This week, we return to the Notorious album to review “So Misled”. Even though, this song was just an album track, do we think it is a quality song? What are the positives? What are the parts that we thought needed to be changed? Read on to find out!
Rhonda’s Review of So Misled
So Misled begins with a fantastic drum breakdown and then bass enters, creating a great funk. It’s unusual for a Duran song to begin that way, so it interests me immediately. I love the way they’ve got the bass up a little louder in the mix this time, because with the brightness of the horn section, the bass and drums add the right balance. The guitar, while still very present, is not overpowering and again, does not act as a true lead guitar. What I don’t hear much of, which in some ways is almost refreshing, are synthesizers. I know they are there, because there are parts the very beginning where they act as melody, and they do present themselves for a quick instrumental ad lib section just about 2/3 of the way through the song, but for the most part they are way underneath the other instruments, coming out just to highlight.
There are two distinct sets of vocals on this song: Simon’s and those of the backup singers. Simon’s voice is bright and unchallenged, and it blends well with the melody of the song, as well as with the backup singers, which feel a smidgeon overpowering to me. Many times throughout the song I feel as though Simon struggles to be heard over the top. The back up vocals do bring a sort of jazz or R&B element to the song that would likely be missing otherwise, but they just feel a little overpowering at times. I’m not a huge fan of the ad-lib vocals at the end where Simon just hands it to them to finish out, either.
Here’s my main problem with this song: there is literally one full stanza of verse, a chorus, about a half-stanza worth of another verse, and then the chorus along with some ad-libbing jazz vocals at the end. The song feels half-finished and tends to highlight instrumentals and back up vocals, which isn’t a bad thing on it’s own merit, but that doesn’t stop the song from feeling as though it was never quite finished with whatever message it is trying to send. As for the actual lyrics themselves, I think it’s pretty clear that the song is about being mistaken over someone’s intentions, but it’s definitely not a very deep or insightful message. Oddly, other descriptions I’ve seen for the lyric on this song say that it’s about a conversation that a glamorous woman is having with her (dark) alter ego. Personally I don’t think there’s enough lyric here to even draw that from the words, but if that was Simon’s intention, then there you have it. That said, I can’t knock the song for not being deep – after all, this isn’t meant to be Shakespeare, on the same token, compared to other pieces of lyric from this band, I can’t help but feel this song lacks a bit of substance.
I struggle with So Misled. On one hand, I do like the instrumentation. I love the slight jazzy/R&B/fusion feel, and I think the bass line is fantastic. It’s hard to say “No” to any of that. On the other hand, I’m just not a big fan of the loud backup vocals and I don’t think this is Simon’s finest hour when it comes to lyrics either. It isn’t a song that I necessarily skip, but it also isn’t a song I ever seek out to really listen either. So Misled tends to fade into the background.
Like the instrumentation, I feel like there is just too much going on. At times, Simon is on his own with the vocals but there are a lot of times when those backing vocals are present. I don’t mind backing vocals if they enhance the song or the performance but here the purpose seems to be to get attention. Maybe, that attention is needed as the instrumentation of the song somewhat shadows the vocals. It reminds me of my classroom when the kids are working in groups. One group gets loud and the other groups have to either get louder or do something to make music in order to get attention. In the case of the song, more does not always mean better. Frankly, even when it is Simon on his own, I don’t think it is his strongest performance. Perhaps, that is because of the emphasis on repetition or staying at an elevated key. Then, I don’t really need the part with “do do do” and “la la la”. The vocals just don’t work for me.
I have to admit that I have no real idea about what this song is about. The only thing that comes to mind is advertising. Is the purpose of advertising to mislead people into thinking that they must have a product? Of course, there are a couple of lines directly related to advertising: “Saw an advert in a magazine safe it said. With the satisfaction guaranteed to cool your head” Is it about something that seems like an easy cure to something but isn’t, really. No matter the meaning, these lyrics don’t meet my basic standards for great lyrics. Those standards are that the lyrics are either great poetry or move me to think or to feel. These lyrics don’t really make me feel anything and the thinking stops at trying to figure out what they are about. They definitely aren’t the best poetry Simon has ever written. Thus, the lyrics are disappointing.
As I listen to this song, I have to wonder if the main issue isn’t either the production or the mix. It feels like so much of the song is overwhelming. There is so much instrumentation, so much going on with the vocals. It is like each element of the song is fighting for dominance but not in a way that makes me want to listen over and over again. This isn’t about allowing each part to breathe or have space or take turns. It is like they are all fighting to be heard. That said, the song doesn’t bother me, either. I just wish that it was different—less in your face and maybe then the elements could shine.