Obviously, in many ways, Duran’s music is bright and upbeat. After all, this is the band designed to make you party as Simon LeBon still belts out at almost every show. This is the band that wanted to reintroduce color into the music world after the drab black, white and grey world of punk and post-punk. Goodness, I think about videos like My Own Way and how bright and cheerful that seemed with dancing and even a parrot! What other videos come to mind when talking about the cheerfulness of Duran? I guess most people would immediately think of Rio, Save a Prayer and even the Reflex. Rio was pure fun mixed with humor and the Reflex focused on how the band’s performance makes fans happy. Save a Prayer, though very different from the other two, seemed peaceful at the very least. So, what about the lyrics to accompany those positive videos? Did they give the same feeling? My Own Way speaks of independence and a carefree attitude. Rio definitely had that fun vibe, especially when the words, “You make me feel alive, alive, alive,” are sung. Save a Prayer, on the other hand, deals with a one night stand. While it is deemed a “paradise” on one moment, prayers are also needed the morning after. Is that as positive a message? While Duran isn’t advocating violence there or swearing up a storm, they are exactly encouraging monogamy, are they? The Reflex, obviously, is very much left up to the imagination in terms of its meaning. It does speak of a game…so maybe it is all about fun. 😉
How about the rest of the early videos and songs? Were they as positive? The first video that popped in my head was Girls on Film. It is clear in both the video and the song that it is focusing on the exploitation of female models. I don’t see a lot of bright there even when Simon sings, “I’m shooting a star”. He might be shooting a star but an unhappy one at that. Careless Memories is rather dark and deals with a breakup and a bad one at that. Whenever gun violence is mentioned, it ceases to be bright and happy. Nightboat was clearly supposed to be scary as the band, for the most part, gets overtaken by zombies or something like zombies. Anyone Out There touches on loneliness and rejection. Friends of Mine focuses on betrayal and even asks the question, “Why don’t they drop the bomb”. Again, that does not scream happiness and light to me. Maybe some people want to argue that the albums that followed were more upbeat. While I can think of examples of songs on Rio that are happy and positive, I can also think of New Religion or The Chauffeur, which seems dark to me.
What about recent albums? Yeah, songs like Sunrise are upbeat. What Happens Tomorrow is absolutely positive. Still Breathing seems less so. What about Bedroom Toys? Where is the positive message in that? What about the songs off Red Carpet Massacre and All You Need is Now? Red Carpet Massacre is anything but positive. Skin Divers seems kinda naughty to me. Dirty Great Monster deals with sexual abuse. Even songs that are more upbeat have a twist to them. Tempted may get people moving but it also refers to the devil tempting someone. As far as AYNIN goes, yes, the title track is very positive and gives a really good message. Does Leopard, though? That seems to be about obsession. What about songs like Other People’s Lives, which absolutely is a commentary on society and the joy people seem to experience by watching celebrities crash and burn.
I guess my point here is simple. Duran is much more complex than simply being positive or negative. I, for one, appreciate that they make me think and that there is often way more than what is on the surface of a song, a video, a product of theirs. They seem to touch on humanity and everything that comes with being human. Do I think that Duran advocates a very straight and narrow lifestyle? Absolutely not. Even the songs and videos that are fun seem to have something extra to it to make people think. As for how they make us, the fans, feel, they can and do bring joy into our lives (most of the time). I suggest, though, they do this through honesty and analysis of people and what makes them tick, which is way more complex than a simple good/bad, positive/negative dichotomy.