So, what happens when a music writer with no emotional attachment to Duran Duran and a self-confessed Duranie get in the ring to fight over five of the band’s videos? Let’s find out! Fighting out of the blue corner is Aurora Montgomery, a music writer and musician who has been published by Vice, Bust, and Performer magazines in addition to attending graduate school in music theory. In the pink corner is me. I watched a lot of MTV growing up and spent most of college at Taco Bell.
Up for review: Night Boat, Electric Barbarella, Last Night In the City, The Chauffeur, and Violence of Summer. Why these five? Well, everyone knows the enormous hits from the 80s so Ms. Montgomery is legitimately experiencing these songs and videos for the first time with an open, critical mind whereas I’ve been absorbing them since they came out. How much does fandom influence a fair and balanced critique? Hopefully, today’s battle sheds some light on that.
Ranked from Best to Worst as an entire package so video, music, and lyrics are given equal weight….first up, the resident Duranie:
When a song and video are perfectly in sync, the sum is greater than the parts. Such is the case with “The Chauffeur”. The tension of the video builds slowly, much like the track itself. The director’s sly homage to the Night Porter film adds an aesthetic that is miles away from the naked models wrestling in “Girls On Film”. Whereas that video was designed to shock and garner attention, “The Chauffeur” represents a band clicking on every level.
Filmed in 1982, “Night Boat” shows how far ahead of the curve the band was with the use of video. MTV was still in diapers and here is Duran Duran filming a pretty spooky zombie video that captures the sinister atmosphere of the song. Knowing the Duran story, I find myself viewing the tattered sail boat in this video as a metaphor for the darkness that would engulf the band after conquering the world in “Rio” on what I assume is the same boat.
We have debated this video at length on Daily Duranie but I’m still a believer in it. The band successfully create a retro-modern sound and look that playfully recalls films like Barbarella and Logan’s Run. A guitarist releasing a sex toy of his own “instrument”? Creepy. A video about middle-aged men buying a sexy robot that they cannot control? Camp and fun; much like the early videos where the jokes were on them. The power implied by purchasing an electric barbarella never materializes and they lose control of it. Slightly more sexy than sexist, there are worse videos….
Last Night In the City
Readers of this blog know that I do NOT love this song. I think it’s pop trash of the worst kind. However, credit to Nick Egan for creating a stylish video that enhances the song. In fact, I think I enjoy the song a little bit more now (while still hating it). Seeing Kiesza singing with Simon LeBon puts the chorus in context in a way that I never felt on the album. However, this is a career low point for the band as they try to be contemporary instead of iconic.
Violence Of Summer
When I dreamed up this project, I was pretty sure I would rank this higher. I’ve come to appreciate a lot of Liberty (excluding “Hothead”) over the years. It’s a catchy song but the video hampers it greatly. This is nothing more than a glossy advertisement with no artistic ambition – unless you consider Warren’s abs a work of art. The entire video feels sterile and the song lacks punch. The drums and bass are so far down in the mix that the song has no foundation. Overall, the worst of this bunch and one of their worst videos overall.
And now for the counterpunch….
Duran Duran videos ranked from pretty decent to can that last one get any worse?
Despite a somewhat comical and dramatic two-minute build up, Night Boat was an easy favorite of the five. Musically, it’s the most interesting, and it is surprisingly dark for what I expect from Duran Duran. There are surprising chord progressions, and the instrumentation pairs well with the impending danger of zombies. My only criticism is that the end of the video leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Where did the zombies suddenly disappear to and why? Is the night boat saving the band or leading them further into danger? I wish the night boat had saved me from the videos ranked in fourth and fifth place.
This video is gorgeous, and the music is equally good. Aside from the glance of the chauffeur in the rearview mirror, and his split second apparition in the parking lot, the women seem to exist, dance and dress for themselves, (or for each other in the strange patty cake / parking lot scene). That seems pretty radical for a music video in general, let alone a video from the early 1980s.
This video negates any previous observations about the lack of male gaze in a Duran Duran video. This robot woman exists and dresses solely for them, and from the beginning it was my sincere hope that she would end up murdering the band before the video’s close. The music is cheesy, yet catchy. I can see why it got airplay, but am not sure why a double neck, headless guitar is needed in any musical setting, especially when the music has devolved from the earlier videos.
Violence of Summer
Violence of Summer is an unremarkable and forgettable music video, just like the song itself. It seems to consist of a laundry list of images that are popular in music videos, but lacks any cohesive theme to tie them all together. Whatever imagery was intended to be evoked with the motorcycles, cars, dancing women, and band performance scenes fell short, and was not enough to save this video.
Last Night in the City
I have no idea how or why this video even made the list, Jason. It reminds of a bad movie montage that flashes music and performance shots to show a fictional band’s rise to success. Except hearing this song makes me wonder how this fictional band could ever become successful. Was the band trying to rebrand as an EDM act? It is interesting to note that the music and videos all match each other in the sense that the quality of each get worse in tandem.
So there you have our first edition of Five For Fighting! How would you rank these videos?