Last week, my posts centered around summarizing the year-end Katy Kafe’s with each of the band members. During the Kafe with John, time was spent discussing the reception of Paper Gods, both by the universe-at-hand (as it was categorized as Pop on iTunes) and by fans (in the discussion of how the band knows who they are at this point, and how the fan base seems to have responded to the album, whether positively or negatively).
I offered my own take from observing the fan base over the past five years (while blogging). It seems to me that there is definitely a faction within (the core fans) that feel that unless the band is following through with the sounds of the first few albums, they are not being true to themselves. In saying that, I am completely aware that not all fans feel that way. I myself do not feel that way, but that doesn’t change that the feeling exists, and all one needs do is see some responses to the album on Duran Duran’s own Facebook page. Time and space did not really allow for any hypothesizing possible reasons for that feeling here on the blog, although we were offered a few justifications by fans on Twitter that are worthy of discussion.
To summarize, the feedback is simply that the challenge Duran Duran have before them (with regard to fans) is that many have stopped listening to new music. They listen to what they enjoyed while growing up without challenging themselves to expand their knowledge. So the expectation is that Duran Duran will continue to sound like Duran Duran.
To begin with, I don’t think this opinion is necessarily incorrect. I may not necessarily share in the final summation, but I think that for many fans – they’ve just stopped listening to other music. Why is that? Well, let’s be honest: it takes real work and time to stay current. For the vast majority of Duran Duran fans, they’ve hit middle age. They’re busy with careers, families, children…even grandchildren.
For “fun”, I’ll use myself as the example. On any given day, I get up no later than 6:45, rush to get ready and get downstairs. I make coffee and then I write the blog as quickly as possible. I feed my cats, my dog, start laundry, and then I get my two kids who are still living at home up so that we can begin teaching (I homeschool if you haven’t caught on to that previously). For the next 4-6 hours, I’m trying to be a teacher while still sneaking glances at my phone to make sure the blog hasn’t blown up, there’s no “news” to report, there are no emails that need response, etc. While I suppose I could write while listening to music, I typically don’t – I’m one of those that likes it dead quiet until the caffeine takes effect. I can’t listen to music while teaching is going on because it would be pandemonium, and even while my youngest is working on projects or assignments – music tends to act as a distraction more than a help, and if I’m on earbuds, that is just begging for her to get up and wander away. After school, I’m typically running kids to their various activities – I suppose I could listen in the car, but if you’ve read my blogs recently then you know that my youngest thinks I’m her personal DJ while we’re driving. I do what I can, though, even if it’s just 15 minutes listening to the radio. Then I’m home to make dinner, clean up from dinner, get the youngest to bed, and by then I’m ready to drop. The last thing I’m thinking about at 9:30pm is sitting down to Spotify to “discover” something new, as bad as that sounds. I do my best, even if it’s only for a half-hour of trying out something new on the weekends. To be completely fair, I may have a leg-up on many out there because my kids keep me informed in one way or another. The point still remains that it all takes time, and unless you’re listening to the radio (and your radio station branches out beyond the typical top-40), it is VERY easy to get lazy and stop challenging your ears. It is comfortable to continue listening to the music from the 80s because it is what is known and liked. The effort comes in to play as the comfort zone is left behind for new territory.
So what is really going on there? Well, I liken it to the same way we tend to stop learning. Ever noticed that the older some of our parents get, the more “stuck-in their ways” they seem to get? My in-laws tend to eat at the same four restaurants and they never leave their town. (I wish I were joking. I’m not.) My mom, on the other hand, tends to formulate many of her opinions based on what she hears from peers at the active senior apartment complex where she lives. There isn’t a lot of outside exposure going on the way there might have been when she was young and dealing with a much wider variety of people. Rather than get myself into trouble in case she’s reading – I’ll just say that her opinions are a lot more well-informed by people who think exactly like her these days. The older we get, the slower the flow of the “information faucet”. The pipe becomes corroded, and the stream slowly narrows to a steady drip. The same natural process occurs with music, if allowed.
So what does one do to keep themselves out of a musical rut? Well, in the very same way that my mom was told by her doctor that she should do mental puzzles like crosswords or practice the piano to keep her mind limber, it would seem that one should take time to exercise their ears and music-appreciation portions of the brain. This is much of the reason why I revel when a band member mentions new music that they’re enjoying. It cuts out a lot of my work, to be honest, because instead of searching through the “new discovery” area of Spotify, I go straight to the search box and type in whatever was mentioned. That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily going to love what they enjoy – but it does mean that at least I have a starting point. For example, I spent time last week listening to Julia Holter – an artist that John mentioned in his Kafe last week. I also gave Tame Impala and even The Weeknd another try, both mentioned by band members last week. Music is a lot like food in that sometimes, one must expose the taste buds to the new flavor several times before it’s really enjoyed, and then other times – its instant euphoria.
Another possibility comes by way of streaming, like Apple Music, Spotify, or other applications. They each seem to have their own “discover new music” platform. My sister Robin raves about the new groups she’s found through Apple Music’s suggestions. Granted, she spends all day working with earbuds planted in her ears these days, but even she utilizes what is out there to keep her ears lubricated with new sounds, and to be honest: she is much better about it than I am.
I don’t think it matters how we keep our ears exercised, limber and young, as long as we try our best to keep challenging ourselves. Even Paper Gods gave me that challenge. At first, I struggled with the new sounds. I wasn’t sure. I definitely didn’t get it right away. I refused to give up, and I am thankful I didn’t. I appreciate the album far more as a result, and to be honest: I needed the exposure to something new. It was a good kick-in-the-pants for me.
Many may sit back, read this post and figure that they’re happy with what they’ve got. They don’t NEED new music. Fair enough. Far be it from Daily Duranie to argue about expanding one’s musical tastes beyond Duran Duran. That said, I don’t think those people can seriously be disappointed or upset with the band for expanding their OWN musical genre beyond what was popular in 1981, 1985, 1993 or even 2010. It would make as little sense for Duran Duran to continue rewriting exactly what was on Rio as it would for any 45-year-old to continue wearing parachute pants, banana (hair) clips or bomber jackets. Some might, but that doesn’t make those people particularly interesting – merely just throwbacks to a time that has already passed. Why would we want that for Duran Duran?
So your homework from me this week is to get out there and listen to something new!! When you find something of interest: post it here, on Facebook, on Twitter or even on our Daily Duranie message board (link is up above you in the navigation menu!) for anyone and everyone else to try!