” but he has literally dozens of excellent tracks. Heck, check out “Canção da América” too. There is an amazing world of music out there and I miss a bunch of it by focusing on US and English pop/rock. Thank you, Duran Duran, for introducing me to Milton Nascimento!!

Coming Soon: Arcadia.

Duran Duran Singles Ranked: 61-6451-6041-5031-4021-3011-201-10

One comment

  1. When I put Duran Duran on in my car on my road trip, mostly my mind ignored the songs it wasn’t familiar with and bopped along to the most famous singles it knew. But when “Wild Boys” came on, I was like, “What is this annoying song?” and eventually I had to just skip it.

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