Just a Number on the Metal Fence Which Marks the Great Divide

I’m sure, by now, many of you are aware that Simon is due to perform with Timbaland at the Sound of Change Concert in London today.  This is a concert to benefit an organization focused on the health, education and justice for women and girls worldwide.  Simon discussed the strong women in his life as the inspiration for him getting involved.  If you would like to read the full press release, you can go to dd.com here.  As soon as this was announced, I sat back and watched the reaction closely since Timbaland creates quite a few reactions among Duranies after his involvement and production of some songs on Duran’s 2007 Red Carpet Massacre album.  I didn’t have to wait long before I saw the strong reactions begin along with the speculation that this could lead to further work with Timbaland.  What was my reaction?  Simple.  I had the same sense of dread that I carried around with me for the years surrounding the Red Carpet Massacre project.  While my dread definitely had to do with the fact that I don’t think Timbaland produced quality DURAN songs, it, more importantly, had to do with our fan community.  This concern for the fan community is exactly why Duran should run far away from Timbaland.

I hated the time surrounding Red Carpet Massacre.  Hated it.  It wasn’t a fun time to be a fan.  As soon there was an announcement that the band was working with Timbaland for RCM, fans immediately began taking sides.  On one side was the camp who was excited by the possibility that Timbaland could help bring a more “urban” sound into the Duran catalog and bring possible commercial success with a hit song.  On the other side was the group of fans who felt strongly that Timbaland didn’t understand Duran or how a band worked.  While songs might be created, they wouldn’t have the heart and soul of Duran.  It seemed to me that there were not many fans who fell in between these two sides.  Everyone had an opinion and that opinion was strong and firm.  No matter how much discussion, I rarely, if ever, saw people move from one camp to another.  Instead, the discussions quickly took on the feel of “beating a dead horse”as the conversations were never ending and the same points were being made over and over and over again.  These conversations were tough and people quickly became emotional.  Duran’s music means that much to people, to fans, to Duranies.  The pro-Timbaland side argued that the other side was closed-minded and accused the other side of wanting to trap Duran into the early 1980s with their sound.  The anti-Timbaland crowd, in turn, accused the pro side of not understanding who Duran is and what their music is really like as, clearly, Timbaland wouldn’t fit with who they are, musically.  These accusations, whether stated or not, whether subtle or not, were harsh and often cut people’s Duranie core.  As the debate raged, people dug in their heels.  This was the exact opposite of fun.  It was hard on the fans who had picked sides and it was hard for those few individuals who truly didn’t take a side.  No one was having any fun.  In fact, this lack of fun combined with increased tension in the community and a change in direction, musically, resulted in a lot of people walking away.  It led many fans to drop out, to leave, to no longer care about Duran, including buying albums or going to shows.  I’m sure that there are some of you who think I’m blowing this out of proportion but I saw it.  I saw many fans leave.  I saw many friends of mine leave.  Fandom is supposed to be fun.  If it isn’t, people will go.

Some of these fans who left during the RCM era will never return.  Duran Duran lost fans then.  Some did come back during the last era, however.  All You Need Is Now is the perfect contrast to RCM.  While musically there is much that could be said about their contrast, I, again, choose to focus on the fan community.  There were no sides taken during AYNIN.  For the most part, the VAST majority of fans LOVED AYNIN.  There was no reason to debate or argue in the same way that there was during RCM.  Most, if not almost all, fans agreed that AYNIN was a fabulous album.  This allowed some of those fans who left during the RCM battle to come back.  They saw that the fans could agree and just be happy over a new album.  They were reminded that fandom could be fun again.  It doesn’t always have to be combative or negative, which is what it certainly felt like during RCM.

Is Duran planning to work with Timbaland again?  I have no idea.  None.  No clue.  Simon’s appearance could be just that…an appearance and nothing more.  I hope that is all it is.  I, personally, don’t want to go back to the days of nonstop debate.  I can’t imagine that ANY fan would want a return to that even if s/he did like RCM and Timbaland.  I think those fans who did like RCM and Timbaland have to acknowledge that it was ugly and less fun then so I can’t imagine a desire to return to it.  My fear is simple.  Fans walked away during RCM due to the disagreement over the music but also over the constant debate in the fan community.  They would walk away again.  More fans would leave.  I also suspect that they would leave a heck of a lot faster this time.  Why would anyone want that?  Why would anyone want the band to make a move that would result in a fractured fan community, at best, or a smaller fan community, at worse?  Let’s hope that my sense of dread was for nothing.  Let’s hope this appearance is all there is to it and that we can all go back to looking forward to DD 14.

-A

17 thoughts on “Just a Number on the Metal Fence Which Marks the Great Divide”

  1. I don't think they'll work with Timberland again. AT least on nothing more than a song. They've got Mark now and I'm sure they're fully aware of the reception of RCM among the fans. I think Simon is doing this to have a chance to support the charity he wants to support and it's as simple as that. Celebrities pair up at these kind of events for one time performances all the time and this should be no different.

