Wedded to MS Paint

Duran Duran Singles Ranked, 11-20

Top 20! This segment contains a good mix of hits and excellent singles that didn’t chart (my top ten has only one single that didn’t chart, I think). It also doesn’t contain the Bonus Track, “Anyone Out There.” I am unhappy about this – “Anyone Out There” was a single in Brazil but it was not listed in either of my two primary source for identifying singles (Wikipedia) and I missed it at my secondary source for singles (Discogs). I noticed it in the singles column of the Wikipedia entry for Duran Duran and sort of threw up my hands. Something similar happened (twice) when I was writing about The Police and I was hacked off for a week.

Let’s leap right in.

Bonus Track: Anyone Out There

From 1981’s Duran Duran, Brazil Single Only

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

Fine, fine, this was released as a single and I missed it.  Here it is.  Had I included it on my list, I think it would have ended up in the 30-50 range.  It’s a fine song, but it’s not necessarily one that sticks with me very long after listening to it.  Maybe it would if I’d spent a month listening to it like I did with every other song on this list.  I’m just going to go weep now.

20. Friends of Mine

From 1981’s Duran Duran, Video Promo

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

One of my favorite things about this project is becoming reacquainted with songs that I used to love but had long since forgotten.  The moody “Friends of Mine” was, I believe, a frequently played song on my local college station (WXCI, Western Connecticut State University) and I grew to enjoy it pretty quickly.  When I listen to early Duran Duran, I still can’t completely believe they ended up becoming international superstars.  I quite like their music (as you’ve surely surmised) but so much of it is brooding and inscrutable.  I get it, they’re good-looking men (to this day) but there were plenty of good-looking men playing much poppier music.  Maybe it was the fact that they were making memorable videos at the dawn on MTV or maybe they just projected a sort of cool factor.  Listen to their early 80’s songs and ask yourself if those songs could have been huge hits in any other group of years than 81-85.  Strange times and I was lucky enough to be a teenager.  I feel like I was ridiculously spoiled by the musicians of my youth.  They were, indeed, friends of mine.

19. Leave a Light On

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

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

The last and loveliest song on this list from All You Need Is Now.  Nick Rhodes’ keyboard line is irresistible – its sounds entirely artificial and achingly warm at the same time.  There was a backlash against the synthesizer in the early 80’s – many rock album proudly bore “no synthesizer” stickers back then.  It was a mark of pride the way “no backing tracks” would be considered a bit of a mark of pride now.  Now, our society is very comfortable with the range of whirs and beeps that you can create through circuits, code, keys and electricity.  A superficial reading of the lyrics suggests that this is a love song about somebody staying home and waiting for a wanderer (the song’s narrator) to return.  This is, of course, a common theme for rock musicians, but Duran Duran sound especially earnest and this song is moving and catchy.

18. Too Late Marlene

From 1988’s Big Thing, Brazil Single Only

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

I heard this song one or twice in the 80’s and didn’t pay much attention to it, but holy cats, its fantastic.  Best song on the very underrated Big Thing.  Le Bon goes into “Heard it Through The Grapevine” vocal territory on occasion in the verses.  The backing vocals on the chorus are great.  Rhodes’ keyboard work is filled with hooks and fabulous.  And John Taylor’s bass work?  Both he and drummer Sterling Campball take this mid-tempo pop song and make you want to dance anyways.  Who dances to mid-tempo pop?  Heck, I will.  I will right now.  The song sounded amazing live back in the day but its unlikely they’ll ever play it again – the last time they did was on the Big Thing tour in 1989.  Tragic!

17. Nice

From 2004’s Astronaut, Third Single

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

I’ve placed Astronaut‘s two best songs in the 11-20 range.  “Nice” is just about as perfectly a crafted pop song as Duran Duran ever recorded.  It deserves to be treated like one of their finest songs even if the title is a little off-putting.  Nice?  Really?  This is a song about feeling nice?  I mean, what?  But it works, it totally works.  It started with the chorus sung through what I assume is a vocoder.  No, really, that’s what it sounds like.  But I swear it works.  Duran Duran allegedly once said their goal was to combine punk rock with Chic-style disco.  I’m not sure they ever really nailed the punk rock thing, but between the rhythm section of Taylor and Taylor and the rock instincts of the third Taylor, they creating a perfect blend of disco and hard rock on this one (though disco ultimately wins, to everyone’s joy).  Some of my favorite 21st century bands (Franz Ferdinand springs to mind) embrace this sort of sound and I can’t get enough of it.  I promise, it works, praise Hathor, Egyptian goddess of music.

