In Review: Drowning Man

This week, we are going to dive deep into the waters of Drowning Man. Hmm. That sounds…not right. Regardless, you get the point.

The fourth track on The Wedding Album was released as a single to clubs in America in 1993. The single also had 12” promo releases in the UK and Italy. The song was produced by John Jones, and to be fair – there is a list of remixes for this song that is as long as my arm. For this review though, we stick to the version included on the album.

Audio

Lyrics

He’s sinking faster than a drowning man
He’ll grab a hold of anyone he can
Gun in his pocket and a heart of ham
Uncle Sam…
He’s dying faster than a rabid dog
Infect us all now he’s losing blood
Nose for trouble and a soul of rock
Smokey’s man…

Don’t drag me down
I don’t wanna drown
Your going down
(Hay) NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

There’s not much flesh
Just skin and bone
Cheeks sunk deep
Eyes popping wide
Don’t put out a hand to help him
This drowning man will bite it right off
Right off, Right off, Right off..
.

He’s selling faster than a magazine
Infect us all with his TV screen
He’s selling faster than a magazine
Infect us all with his TV screen
He’s selling faster than a magazine
Infect us all with his TV screen
He’s selling faster than a magazine
Infect us all with his TV screen

Don’t drag me down
I don’t wanna drown
Your going down
(Hay) NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

Don’t drag me down
I don’t wanna drown
Your going down
(Hay) NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA

Rhonda

Drowning Man is another one of those sleeper hits – it sneaks up when you’re least expecting, and the next thing you know, you’re tapping your toe and nodding your head. The beat, established by drums and bass of course, is infectious, impossible to ignore, and just as you’re starting to wonder if this is a remix, the song takes off out of the gates with Simon in the lead.

A couple of things stand out, admittedly in hindsight because I wouldn’t have ever noticed in 1993 – is the sampling. There is a sound going on in various parts that sounds incredibly similar to what was heard on the TV Mania album. I have to wonder if the sampling here wasn’t a precursor to what would come later. As a whole, the synthesizer is up front in the mix, although not carrying the melody – it is used to bring the sound together.

It isn’t a surprise that the song was released straight to American clubs, and it is obvious how well it lends itself to being reimagined in all forms through remixes. However, the guitar was underutilized, and unimaginative. For a five-piece band, it just seems as though there should be more guitar. It shouldn’t just be felt, but heard, as a carrier of the melody…which it most assuredly is not. The overall effect is more dance club than radio, but as result becomes lost in the shuffle of the album as a whole.

three cocktails!

Amanda

Where do I start with this song? Do I begin with the instrumentation? The vocals? The lyrics? For me, the instrumentation is the song’s strong suit. It is one of those songs that you cannot sit still for. It is fast paced with a rhythm that cannot be ignored. In fact, it overwhelms the vocals, meaning that I have to stop and listen for them. My mind wants to only focus on the music. I find myself paying particular attention to the keyboards in the beginning of the song and at the bridge about four minutes in. I don’t think I ever gave them much thought before this but as I zeroed in on them, I noticed that they felt like some of the keyboards of Liberty. I so often think that each Duran album is unique and different from the previous one that I don’t even consider that there might be carry over from one to the other. Yet, in this case, it feels like there was. On a different note, I have to acknowledge the guitars on this one. When they pop up, they add to the frenzied feeling of the song but I think there needs to be more or they need to be featured more in the mix to really enhance the musicality. This is a musical miss.

So, what about the vocals and the lyrics? Simon’s vocals are certainly unique on this song. Clearly, he is not trying to be super clear in them, meaning that it is hard for me to catch any of the specific lyrics and difficult for the words to get stuck in my brain. I have to wonder if these less tangible vocals are intentional. Did Duran want the listener to have to really pay attention to hear the message? Did they want to make it something people had to work for? Something hidden? The lyrics, themselves, make me think this might be true. After all, this is song that is clearly political in nature and about the United States. Is the message hard to reach in order to show that the truth about the U.S. is often difficult to see, to decipher. If so, artistically, that’s cool and could very well be the case.

This song, then, needs to be judged in two different ways. How is it, artistically speaking? How is it in terms of just enjoyment of a song? I have to think it merits more as an artistic statement over a song despite the strong instrumentation. If the vocals were clearer, stronger, I think I would like the song more but I get that it might distract from the message.

Three cocktails for me, too!

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