Musicality/Instrumentation: I’m not going to even try to pretend otherwise – I love this song. For me, Planet Earth was the beginning. It’s where my obsession began, and I can honestly say I was hooked by the end of the first verse. Hell, Simon didn’t even have to sing a single word and I think I was already a fan for life. There is something infinitely special about this tune, and it’s not just the infectious synths, or John’s amazing bass line (I don’t even think anyone ever played bass the way he did on this song back then…and they still don’t). I love the way the song opens with these very low, very dreamy atmospheric chords, almost as though you’re outside in the fog, and slowly that curtain of fog begins to fade and the world comes into focus on a very early, very dewy morning. When I think back to how songs should be recorded – this song is what comes to mind first, last, and always. There’s a certain naivety that plays out perfectly here. No one is heard more or less than anyone else, and as a result there’s this beautiful call and response that goes on between everyone in the band. Nick’s keys start it, John answers back with his bass, Andy enters the conversation with some fantastically simple guitar riffs, and of course Roger holds it all together. It’s called playing together. I just don’t think the band can recreate something like this, because the naive moments are gone, and you know – I don’t even think they’re meant to do it again, and that’s OK. When you listen to each instrument track individually, you realize just how simple each really is, and the song is a perfect, shining example that sometimes perfection really IS balanced and simple. I love that the song almost conveys an ease to it all – I think that out of almost all Duran Duran songs, it’s Planet Earth that sounds the easiest. They weren’t trying for a hit single here – they were simply recording for the love of playing.
Vocals: I miss Simon’s voice like this, and yet there is no way to ever be able to expect the man to sound in his mid-50’s the way he did in his 20’s. There’s a certain darkness or depth to his voice in this song that can’t be matched. I think that’s why I fawn so much over the first album – because for Simon, it was way before he had to start singing live to arenas full of people, and way before I think he ever truly strained his voice to begin with. Those days are gone, and yes – he sounds so much better in late 2011 and 2012 than he did even ten years earlier, or even early 2011. For me, this is the best of the best. I wish they wrote more songs in this key, or at least within this range for him.
Lyrics: It is very difficult to review this song without sounding as though I’m gushing. Obviously I’m a fan (the blog name probably should have clued you in by now), and I’m telling you – Simon doesn’t write like this any longer. I don’t know if I ever really listened to the words, to be honest. I was singing along with the bop bop bop way before I ever paid attention to what was being said, and even now – I’m not sure what the song is getting at, but isn’t that the best part of Duran Duran? “Some new romantic looking for the TV sound, you’ll see I’m right some other time” What in the hell does THAT mean? I never really knew – but it didn’t matter! “Is there anybody out there trying to get through? My eyes so cloudy I can’t see you.” In a lot of ways I kind of think this song is about taking a second to pay attention to what in the hell is going on around you – a good message even for today. Then I realize that there’s absolutely no way I could possibly know what Simon was talking about – he speaks a completely different language than *I* do, most assuredly, and go back to singing “Bop bop bop, bop bop bop bop bop” like a good little Duran fan (Duranie) should.
Production: Any Duran fan worth their poster collection knows that this is real production. Back in “the day”, it was an art form. Production was meant to adjust levels so that the very best of the song came through. It wasn’t meant to completely change someone who should NOT be recording into something completely different. Production wasn’t about smoke and mirrors. I will continue to say what I’ve said since the day we started the blog – it’s time for real talent again. Thank goodness I’ve got Duran Duran to help fill my iPod, and I’m not even remotely embarrassed by that.
Overall: As one of my most loved Duran Duran songs, I’m not too proud to admit that bias plays every part of this review for me. It was the very first Duran Duran song I ever heard, and that was over thirty years ago now. This song isn’t nearly as dated as I might have imagined it would sound. I think back to some of the music my parents listened to – my namesake song “Help Me Rhonda” being one of them, and there’s such a difference. Songs go the distance now more than ever, and I’m happy to hear that Planet Earth sounds just as good at 30 as it did “at birth” back in 1981. This was the moment when Duran Duran as we know it began, back before they realized the excess that the industry was about to hand them, before egos, before fan frenzies, before the USA. Pure, unadulterated joy.
Rating: 5 cocktails!
Musicality/Instrumentation: Like Rhonda, I won’t lie about my feelings towards this song. It is my favorite. It is my favorite Duran Duran song and my favorite song of all time. The funny thing is that I can’t remember exactly when it became my favorite. While I always loved it, I honestly think that hearing the song live was what pushed it to favorite status. Why? It absolutely had to do with the instrumentation on this song. I loved how each member so clearly had a role and a significant role. For example, Nick starts it off with that very recognizable atmospheric sound in the beginning that signals to everyone what song it is. Then, the song is immediately filled with a response of sorts by the guitar. Roger’s drums are in the spotlight when the song shifts and the song shifts more than one might expect. They weren’t afraid to take some risks, musically, this way. Speaking of, John even has a little solo moment of sorts during the song. I can’t think of many other bass players that have those much! While each member has a part and a very significant one, they also work together and blend together nicely. It is a perfect combination!
Vocals: To me, Simon’s voice in this song is exactly how I always remember him in the 1980s. His vocals seemed to come so easily like he wasn’t trying much. Of course, he wasn’t trying to hit notes out of his range and he wasn’t trying to hold many notes in some overly dramatic fashion. The vocals were simple, in a way, but that is what made them work so well. He wasn’t trying to do too much or be someone he wasn’t but sing the song, sound good and have fun.
Lyrics: Ah, the lyrics to this song are so fun and so very Duran Duran. On one hand, the song could seem very serious and could be about some alien existence watching us, here. After all, “this is planet earth. you’re looking at planet earth.” Perhaps, this observation is happening in preparation for contact, “Let me know if you’re coming down to land.” Then again, maybe this is more about humanity thinking about all that life and the planet has to offer, including elements of weather and emotion, “watch the nightfall with the rain” or “my head is stuck on something precious”. Plus, who doesn’t love the reference to new romantics? It seems so cheeky of Simon to add that phrase in knowing that this was a topic of discussion in pop culture circles at the time. Now, of course, it firmly establishing this song as one to represent the fashion, dance and music of a shortly lived movement. Next to the serious and the cheeky lyrics is that chorus filled with “bop, bop, bop…” This keeps the song fun. To me, it is a perfect balance.
Production: I wish that I could have been a fly on the wall during the making of this song. Colin Thurston clearly knew how to bring out the best of each player. On top of that, the mix seems perfect. To me, the song is such that while it represents the early 80s well, it isn’t forced to live in that time period. It sounded contemporary back in the day, but doesn’t sound dated now, which is quite an achievement! It is a song that is great to listen to on an album and fabulous to hear live. I don’t think that would be true if the production wasn’t right to begin with. Every element of making the song seemed to work and still works from all of the instrumentation to the subtle sound elements to Simon’s vocals.
Overall: I can’t imagine my life without this song in it. If I was stranded on an island somewhere, this would be the first song I would choose to take with me. It is essential Duran Duran with the music, lyrics, and vocals. Even the topic of space is one that will be repeated throughout Duran’s career and this is the song that started it. On top of being a fabulous song, I have plenty of wonderful memories connected to this song as well from the video where the very young member of Duran are dressed in that new romantic fashion to every time I have seen it live complete with John Taylor asking/demanding the crowd to clap both in the beginning and during his moment in the spotlight and those JoSi moments during the chorus. The song and the memories could keep me happy for a very long time as they would remind me of how good Duran Duran can be.
Rating: 5 cocktails!