The album review continues with the third song, “Being Followed.”
Musicality/Instrumentation: This song reminds me of the darker relative to Blame the Machines. Both of them are dark, in nature, based on their topics. Blames the Machines seems to be about how machines control us and this one seems to be about being stalked. Both of them could be unnerving, unsettling. Yet, Blame the Machines doesn’t feel that way because it is so upbeat, musically. This song, on the other hand, feels very different. While it still is a “fast” song, the instruments that float to the surface are more bass and guitar rather than pop-filled keyboards. The first time I heard this snippet I commented on the fact that it was clear instrumentation was involved. It wasn’t all computers but real instruments and these instruments do quite a job to create a mood that matches the lyrical content of the song. It starts out with some sort of sound that seems to be something spinning, which is quickly followed by the instruments. Why include something that sounds like it is spinning? Is that to show a person’s “wheels turning in his/her head” as the paranoia sinks in. Then, of course, towards the end of the song, the music shifts. It slows down and includes something like a whistle sound or something that is also spinning over and over again. Then, the music builds back up to a greater urgency to dive into the chorus with the inclusion of a siren that gets louder and louder as the song comes to an end. Clearly, the music works really well to create and reinforce this mood of paranoia and of being unsafe.
Vocals: I love how Simon’s vocals change subtly throughout the song to match the words and mood of the song. For example, his voice is darker during the verses, which makes me think of songs like Nightboat, off their first album. Then, I love that there is greater passion during the musical interlude of sorts towards the end of the song. When he sings that he is “calling out”, he really is. I have always appreciated the way that Simon is able to convey feelings by not only his words but also his voice and this song is a good example of that.
Lyrics: While this song is fairly straightforward and easy to understand, I do have to wonder where the inspiration really came from, especially in a day and age of things like Twitter where you “follow” people. Is this song, lyrically, in the same vein as Be My Icon, as in the band is being stalked? Is it about being a celebrity like Pop Trash Movie discusses or something that could happen to anyone, no matter their celebrity status? I don’t know. What I do know is that I love the line: “Paranoia, the only valid point of view.” What is he really saying here? Is it okay to feel unsafe? Is that the “normal” thing now? Despite being clear, the lyrics still make me think.
Production: Overall, I feel like the production was solid in this song. I appreciate the beginning spinning sound and love the addition of the siren. These additional little pieces could always feel too much or that the song is trying too hard to be something. Yet, these are subtle and work to add on to the feel of the song. The mix seems solid as well.
Overall: This song doesn’t create happy-go-lucky feelings but it creates a mood and doesn’t let up. In fact, it adds on by the musical change towards the end of the song. This works to create an intense song listening experience, but one that is filled with solid instrumentation and lyrics that match. It will definitely appeal to those people who can appreciate the darker elements of life.
Musicality/Instrumentation: What strikes me most about this song is that it’s not really written in a normal “Duran Duran” or “rock and roll” key signature. It’s almost unsettling and anxious sounding – which given the nature of the song, I believe is the intention. It’s taken me quite a few listens to grow comfortable with both the key and the way the instruments play off of one another – growing to a fervor about 2/3 of the way through the song when the chord suddenly changes to what I believe is a harmonic minor. If I weren’t unsettled before, this section is downright unnerving…with a siren climbing in volume in the back. One thing that also strikes me about this song is that while the synths are definitely there, they really aren’t a standout – nor is any other instrument. You may hear one over another for a brief period, but I don’t think we’re meant to really discern one instrument from another….they’re meant to create a type of anxious atmosphere, which they accomplish very well.
Vocals: Several times during this song, I felt as though Simon was channeling Luciano Pavarotti…the opera background really came in handy on this one. There are also times that his vocals remind me, for some reason, of Careless Memories. His voice sounds strong, and I’m equally impressed that he handles the key change towards the end of the song so well. I have to wonder what this will sound like live and if it’ll sound as easily carried off as it does here.
Lyrics: They are certainly haunting…and you have to wonder what got Simon’s creative energy flowing in this direction. Was it the fans? *gasp* When you read the lyrics, it’s pretty easy to assume the song is about his celebrity to some extent, but is it really? Once again I find myself second guessing the obvious…and in this case I really don’t know yet. The lyrics fascinate me enough just by reading them, but then when we get to the last 1/3 of the song and the siren kicks in the background and the key of the song completely changes…I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about, but I suppose that’s the point…to create paranoia. It worked Simon. 🙂
Production: there is a great sense of balance in this song, and with the key changes, the siren and just the feeling of controlled chaos – I can certainly see where it would have been very easy to allow the production to completely overrun the sound. It’s mixed very, very, well – with a delicate balance given to both instrumentation and the fun extras so that the song still sounds like it could have very been easily recorded from a live performance. I really can’t find fault in this area, and with this song, I really believe it would have been very easy to make a misstep.
Overall: Mechanically, I feel as though the song was done very well. I have a difficult time with the anxious nature, and admittedly – that’s me – not the music. They were going for a very specific mood with this song, and they’ve certainly achieved it. One could scoff at the paranoia and say that they’re trying to be dark when they really don’t KNOW dark – but I would disagree. Duran Duran is very capable of creating dark and atmospheric music, of which this is a prime example. It’s not one of their “fun and happy” moments filled with frivolity, but it provides good balance on an album that could truly be dismissed as being all fun and happy if they wanted. Balance is good!