It’s a little bit late now
Welcome to a brand new week, Duranies. As I sat here pondering what to write about today, (and let me just be honest: I was not prepared in the least for today, and if I had it my way, I’d have called the day off altogether!) I saw that DDHQ had asked social media what they felt was Duran Duran’s funkiest song.
I thought the answer was pretty simple. Of course it’s “Notorious”. After all, Simon pretty much proclaims it at every show when he asks if anyone is ready to dance, and if so what should they play…and then he’ll say something like “Whatever it is, it has to be FUNKY!”…and then they break into “Notorious”. I didn’t have to think hard about it, and started to type when I decided to take a quick scroll through the other answers being offered on Twitter.
Turns out, “Notorious” wasn’t even the most popular answer (at the time), and the answers ran the gamut from “Nite Runner” to “Skin Trade”. All of that had me thinking whether or not I still wanted to go with “Notorious” as my answer. Sure, it was the easiest for me to come up with, but is it really the funkiest? I think that might depend on your definition of funk.
I decided that if I was going to write about funk, I’d better have a decent, formal definition. I pulled the following up from Google:
Funk (noun): A style of popular dance music of US black origin, based on elements of blues and soul and having a strong rhythm that typically accentuates the first beat in the bar.
The definition is a little vague, but the idea is there. The music is danceable. It has a foot firmly in the jazz rule book, but the rhythm and blues current is undeniable and very forward in the music. (meaning it is what your ears notice first. You can’t really miss it.) Even more interesting than noticing just how many Duran songs fit into that box, is realizing that the one element found on every Duran Duran album in some way, shape, or form, is funk!
Even on their debut album, you can hear funk in the bass and in the drums. It is there, even when the other song elements aren’t in that same vein. That effect – the melding of electronic with funk, rhythm & blues and even disco – is likely what made their music so special to many of us, from day one.
It moves me into place
While many fans (including myself) have engaged in discussion over the ever-changing musical fabric with each album, the one element that remains the same is indeed that sense of funk. So often I find myself talking with folks about whether or not I can hear the guitar, or the bass, or even synthesizers, when in fact what I think we should really be discussing is whether or not we still hear that “Duran Duran Funk”.
If we hear it, is it weak or strong? Overpowering? Just the right amount? If it seems absent, how does that make us feel? Do we think something is missing? It is definitely worth a trip down the rabbit hole into the back catalog to see just how important funk is to the Duran Duran musical “brand” and to individual listeners, or fans.
If we can lay this down
Obviously, this concept isn’t new. It wasn’t as though I woke up today with the magic formula for a perfect Duran Duran song. Rather, the idea of just how many songs in their catalog have funk as their elemental backbone gave me something to consider over coffee this morning.
I don’t know if it is really the “funkiest” song in their catalog – but “American Science” has a slow, hypnotic, soul, with plenty of funk to it that I’ve always loved. While the tempo isn’t fast and it certainly isn’t “Notorious”, it has all the elements that make it a song worth many listens.