I remember the first time I listened to a song from Red Carpet Massacre. It was Night Runner, and boy was I ever shocked. I think I was on the carpet, perched up on my knees in the very room I currently occupy. The evolution from den to nursery to office in ten years is a fairly good indicator of the changes my life has taken during that time, oddly enough. On that day though, I sat up on my heels, listened to the opening notes, and then checked to make sure I was listening to the right band.
Night Runner was unlike anything I’d ever heard from Duran Duran before. Slow but deliberate, and wait, was that falsetto hovering about in the chorus?!? This was not the Duran Duran I thought I knew. Without even looking at the message boards to gauge how other fans felt, I took an immediate and visceral dislike to Night Runner. It was everything, including-but-not-limited-to-Justin-Timberlake, that I hated about music at the time. It was not one of my finest moments as a fan. I cringed every single time I heard it.
Then Skin Divers came along. As I like to say, “they had me until the chorus”. It’s true. Musically, the song was brilliant. If only Timbaland had kept his “wicky-wicky” rapping out of it. Alas. I just did not know what this band was thinking, and with every interview or update where Nick or John would tell us the album was the greatest thing since sliced bread, my sense of dread grew into an ever-hardening pit in my stomach. What were they hearing that I just couldn’t?
When Red Carpet Massacre was released, I was almost relieved because the sense of impending doom was over. It took me time, but I did learn to enjoy “The Valley”, “Red Carpet Massacre”, and even “Last Man Standing”, but I felt like I just couldn’t get on board with the album as a whole. Thank goodness I wasn’t a blogger back then!
At the time, I was just so mad. Like a lot of fans I’ve spoken with in the years since, we felt like the band had completely ditched its original fan base in favor of a younger crowd. I can remember seeing various people scoff at that comment, self-righteous and smug in their fired-off responses. The fact is – that’s kind of how fandom works. Some people really do take it all very personally, and while it can certainly be a double-edged sword, without those types of fans, bands (or just about anything else) don’t make it for long. Loyal fan bases are what carry bands, TV shows, sports teams, and pretty much anything else, through the tough times.
I still don’t really “get” a lot about the album, but I clearly see the direction in which they were headed. I have many reasons to appreciate the album’s place in Duran’s history. Hindsight can be a beautiful thing! I just don’t think they had the choice at the time to work with someone who not only saw where they were headed, but also appreciated where they had come from. They desperately needed someone with the ability to finesse the music and sound they wanted in a way that would actually suit the band. But again – it’s only hindsight.
In many aspects, Red Carpet Massacre paved the way for Paper Gods. They could have never written or effectively executed Paper Gods, had they not expanded their horizons with Red Carpet Massacre. I don’t know that the fan base would have been as ready to embrace Paper Gods, had we not had the experience we did with Red Carpet Massacre, either.
One difference between the two albums is that Paper Gods continues to embrace and celebrate who Duran Duran has always been, while looking ahead and challenging their fans. This is something that I’ve always loved about this band. They continually force me to expand the boundaries of how I (and every other fans) personally define who they are. Sometimes, I enjoy the process; other times, it makes me very uncomfortable until I get it. That’s art.
I find it hard to believe it has been ten years since Red Carpet Massacre was released. Like nearly every other album, in some ways it seems impossible to have been that long and in others, it feels like a lifetime. For my family – it has been. My youngest was born the April after the album was released, and on this very day in 2007, I was at home, incubating away! Now she’s nine-and-a-half, and reminds me every single day of why I fear the teen years that lay ahead!
Happy anniversary to Red Carpet Massacre! One thing that album, and even Paper Gods, to some extent, has taught me, is to never second guess what this band will do next!