16. The Reflex

From 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Third Single

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

I was originally going to rank “The Reflex” much, much lower on this list, but then I heard them perform it live last month and suddenly realized I really genuinely love this stupid song.  As regular readers know, Big Dumb Songs are sort of my thing.  Duran Duran has no shortage of these songs (which may be why I’ve grown to love them so much as I’ve gotten older) but “The Reflex” is surely the biggest and dumbest.  It was an enormous hit for Duran Duran, which must have been something of a surprise at the time because typically the third single from an album wasn’t that record’s biggest hit.  It features that annoying/endearing “why-y-y-y-y” business in the choruses that can make you want to murder your radio or sing along depending on your mood from day-to-day.  And the production?  It sounds like they just turned every knob up to ten.  What’s it about?  Shhh.  Shhh.  It doesn’t matter.  No really, what’s it about?  Shhhh.  I don’t ever want to know.  Don’t tell me.  I just know it leaves me answered with a question mark.

15. Too Much Information

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

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

I do love self-referential songs by bands, its true.  Thematically, “Too Much Information” reminded me of George Michaels’ “Freedom 90” in that they’re both songs by MTV icons about the drawbacks of being a video star.  In 1993, I wasn’t especially fond of “Come Undone” and “Ordinary World,” but I fell for this song instantly.  “Too Much Information” wasn’t a big hit on the US top 40, but Duran Duran got a bunch of alternative music airplay off of this track (I thought “welcome back, lads).  I also loved watching a video with the line “destroyed by MTV’ getting airplay on MTV.  Somehow very satisfying.

14. Someone Else Not Me

From 2000’s Pop Trash, First Single

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

Duran Duran’s 30th single was the only single from Pop Trash.  Despite the fact that it was just about their finest song in a decade, it barely registered on the charts on either side of the Atlantic – a disastrous showing that led to all future singles from the album being cancelled.  Bad form, music buying public.  This is a lovely ballad about realizing you and the person you love aren’t really meant to be together.  Le Bon’s voice is simply beautiful on this, particularly when he slips effortlessly into his falsetto.  The video was the first one created entirely via Flash Animation, if you can believe that.  The guitar solo on this song is arguably Cuccurullo’s finest contribution to any Duran Duran song – it’s a classic rock style weeping solo that elevates the song.  He was amicably released from the band after this album so they could reunite with Andy Taylor (who then left) and its kind of a shame that he never came back.  Their songs weren’t always hits, but he seemed to know where Le Bon and Rhodes are coming from.  Alas!

13. A View To A Kill

From the Soundtrack to the 1985 film A View To A Kill, First Single

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

Duran Duran’s other US #1 and I think it’s the second James Bond theme I’ve ranked – the other was Madonna’s terrific “Die Another Day” (also #13 coincidentally).  If ever there was a match of film series to band, this was it.  Roger Moore 80’s Bond movies were big, stylish and loud but not necessarily critically acclaimed.  Guess who else was stylish, loud and not necessarily critically acclaimed!  Composer John Berry was intimately involved with crafting this song and his arrangement and orchestral sections helped make this a fine coda to the original Duran Duran line-up which split up (until 2001) soon after finishing this track.  This song was #1 the week that Duran Duran played Live Aid, which is pretty cool for them.

12. (Reach Up for The) Sunrise

From 2004’s Astronaut, First Single

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

This is the best song from Astronaut despite the fact that it really doesn’t sound finished.  Disco beats, thick guitar riffs, a great Le Bon vocal (the chorus features one of his finest performances) and Nick Rhodes’ keyboard tying the whole room together.  I say that it doesn’t sound finish because I feel like there should be a bridge and another chorus instead of a fade out at the end.  Indeed, when they played it in Honolulu, that spot in the song turned into a quick (and pleasing ironic) visit to the chorus of “New Moon On Monday.”  This song was a shocking (to many) enormous hit for the band in 2004.  In the US, it wasn’t as huge a hit but I think most people know it because it was used on Queer Eye For The Straight Guy at the time.  Loved that show, love this song and might love you, depending on who you are.

11. Girls On Film

From 1981’s Duran Duran, Second Single

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

That’s the safe for work version of the video.  That means there’s no nudity.  It does, however, feature an image of a black man dressed as a horse being ridden by a white woman dressed as a cowboy.  Holy cats, 80’s, how did I not notice you were so casually racist?  White privilege and youthful stupidity, to answer that question. Of course, the band as also exploiting topless women to get airplay, so I’ll also mentioned that I didn’t notice the 80’s were both casually and in-your-face sexist too.   I’m amazed I survived into my 20’s.

The uncensored video got a ton of airplay on Playboy TV and it was so salacious that my whole circle of friends sought it out.  Seriously, the video was a really big deal at the time and the band received a ton of attention for it.  As it happens, it’s also a great song that firmly establishes the classic Duran Duran sound (stabbity guitar notes, long chords, funky dance rhythms and that almost dissonant harmony singing that was almost the band’s trademark at first.  The song was not a major chart hit in the USA, but was a huge hit none the less.  The time’s they were a-changin’.

Coming Soon: Only two post-1990 songs in the top ten.

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

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