Duran Duran Singles Ranked, 41-50

Only two of the songs on this chunk of list was played in concert in Honolulu last month (#41 and #42). I don’t foresee much in this section being controversial but, hey, I didn’t see my ranking of Madonna’s “Cherish” as being all that shocking until I saw the response. Conclusion: What do I know?

50. Goodbye Is Forever (Arcadia)

From Arcadia’s 1985 Album So Red The Rose, Second Single

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

So here is my thesis. Arcadia gets to count as Duran Duran for three reasons. First, it is composed of nothing but members of Duran Duran. Second, there are more classic era members of Duran Duran in this iteration of the band than there were in he Le Bon-Rhodes-Cuccurullo era. Third, Arcadia’s album So Red The Rose was the last album that embraced the classic Duran Duran sound from start to finish. The next Duran Duran album – Notorious (which featured John Taylor but not Andy Taylor or Roger Taylor) was the start of their sort of Adult Contemporary phase. At the time, it seemed to many of us that Arcadia was a direct response to Andy Taylor and John Taylor forming the side project Power Station. Like the other three said “fine, we’ll have a side project too, but our side project will actually sound like Duran Duran, nyah nyah.” He’s not credited as a full member of the band, but guitarist Masami Tsuchiya is kind of the secret sauce on many of Arcadia’s track – his distinctive guitar work on this track is one of the stylistic elements that make this sound different from the Andy Taylor crunch sound. While this would be at the very bottom of my list of Arcadia songs, its really rather decent (as are all their songs on this list).

49. Violence of Summer (Love’s Taking Over)

From 1990’s Liberty, First Single

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

Along with “Serious,” this is the only other song from Liberty on the list. Do we need to talk about the video? No? Well, let’s talk about it anyways. Basically, Nick Rhodes is the only one who maintains a touch of New Wave cool. I don’t know enough about UK sports to know if Simon Le Bon is wearing a football shirt or rugby shirt or what, but there’s something off-putting about seeing him in it – I have no doubt about his sincere support for his team, but he looks like a poseur. The rest of the band falls somewhere in-between Rhodes and Le Bon on the cool scale. The song itself is excellent pop fluff. Le Bon didn’t especially feel like this was a finished song and was particularly critical of the chorus, but if you embrace the fact that this sounds more like bubble gum pop and less like edge New Wave pop, it’s really a rather pleasant song. I confess I have no idea what Le Bon is singing about – sometimes Duran Duran songs sound like the guy from Bad Lip Reading provided their lyrics.

48. Playing With Uranium

From 2000’s Pop Trash, German Single Only

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

Pop Trash did not sell well but it genuinely had a couple of pretty good songs (song for song, its way better than Liberty, for sure). My first reaction when I heard this tune was that Duran Duran was trying to embrace Oasis’ sound, albeit like seven years too late. I know that many of the songs from this album were pulled from the Rhodes/Cuccurullo project TV Mania so its possible this track was written as early as 1995 (which would make the Oasis influence make more sense – also, I really should rank Oasis songs someday). Anyhow, by the time of Pop Trash, Duran Duran was leaning a little more rock and a little less pop which puts them squarely in the “stuff I tend to like by default” category. The chorus rocks on all fronts – Le Bon’s delivery, Cuccurullo’s buzz, and Rhodes whir whirs.

47. None of the Above

From 1993’s Duran Duran (The Wedding Album), Fourth US Single also single in Japan

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

I really, really like the chorus on this song. Like dig it. Its has a sort of liturgical music thing going which is deliberately ironic because it’s about relying on yourself instead of on God or other people. The rest of the song is decent (if forgettable) but, yeah, the chorus makes me come back to this song again and again. I want to sing harmony with Simon Le Bon. It’s like an unobtainable life goal.

46. What Happens Tomorrow

From 2004’s Astronaut, Second Single

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

Andy Taylor’s pulsating guitar work is the spine of “What Happens Tomorrow,” which was a pretty big hit in the UK. It’s a bit back in the mix, but Taylor also has a strong guitar line going into the bridge. I sort of wish he’d be allowed to let loose and just jam on this one. My issue with the songs on Astronaut is that they’re generally very good but even the best of them feel like they’re missing an essential element or two – like a bridge or a solo or an additional verse. Not that all songs need any of these things just that all of the songs on Astronaut could benefit from one more little element. I rather like this song’s pulsating, sort of slinky rhythm and Le Bon’s ultra-cool vocals. I mean, I sort of always like Le Bon’s cool vocals.

