I reiterate that I believe Pressure Off is one of the best Duran Duran radio-ready singles in DECADES. In saying that, I think fans need to understand a few things:
Singles need radio time in order to compete as a hit.
People still listen to radio. I know, I know… you don’t listen to top 40…you don’t listen to internet radio…you only do Spotify…so on, and so on. Good for you. Here’s the thing: the band doesn’t have to market their music to you and I, because we probably ALREADY BOUGHT IT. It’s the other 7 and a half billion people (approx!) in the world that they need to hear their music. In order to get it heard, they’ve got to get it out to land radio, internet radio, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music…etc. etc. Even YouTube! People have to hear the music over and over in order to learn to love it and buy it.
Radio singles are not always the most engrossing songs on an album, and aren’t necessarily the songs that fans are most drawn to.
A lot of times, a song is reworked for radio in order to get it played. Do I need to remind everyone the Kershenbaum remixes for Rio? If I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a fan say that they love the deeper cuts off of the Duran albums and that they wished they’d play those types of songs live instead of all the hits, I’d be able to afford platinum VIP at every single show and then some! The point is, we’re hardcore fans. I think singles, for the most part, are the tool to get the other people interested. Once you’ve whetted that interest, you are either just going to stick with the surface or you’re going to dig in a little deeper and find the music that really defines the band for the rest of us. I don’t personally think it’s any surprise that a lot of fans scratch their heads in wonder at the singles that have been chosen over the years. Again, if I had a dollar for every fan that thought Falling Down was a poor choice for a single, I’d be rich. Yes, I know that once upon a time Rio, Hungry Like the Wolf, Is There Something I Should Know, etc, etc were all singles that had heavy radio rotation and we all loved them. We were also (mainly) kids back then, and our tastes are what defined what was on the radio. We were the golden demographic, so to speak. Things have changed since 1984.
It is a VERY different world, both on radio and off, in 2015… from 1984.
We didn’t have internet during my formative years, we didn’t have satellite radio, and we certainly didn’t form opinions on bands or videos from watching YouTube. We watched MTV, we listened to land-based radio, and we had brick and mortar record stores to spend hours wandering and listening within. Now we have a 24-hour news cycle, and information is literally at our fingertips. There is no such thing as downtime, from the moment we wake until the time our heads hit the pillow. If you’re like most people, your phone is beside you at the ready, should anything pressing happen at 3am. Nothing holds our interest for very long these days. It used to be that a band could release a single like Pressure Off and then allow it to “stew” for months, getting radio time, having videos up on MTV…and charts would respond accordingly. Top 40 radio played what we liked. I remember stations like KROQ, KIQQ, and even KIIS FM here in Los Angeles…they ALL had DD on heavy rotation, and even when they weren’t playing DD, they were playing music I knew and loved.
The music that you and I listened and loved in 1984 is not music that would get much airtime today on a typical (top 40) radio station.
I don’t think it’s any surprise that just about the time I really stopped enjoying the music on top 40 radio that I was nearly out of my twenties. No longer do my tastes, or those of my peers, dictate what is being played. The band has really had quite a challenge in front of them, trying to get air play in an ageist world where radio has already decided they are not the right demographic. How can they stay relevant and STILL remain true to themselves, their longtime fans, and their musical history?
Do you all remember Red Carpet Massacre? From the first listen to Night Runner, I was thoroughly convinced that the band was trying incredibly hard to fit into a space that they really had no business owning. I saw them playing Night Runner more than once, and their discomfort was palatable. It never felt like the band was completely comfortable with the music; in turn, I was never comfortable with much off that album (although there are still songs such as The Valley that are outstanding). I remain incredulous that they choose Timbaland as a producer. I still feel that the songs he produced are among the weakest on the album. I was (and am!) public with my scrutiny, and I took massive heat on a few message boards at the time for doing so. “How can you call yourself a fan?”…”You have to stop expecting the band to remake Rio”…”They are trying to remain relevant, why don’t you support that?”…and my favorite, “Maybe you just don’t get modern music.” (Maybe not!!)
I can accept a lot of that scrutiny. The band was trying to be a little more urban, so to speak. They took a great risk, musically. They wanted to glean a little of that modern music attitude from Timbaland and Timberlake. Maybe they got what they wanted out of that album, and maybe they realized that while it was a great experiment, they are better off in another direction. I don’t know and I don’t claim otherwise. It’s all part of their ongoing narrative. Oh, and maybe I just don’t get modern music. Definitely.
The funny thing is, I’ve been reading Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve read and responded to comments on our YouTube review. (Yes, it’s long. It’s unabashedly Amanda and I. We had fun with it which is why it works!) Some of the very same people who took great pleasure in flaming me on various message boards back in the days of Night Runner and RCM are among the people that are openly panning Pressure Off…for a lot the very same reasons I knocked Night Runner.
“They’re trying too hard to be on radio.”
“It’s not intricate enough, too simple. Too plain”
“It’s not a good first single”
“It doesn’t sound like Duran Duran”
Some fans have even compared Pressure Off to songs off of RCM in that the band still hasn’t learned their lesson, and continues to try way too hard to create a hit single rather than just writing music they want to write. That criticism would be far more respected (by me) if it weren’t for the fact that some of these same fans openly applauded Night Runner and RCM when it was released.
So about the complaint that Pressure Off doesn’t sound like Duran Duran…I have an experiment to try. Put Pressure Off in a playlist and listen on random like this one here. (Thanks @expired_data!)
I can accept that argument for a song like Night Runner, at least to some extent because the typical Duran Duran instrumentation definitely isn’t there, and aside from hearing Simon’s voice, there really isn’t a lot to that song that makes it Duran Duran. In the case of Pressure Off? Listen to Notorious for the guitar. Listen to All You Need is Now for the keyboards and other production aspects. Listen to Astronaut for the clear vocals during the verses, and listen to just about ANY Duran Duran song from 1982 onward for stacked harmonies in the chorus. Those elements, among many, many others, make Pressure Off a Duran Duran song.
Ultimately though, Pressure Off is the first single off of an album that most of us haven’t even heard. Of course it’s OK not to like a particular song – Daily Duranie would among the very last to say otherwise. As Simon himself said on a previous Katy Kafe, they want Paper Gods to be heard by listeners beyond the core fan base. They need us: the hardcore, long time fans, to help bring this album to the masses. We may not immediately fall in love with everything on it, but I’d be very careful not to write the entire album off due to one song. As with most DD albums, I’d guess that the real gems, particular for long time fans, are yet to be discovered.