Are they really Paper Gods?
So many times now, I’ll see fans refer to Duran Duran as the Paper Gods. In theory, I know what they mean. I had their posters as my wallpaper too, and yeah, I definitely worshipped them. They were the Kings of Everything to me. I hadn’t met them, knew nothing of substance about them except their music, and yet, they were everything that mattered. Sound familiar?
Here we are now, some thirty-five or even forty years later, and they’ve been graced with the moniker from one of their own albums – The Paper Gods. Fans hear, “bow to the Paper Gods” and assume it must mean the band. I can certainly see how that happened. If you listen to the song, it isn’t hard to draw the conclusion that they must be referring to themselves in the lyrics. I’d argue that the entire album, from Paper Gods to The Universe Alone, is a reasonable snapshot of their full career, at least until present day.
Bow to the Paper Gods
in a world that is paper-thin.
The fools in town, are ruling now.
Bleeding from paper cuts
money from headshots
who needs it
On one hand, the point is that paper is thin. It’s fairly destructible by being crumpled, burned, torn, etc. At the end of it all – paper means extremely little. Nick describes it like an origami butterfly that is able to fly away at any point. Butterflies aren’t known for being strong. Their wings are fragile. It’s like fame in that sense. Besides, even the thickest origami butterfly can also fall from the sky by being shot down or burned at a moment’s notice (I’m feeling violent today I guess?) That hero status is delicate and fragile.
In another way, when you’re a God of Paper – what does that really mean? Are you part of a throwaway culture? Is it really a good thing to consider anything a Paper God?
Or, is the point really that by calling Duran Duran our Paper Gods, by embracing the very thing that the band has tried running from all these years, we’re laughing in the face of the critics? It is an interesting thought. Is it derogatory to refer to them that way?
I don’t think the words I’m about to share are any different from what most fans feel. This band is far deeper than the words on any lyric sheet. They are geniuses when it comes to communicating subtle points through music and lyric (and even the occasional interview!) – their sardonic, sarcastic and dry senses of humor come through even when most people miss it. Simon intentionally writes things that most see as fairly obvious, when in fact it may mean anything but. It is creative, smart, and quite honestly has kept me intrigued for nearly forty years, along with many other people.
I don’t know for sure what Duran Duran really intended when they wrote Paper Gods, or when they titled the album or tour that way. In some ways, it is certainly shallow of fans to just shout-out “DD is the best band ever!” whenever DDHQ posts anything at all. However, those words are also demonstrative of how the music world goes ’round. Those fans are a significant part of what keeps the band going. They simply cannot have a league of people who critically question every last detail and get very far.
This band is so much more than just the shallow pinups I taped up on my wall as a preteen. I, along with a legion of others, have spent the better part of the last four decades peeling back the layers. We continue recognizing that through all of the smoke and mirrors, they’re actual human beings. Extremely talented humans at that. I wouldn’t dare tell anyone that they’re not Paper Gods, but to me, that’s merely where they began.