Duran Duran Singles Ranked, 31-40

Just a reminder that any Duran Duran video has the potential to be NSFW.  That’s just how they roll.  This was especially true in their videos for early singles (“Girls on Film,” “The Chauffer”) and it served two valuable marketing purposes.  First, it made their videos controversial which piqued public interest.  Second, it ensured that teenage boys were at least somewhat interested in their music even as they were marketed as a cute-boy-band-for-girls.  Since their heyday, they have continued to indulge their interest in cheesecake videos with mixed success.

My friend Jennifer  mentioned that their were boy bands at the time for virgins and then their were boy bands for the girls who’d already had sex.  She argues Duran Duran is the latter (and illustrates this point with some colorful descriptions of how she and her friends imagined a date with one or often more members of the band might proceed).  This seems to be a good segue to mentioning that (according to the Duran Duran wiki) 90’s Duran Duran guitarist Warren Cuccurulo found a sort of continued fame after leaving the band as an adult performer.  It’s a career path, I guess.

Back to out list…

40. Say the Word (Theme from “Playing For Keeps”) (Arcadia)

From the soundtrack to 1986 film Playing For Keeps, first singles

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

There was a movie in 1986 called Playing for Keeps.  Apparently, the soundtrack is considerably better-loved than the film.  Arcadia’s final single was the film’s title track.  I want to call attention to Nick Rhodes’ keyboard flourishes here (you can’t miss them – they walk up to you, grab you by the shirt collar and scream DURAN DURAN in your ear hole until you suffer semi-permanent hearing loss).  This specific sound palette was employed by Rhodes more or less starting with the album Seven and the Ragged Tiger through this song.  Its most notable use was probably on the song “A View To A Kill.”  There’s a certain drama to this style of horn-like keyboard stabs and I consider it to be one of the band’s signature sounds.  They’ve not much used it since this period, so “Say The Word” is one of the last tracks that really “sounds” like classic era Duran Duran to my ear.

39. Skin Divers (featuring Timbaland)

From 2007’s Red Carpet Massacre, Hong Kong Single Only

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

Duran Duran arrived a little late at the “80’s pop act tries to incorporate rap into their songs” party.  Fortunately, they worked with producer/rapper Timbaland on this song and the result is genuinely a pretty good amalgamation of styles.  By making the choice to assign both the chorus and the bridges to Timbaland, the song ends up sounding like a genuine collaboration instead of the typical “here is a pop song with a rap inserted randomly as the bridge.”  This song is filled with hooks, big and small.  Red Carpet Massacre‘s first single (the excellent “Falling Down”) was a flop and thus, this being the 00’s, Duran Duran’s label decided not to release any other singles or (in fact) support the album.  A shame because there’s several particularly catchy tunes on it.

38. All She Wants Is

From 1988’s Big Thing, Second Single

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

I was, at first, going to rank this song quite a bit lower but the more I’ve listened to it lately, the more I’ve liked it.  Big Thing is, in my opinion, the most underrated of Duran Duran’s 80’s albums.  I’ve included four singles from this album on my list and this is the lowest ranked of them.  The song was a bit of a surprise hit and the video is an MTV classic (apparently, the band is frequently replaced by Life Model Decoys in the video – which is more obvious now than it was in the 80’s).    This song was Duran Duran’s last top 40 hit in the US for five years (until “Ordinary World”) and while it doesn’t especially sound like classic Duran Duran, it does sound like a band with renewed confidence and focus (after struggling a bit during the previous album, Notorious).  Anyhow, the main half-chanted/half-murmured choral hook that opens the song and continues throughout is one of their most infectious.

37. Careless Memories

From 1981’s Duran Duran, Second Single

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

Duran Duran’s record lable, EMI, selected this to be their second ever single.  The band wanted them to release “Girls on Film.”  This song was a minor, if unspectacular, hit and according to Wikipedia, its lack of success led the label to letting Duran Duran select its next single (they chose the aforementioned “Girls on Film” and subsequently went top ten).  I’ve not written much about John Taylor’s bass work (because all of the songs with his great bass work are ranked up higher on my list than this song) but its one of the most prominent and strong features of this song.  J. Taylor is an extremely versatile bass player who seems to keep getting better and better as the years go by.  He’s more of a traditional rock bass player (like one of his influences, The Clash’s Paul Simonon) here, but by the time of “Notorious,” he’d more fully embraced his other major influence, Chic’s Bernard Edwards.  Basically, as the years go by, he gets funky.  I know other stuff is going on in this song, but I can’t stop listening to his bass when I listen to it.

36. Out of My Mind

From 1997’s Medazzaland, First Single

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

Medazzaland was a follow-up to Thank You and, unfortunately, this one-two punch of poorly received albums derailed their 1993 come-back.  John Taylor left the band after playing on only four of the tracks (he did not play on either single).  Most of the songs were written by Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo for their side-project, TV Mania.  J Taylor and Nick Rhodes had started Duran Duran so, after he split, Rhodes became the only original member left in the band. Anyhow, Medazzaland isn’t a great record, but it does have some genuine high spots.  While writing about Arcadia’s “Say The Word,” I mentioned how Nick Rhodes keyboard work often suggested a kind of drama on Duran Duran tracks.  I feel like that was missing from many of their post-1986 tracks (often replaced by other appealing attributes).  While this track doesn’t have the same kind of sharp keyboard strings, the arrangement in toto and Le Bon’s vocal in specific create that sense of drama.  There’s a saying in acting circles that an actor should feel 10 but show 7.  I have the sense that the band is doing something like this – this is an emotional level 10 song performed at a deliberately simmering level 6.  I find the contrast to be extremely appealing and officially lament this song’s comparative lack of success (it only reached #22 on the UK charts and didn’t chart in the US at all).  The pop charts giveth and the pop charts taketh away.