  2. I agree, I believe it's teaming up for a great cause and not anything more. Sometimes just because we may cringe when we hear the band or Simon in this matter, is teaming up with some one, doesn't mean a collaboration will begin. Just means they both want to bring attention to and support this great charity. Simple.

  3. I did love the RCM era, the album and the tour and I didn't have any reason to leave the fan community: my problem from 2006 on was … ahem .. Peru and still is.
    Speaking of music, looking for a new direction is the right and the opportunity the successful longtime artists have; I wonder if it is always necessary for DD to change their music.
    I'm going to enjoy Simon's performance and to take it for a one-time occasion.

  4. I think RCM was a cool-modern record and many of my friends thought so too. BUT i prefer the work with Mark Ronson waaaay more. I've been a fan since 1982 and i have seen the changes and i have also changed (I'm 41 now) i will probably sing a Duran song before i say goodbye world 🙂 It's for a great cause tonight THE END. //Peter Bluesilver

  5. First of all, GREAT description of the Duranie war of 2007. When you spoke of “beating a dead horse”, Iwas totally transported back to a page on DDM with the “dead horse” emoticon. It made me laugh…but it also made me remember the tension. I was in the middle during the debate. I LOVE D2 (obviously), but I also like rap, R&B, and dance music…so I tried to keep an open mind. PLUS, I wanted this band back in regular radio rotation SO BADLY that I was hoping that Timbaland might be thee magic bullet. WRONG. I remember reading an interview with Timbaland, and he stated that he was surprised when the guys were hauling in REAL instruments. Clue number one that this dude had NO IDEA what this band was about. Here are my thoughts regarding that: 1.) The band saw the possibility of getting back on the charts while making new and different music at the same time. 2.) Duran were a “throwaway” for Timbaland. Just another way to make a little money and slap his name on something. I really feel he used them, and didn't work very hard for them. Not only have the band not talked about RCM very much, but I don't actually hear anything from Timbaland about it either. 3.) I think the fact that the band NEVER plays anything from RCM speaks volumes about how THEY feel about the album and that time period too. As far as the collaboration for the event goes? I'm sure it's probably just a one-off. Look at it this way, Simon collaborated with Luciano Pavarotti once…THEY didn't make an album together, did they? Although, I think there were far more Duranies who liked that performance, and obviously, there was no division over it. I can't imagine WHAT Simon and Timbaland will be doing together at this event, and I admit, I'm a little curious. In another way though, I couldn't care less. Duran have moved on, and they're far better for it.

  6. Those are very good points. I also read that interview from Timbaland. He didn't have the first clue as to how to work with a band that used instruments. Regardless, it was probably a good experience for the band, and I am sure they've all learned something. I know I have. 😀

    I think it was really brave of Amanda to bring this subject up though, and if nothing else it shows that we can have a good discussion, see one another's points, maybe even find common ground and move on. -R

  7. Truly a most toxic subject amongst the fans of Duran. I think you tackled it fairly well, staying focused on the fanbase to keep the old arguments from creeping in. Nicely done. As for AYNIN, I'd tend to agree that a large percentage of the fans were keen because it was new music and it wasn't RCM. I had no excitement for either album. Also, the band had already done “urban” during the Wedding Album ….. I never thought they needed to push beyond that to be relevant. As for my place in duranland, I lost a piece of my love & respect for the band starting with the release of the Single's Box Sets, the Deluxe Remastered album sets, and lastly the 2 forementioned albums. At this point I'm not even interested in a new release from the band unless they can bring it on their own …. NO Mark Ronson for starters. His smoke and mirror production did not due their own talents & magic any justice, it just gave them new songs to tour with and most fans were fine with that as it gave them another chance to see the band live. I skipped this tour hook, line, and sinker as I did with RCM …. and I was okay …. I still am okay. I'm on the wait and see bench and it keeps my out of the craziness that this fan base can whip up in a heart beat.

    Love you girls as always,

    Shawn

  8. I think people liked AYNIN for many reasons more than just “it was new music and it wasn't RCM.” I'm not sure your point about bringing up when you became disinterested in the band. Was that to point out that fans left before RCM?
    I'm sure that many people left before RCM for other reasons, too. There just seemed to be MORE fans at that time, especially in comparison to the number of fans who I know have left after AYNIN (none).

    -A

  9. “I'm not sure your point about bringing up when you became disinterested in the band. Was that to point out that fans left before RCM?”

    It was. I'm a fan of the music before anything else and the music hasn't been as weighted and fun as it once was for me. RCM and AYNIN sound more like field testing to see what works and what doesn't …. and yes, it is experience for them as well as the fans. I don't think that all fans participate in the forums or on websites which makes gauging total fan reaction a bit difficult. RCM was empty and unfinished to me and I say that using my long experience with the bands music prior to it. It had the opportunity to be something more and it never made it there. As for AYNIN, I don't think the band needed Mark Ronson, what they needed was to believe in themselves and their collective talent. RIO did NOT need a sequel. There isn't anything on AYNIN that you couldn't find on any other prior album, except RCM. They reused old ideas with different music, nothing more.

