Our favorite Duran Duran songs — what are yours?
With their snappy outfits, provocative videos, and model-pretty looks, Duran Duran were the It Band of the ’80s. Two decades later, they’re beloved for their eerily beautiful ballads, bracing dance tracks, and funk-inflected pop — still intact on their new album, Astronaut (due Oct. 12 and featuring the original lineup of Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Roger Taylor, and Andy Taylor). Here are 10 choice tracks for the well-rounded Durannie — but be sure to add your our picks to our message board (fans of ”Skin Trade,” be prepared to defend it).
”(Reach Up for) the Sunrise” (Astronaut, 2004) D-Squared return to top form with this polished pop nugget. With a catchy, upbeat chorus reminiscent of ”Hungry Like the Wolf” or ”Rio,” this first single has all the glossy production values and lush synth work of the band’s earlier successes. Even better, the lyrics are as upbeat as the melody, with LeBon’s urgent vocals encouraging us to ”feel a new day enter your life.” Sounds like the perfect attitude for a comeback.
”All She Wants Is” (Big Thing, 1988) Vaguely sinister chanting, jagged drums, and slithery synthesizers brought a techno sensibility to Duran Duran’s new-wave sound. Unfortunately, fans didn’t embrace Big Thing‘s shift away from pop; neither did critics. But try to resist the dance-floor draw of this tune and its sneering, jaded vocals.
”Girls on Film” (Duran Duran, 1981) ”Girls on Film” captures the glossy, funk-inflected sound that propelled the band to stardom. LeBon narrates a sexy fasion shoot, but it’s the three Taylors (bass player John, drummer Roger, and guitarist Andy) who truly drive this single, which sounds as crisp today as it did more than 20 years ago.
”Notorious” (Notorious, 1986) As audiences cooled on new wave, the band went back to basics, replacing synthesizers with a retro horn section and a bassline that seems lifted from a Funkadelic album. While it sounds a little dated today (and way too much like the work of John and Andy’s Power Station bandmate Robert Palmer), time can’t erase that killer hook (”no-, no-, no-torious!”).
”The Reflex” (Seven and the Ragged Tiger, 1983) The band’s penchant for obscure lyrics reaches its apex with ”The Reflex,” who of course ”is an only child, waiting in the park.” (Huh?) But with the maracas’ shimmy and the back-up singers’ ”da-na-na-na,” who really cares? This undeniably catchy number will have you ”dancing on the valentine” in no time. At least we think so.
”Wild Boys” (Arena, 1984) It has the bonus of a surreal, ”Mad Max”-inspired video, but even without the apocalyptic visuals this thundering call to arms proves that the guys who wore puffy shirts and pink lipstick (okay, that was just Nick) had more grit than we gave them credit for. Tribal drums call out a desperate rhythm, and LeBon’s raspy vocals barely suppress rage. This anthem about untamed youth has a beat, and you can riot to it.
”Rio” (Rio, 1982) A boppy slice of summer fun, it’s as sweet as a ”cherry ice cream smile.” A jazzy sax solo underscores the tune’s languid, sultry rhythms. ”Rio” is pop that drips style and sophistication, and LeBon belts it out like a suave Vegas crooner. While it’s the slick video of a hot model aboard a sailboat that you remember, this nearly perfect pop song proves Duran Duran were far more than pretty faces.
”Planet Earth” (Duran Duran, 1981) If you listen to this early hit with headphones on, you can hear the lonely opening drum beat travel from one side of your head to the other. It’s a nifty trick that pulls you into a the song’s plaintive, vaguely alien universe, a place where there’s ”no sign of life.” Despite the high-tech, Gary Numan-esque chill, the band’s fundamental pop sensibility comes shining through.
”Save a Prayer” (Rio, 1982) Any true Duran fan knows that, despite the band’s up-tempo prowess, some of their best songs have been ballads. This melancholy reflection on a one-night stand is haunting (not unlike another Rio classic, ”The Chauffeur”). Rhodes creates a wall of synth work that rivals the ’80s dreamscapes of Roxy Music.
”Ordinary World” (Duran Duran, a.k.a. The Wedding Album, 1993) Just when the band seemed ready for their own ”Where Are They Now?” special, out came a second self-titled album and a surprising comeback. Heartfelt lyrics about living life without regret and seeking out an ”ordinary world” show the band at their most reflective. You may not be able to dance to it, but this song is achingly beautiful.