45. Girl Panic!

From 2010’s All You Need Is Now, Second Single

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

All You Need Is Now is considered a candidate by many for “best Duran Duran album since the 80’s.” In some ways, this refers to the genuine overall quality of the album but in other ways it’s a subtle way of saying “it sounds like a classic Duran Duran record.” Both statements are true. From the moment Roger Taylor’s drums kick in on “Girl Panic!,” we’re in familiar territory. Rhodes’ keyboard flourishes and John Taylor’s funky bass reinforce the effect and then Le Bon swings into high vocal gear on the chorus. Bam. 80’s Duran Duran sound but with higher production quality (because production quality has improved in the last 30 years). If you’re not familiar with any of the songs in this chunk of tunes and don’t have time to listen to them all, I highly recommend you check out this one. Not ranked higher because it’s a good song but not a great song. Good songs now, great songs later.

44. Perfect Day

From 1995’s Thank You, First Single

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

I am not making this up. At the time of this song’s release, Lou Reed himself said:

“I think Duran Duran’s version of ‘Perfect Day’ is possibly the best rerecording of a song of mine. I’m not sure that I sang it as well as Simon [Le Bon] sang it. I think he sings it better than I [did]. If I could’ve sung it the way he did, I would’ve. It wasn’t from lack of trying. They recorded it the way I meant [to record] it, which is a real big thrill for me, so thank you, Duran Duran.”

I don’t know, Reed’s version is pretty flawless. I get that Reed doesn’t have the vocal range of Le Bon, but there’s an emotional undertone to his singing that elevates his performances. Plus Mick Ronson’s piano work on the original is non-pareil. That all said, Duran Duran’s version is legit. I could do without the fx on the vocal and wish Rhodes had opted to use a more natural sounding electronic piano sound, but in general they really do capture the underlying darkness of the song (the “you’re going to reap what you sow” is genuinely sorrowful). Several members of the band (notably John Taylor) faced addiction issues so I imagine the song had personal relevance to them beyond the influence Lou Reed (and original producer David Bowie) had on the band. I want to note that I love John Taylor’s bass work on this song.

43. The Promise (Arcadia)

From 1985’s So Red The Rose, Third Single

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

Yeah, so, this song feature’s Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour on guitar, Mark Egan of the Pat Methany group on bass and Sting on backing vocals. I mean, I’m sure they just called them up and invited them over for a few hours as one does. Basically, this song is completely overpowers. It sounds a whole lot like a contemporary Kate Bush or Sting song which is not a bad thing at all. Indeed, that’s not. Le Bon indulges in some strong falsetto singing on the chorus, but the interplay off Egan’s bass and Gilmour’s guitar (particularly during the instrumental section) is the real stand-out on this track. I mean, it’s really great. If all of Duran Duran’s forays into adult contemporary had been this compelling, I think we all would have forgiven them Notorious and Liberty at the time (I’ve forgiven them since).

42. White Lines (featuring Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel)

From 1995’s Thank You, Second Single

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

OK, hear me out. First off, when they played it out here last month, this was a totally unexpected concert highlight. I mean they seriously rock this song. Furthermore, every time they play it, writer Melle Mel and the estate of co-writer Sylvia Robinson get paid, so that rocks. The original single was credited to Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel, even though Grandmaster Flash didn’t perform on it at all. Ironically, he does perform on the Duran Duran version as does Melle Mel. So, again, paychecks. I was pretty skeptical of this cover when they first released it and its taken me 20 years to warm up to it (so I don’t expect anyone else to dig it) but Duran Duran clearly loves and respects this song (and John Taylor’s bass work is outstanding). It is the highlight of Thank You and, as I said, they really blow the roof off the joint when they play this in concert.

41. What Are The Chances? (featuring John Frusciante)

From 2015’s Paper Gods, Promo Single?

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

OK, moment of revelation. According to a commentator on Discogs, this might be a “fake single.” This pretty much calls into question Discogs as a resource of official single releases. I’ve been citing them for months. What have I done? WHAT HAVE I DONE? On the other hand, this site says it was a single. Who do I believe? I can’t trust anyone anymore. Thanks, 2017. When Duran Duran played “What Are The Chances” in concert last month, I was not familiar with the song and really had to go to the bathroom, so I zoomed out of the arena, did my business and got back before they were done. #winning. Alas, since that time, I’ve become very familiar with the song and it’s really quite excellent. Duran Duran has a regular touring guitarist but since Andy Taylor split again, they sometimes have guest guitarists play. On this track. former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante contributes a lovely and even compelling guitar part. The good news is if you don’t enjoy this track, as I’ve demonstrated it makes excellent bathroom break music so put it on, head to the john and it will just be finishing by the time you get back. Particularly if you put it on loop.

Coming Soon: Maybe only two controversial choices.

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

One comment

  1. The only song in this section I’m familiar with is “Perfect Day,” and that’s a cover, and I’m only familiar with it because it was once covered by Australian comedian/entertainer Paul McDemott, and I love his voice. Having said that, this is the first section where I’ve listened to some songs and thought “This is pretty decent.”

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