35. Missing (Arcadia)

From the 1985 album So Red The Rose, Promotional Single

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

Every now and then, Duran Duran offers up a brooding, minimalist tune that evokes Brian Eno.  Indeed, virtually every rock musician active in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s eventually has to confront Eno’s work.  I think it’s an industry standard or an unbendable norm or something.  Anyhow,  “Missing” was Arcadia’s take on this style.  Duran Duran was influenced by Bowie and borne from the New Romantic movement in the late 70’s and early 80’s so they’re especially well equipped to tackle this style.  Nick Rhodes’ atmospheric soundscapes and Le Bon’s lovely, controlled voice make this track an unexpected delight.  AllMusic calls So Red The Rose “the best album Duran never made” and its hard to argue with this sentiment.  Left to their own devices, La Bon, Rhodes and Taylor indulged all of their art-pop desires and crafted something really special.

34. The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever

From the 2000 album Pop Trash, Promotional Single

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

Really, there was only one actual official single from Pop Trash (“Someone Else Not Me” which is still coming up) and the album, as I’ve mentioned, is not especially well-loved, but I really genuinely enjoy several tracks.  Le Bon is at his best as a vocalist when he has a tune that allows him to embrace his almost-overwrought dramatic side and this track really indulges him.  When I first started working on the Duran Duran list, there were about 25 songs that I’d not much listened to, including this one.  The way I work is, I make a preliminary countdown playlist and then stick all the song I don’t really know at the start of that list.  As I figure out where I might first place songs, I move them to those slots.  This song stayed in the “unknown song” list for a long time because it wasn’t really making much of an impression on me and I couldn’t figure out what to do with it.  One day, while hiking around Makiki Valley Loop Trail, I realized that “The Sun Doesn’t Shine Forever” would have made a great mid-1970’s rock hit – like something by Peter Frampton.  It sounds like a Le Bon focused song, but it’s really a song about Cuccurullo’s guitar solos, which are expertly done and very appealing.  Come for the drama. stay for the solos.

33. Lonely In Your Nightmare

From 1982’s Rio, Music Video

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

Oh, you know, when I started, this song was in the top ten, but then I listened to it again for the first time in like thirty years and realized why I hadn’t listened to it in thirty years.  Duran Duran occasionally release songs that seem kind of formless to me – like they have a verse and a chorus and a bridge, but they maybe didn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking them through.  I would not accuse this song of that, but while it has a killer chorus (and isn’t the title just the best?), I find the verses to be meandering.  Maybe deliberately so, maybe not.  Either way, the way this song sounds in my head is much more interesting to me than the way it actually sounds.  I’ve minimized my listens to it this month so I don’t lose my interior version of the song.  I’m sorry you can’t hear that.  In the meantime, I still enjoy it quite a bit (because, again, killer chorus) but I can’t bring myself to rank it any higher.

32. The Flame (Arcadia)

From the 1985 album So Red The Rose, Fourth Single

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

I’ve really been tempted to rank all of the Arcadia songs higher, but the truth is that they work much, much better in context of the whole album than they do on their own.  I encourage you to download So Red The Rose and just let that be your jam for a few weeks.  As a piece, its superb.  The video for “The Flame” is a trip – it’s a bit of an homage to campy horror films (Rocky Horror comes to mind but isn’t directly referenced) but what I really love about it is Simon Le Bon is the geeky protagonist and Nick Rhodes is the evil genius.  I sort of always imagined Nick Rhodes sitting in a magnificent mansion releasing packs of vicious dogs on unsuspecting visitors and the video basically confirms all my worst fears about him (in a good way).   Anyhow, Rhodes crafted the video as a sort of punishment for Le Bon.  Ah, the 80’s, when you could create an expensive music video for the sole purpose of trolling your band mate.  Oh!  And John Taylor appears at one point (recall he was in Power Station and not in Arcadia) with a bit of an in-joke poking fun at estranged guitarist Andy Taylor.  Those cads!

31. Electric Barberella

From the 2000 album Pop Trash, Promotional Single

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

I first heard this track because it was included on Duran Duran’s 1998 greatest hits collection, Greatest.  It fits in very nicely on that album next to the band’s other major hits.  I’ll note that there’s nothing on that collection from Liberty or (Edit: “Serious” from Liberty was included – I just always skipped over it and forgot it was there) from Thank You which is sort of a shame and sort of ok.  Duran Duran selected its name from a character in the film Barbarella (the character in the film was Durand Durand) but the bigger picture is that they played at a club called Barbarella’s during their formative years.  So, in essence, they selected their name in a sort of homage to this venue.  In fact, Rhodes’ side project, The Devils, recorded a 1978 Duran Duran song titled “Barbarella’s.”  Anyhow, “Electric Barbarella” was a minor hit that many casual fans likely know because of its inclusion on the greatest hits album.  It’s a fun little nothing of a song with some strong work from all three members of the band.

Coming Soon: Oh no, a couple of classics.

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

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