    To me, Duran Duran was never just a band. It was an idea, a feeling, something that was unique to it's creators strong collective expression. Now it's like a touring roadshow of what was, not what could be. I am certainly not the only fan to feel this way. RCM was the greatest experiment that never should have been but was. The recent charity event was obviously a great photo & PR op for the band but those fans who wandered back in after RCM won't look upon Simon & Timbaland sharing the stage fondly due to the disappointment it evokes.

    Shawn

    XX

  10. I'm not Amanda, but I'm going to respond here anyway. 😀

    I find myself nodding to much of what you're saying here, Shawn. I think back to Astronaut and RCM to begin with – and while Astronaut didn't bother me, it wasn't their best work. It was forced and even unnatural. Even lyrically, it just didn't sound like the writing I once knew. Of course looking back I can see all of that much clearer than I could at the time, but I remember sitting with friends who told me that Simon's writing wasn't the same and I thought they were crazy. Well, they probably weren't. We have incredibly high standards from the past to look at and compare.

    I agree that RCM was more like a field test than anything else…and to a smaller extent, I do see your point with AYNIN. I realize that other fans like it – I'm not at all surprised that some do, but to me it was incredibly disjointed, unfinished, and without a soul. It was like they just threw it out there to see what it would do, and it was a serious left turn from what they'd done prior. That in and of itself didn't make it bad…it just didn't make good sense, and I think they probably get that now. Hindsight is a funny thing that way. I'm really not sure if it actually HAD potential as a whole – I think a few of the songs on the album did, but they were still not refined the way they should have been before being released. Timbaland didn't do them ANY favors on that album. You listen to other work of his, work he's done for Justin Timberlake in the past and even recently – and the proof that Timbaland just threw Night Runner and Skin Divers together for them is right there. It's pretty pathetic, actually. No thought, no artistic vision…just a track done in a big ass hurry so he could get paid.

    As for AYNIN and Mark Ronson – here's the thing: they pay a producer to guide the work. I fervently believe that at the time they recorded AYNIN, that's EXACTLY what they needed Mark to do. They needed someone to breathe life into them (I think the RCM experience knocked the wind right out of them), and they needed to be reminded that they can have fun again. I also think Mark did his job in trying to bring them back to basics so that they could then move forward from that point. While you might feel that AYNIN was a field test, I think I see it more as them trying to nice with where they came from as well as where they wanted to be headed. Was it “safe” for them? Sure. Absolutely. I don't think that there is anything truly groundbreaking or unique on that album, and yes – there is no arguing that they reused old ideas. I really think though that you have to see it more as an exercise on their part to get back on track and remember why they're a band and why they do what they do. I think that's why I chose to embrace it – because it was as much about reminding us as fans as it was themselves, and yes – I really do believe that in a large part, the fans NEEDED that reassurance from them. I know I did.

    Currently, they aren't even really working much with Mark, at least not like they were on the last album. I believe he's been with them in the studio for their early days recording, but they seem to be doing much of the writing on their own – and they've even backed away from saying that Mark is producing the entire album at this point. Someone caught up with Mark when he was in Korea (I believe it was Korea) and he said that he hadn't even heard some of the stuff they'd worked on lately. I think they've got a lot of that confidence back, and I think they know what they are capable of creating. I don't have the foggiest idea of what they'll end up with, but I just hope that they use their talent and believe in what they can do as a collective unit – that will get them much farther than any collaboration with any artist or producer ever will. -R

  11. Still more from me on this one…

    I agree with you, Duran Duran was much more than just a band to me – and I think that if you ask any fan, they will say something quite similar. I have heard over and over again from MANY fans out there that they are very tired of the setlist used for the last several tours because it's a framework of the old standards that we all know mixed in with a few of the songs off of whatever current album they've got out. It's extremely formulaic and for those of us who have been around for any length of time – yes, it's boring. They've got their work cut out for them these days because not only do they have to please the people who come out to their show just to hear their hits from the 80's and say “Oh wow, I remember when I used to dance to this in junior high or high school!”…they have to please us, who have collectively been keeping the fires burning when it wasn't cool to be nostalgic yet. We want the stuff they never play. They have so many songs that they simply “cannot leave off the setlist” any longer that it makes it hard to introduce anything new, or play anything even remotely different unless they play for a few hours…and I hear they aren't into that idea.

    As for Timbaland…I saw that performance yesterday (I watched it on YouTube). I don't think we've got anything to worry about. Simon did an excellent job as he always does…and Timbaland stood there looking completely out of place (and that is me being polite about his role in that song). I'm glad they did The Reflex because it reaffirmed that yes, Simon still has it…and as I always suspected…Timbaland never quite belonged. -R

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