Tag Archives: Janelle Monáe

I Am a Signal Somewhere in Your Bliss

I have a confession to make. It’s likely to get me into trouble in some circles (when am I not in trouble with someone out there??), but I’m going to share anyway.

I haven’t listened to Paper Gods since the beginning of November.

In my defense, I have a seven-year old. I know that doesn’t sound like much of an opening line – but wait!  When the album first came out, I listened to it day and night. Any time I was in the car it would be on, and when I was at home and could put in ear buds without fearing that the house would go up in smoke without my noticing, I’d be listening. I wrote blog after blog about the album. I wrote, changed my mind, and wrote again. And then my youngest started listening. She plays Minecraft in her spare time, and when she’s playing she listens to music. Admittedly I didn’t know this for a while (which is another blog for another day), but she found the album on YouTube and started playing it while she’d “craft”.  You can’t obviously see my dining room table right now, but I’m on one side of it and she sits at the very end of it, close enough so that I’m able to see what’s going on should I feel the need to intervene, or just remind her that “real life” is still going on around her. One day I was writing or working on something and all of a sudden I recognize that she’s humming and partially singing…and it is a song I know.  I stop and listen – she’s singing Last Night in the City (as apparently one does while they’re playing Minecraft).  My eyes got wider and wider as I listened. Not only does she know the words, she knows Kiesza’s part and isn’t afraid to belt it.

I should probably mention that my little one takes singing lessons, too. She’s in something similar to Glee (Yeah, I do question my own judgment sometimes…) so I get the joy of hearing them sing songs like “What Does the Fox Say” in their “Glee” sort of way each week. Nope, not kidding. (Again, the whole judgment thing…) So, as I take her to and from school twice a week and then when we go to singing, she has taken to requesting music be played as though I’m not only her chauffeur, but also her personal DJ.

So where was I? Oh yes, Paper Gods. It quickly grew from requesting one song to asking for many songs off the album – and not necessarily in the order presented. All day, every day, she would ask for “Last Night in the City” and “Pressure Off” to be played. Sometimes she’d request “What are the Chances”, and other times it would be “You Kill Me with Silence”. She’d groan at “Danceophobia” (Yes! She IS my child), and after about the 1,000,000th time I had to play “Pressure Off” for her, I decided I was finished. I needed a break. I needed to hear other music, for crying out loud – no offense to Duran Duran, but I was sick of it (and it takes a lot of nerve for me to admit that, but really – I needed a change of pace!) So, I told her no. (A collective gasp heard ’round the world falls over the crowd…) There would be no more mom playing DJ in the car. We were going to listen to other things. Period. She protested. I stood firm. She is obviously the better fan (but I have better tickets to the shows, so there!).  Only joking, people…and remember, she’s seven.

This continued for about a month. Until Monday night when she caught me at a low point. It had been a rough weekend, I was tired, and I just wanted to get home. She came bouncing out of Glee class as I dragged my mostly dead body to the car. She jumped in, buckled up (she never does anything quickly so this was unusual), I fell into my seat, threw my bag beside me, buckled the safety belt and started the car, sighing deeply as I considered what I was going to rush home to make for dinner. Just as I’d settled on the fact that I didn’t care, a small, ever-so-kind voice from the back of the car requested “Pressure Off”.

Part of me wanted to resist. But I was too tired. I gave in and put it on. After not hearing it for over a month, I’d forgotten how good it was. I still love the hook to pieces and I have it on good authority from my small passenger that Janelle Monáe is still “awesome”. (We live in California. Deal with it.)

Yesterday morning, we got into the car to head to school. We leave at traffic time, so we can count on the drive taking about an hour.  Gosh I love Southern California. My youngest knows the drive can be long, and quickly suggested every so casually that we listen to Paper Gods the entire way to school. “We can even listen to it YOUR way, Mommy.” (That means I start the CD – yes CD because my car is old and I hate screwing around with my phone and the audio jack and CDs sound better anyway – and we listen from start to finish. No repeats, no skipping around.)  Again, part of me resisted. I wanted to wait until after the first of the year and listen to it alone and see how I felt, but I gave in. (This kid has my number in the worst way. Tune in when she’s hit her teens and we’ll all see how this goes…)

A couple of observations:

  1. My little one has grown up with Duran Duran being constant in her life, even more so than my older two because I didn’t start blogging until just after the youngest was born.  She thinks she knows them even though her MOM doesn’t even know them. This is funny to me.

  2. My girl can sing, and it is nothing for her to hit and hold the high notes that Janelle and Kiesza hit.  Ah…youth.  🙂  She dearly loves Paper Gods though, and I appreciate that. You know that youth market DD was after?  Well…they overshot and got the seven year-old market hooked!  (I am joking. Mostly.)

  3. It had been quite a while since I’d heard the whole album and I was curious about how I’d feel after being away from it. Did I really love Paper Gods in the same way that I love Rio or the first album??  Paper Gods still presents a formidable challenge in that it really forces the listener to fully open up and push old perceptions of Duran Duran aside. It’s not like anything else they’ve done, collectively speaking, yet it’s still them. Does that make it well-loved, or does it make it an album that I will continue to appreciate and grow with over time, but maybe not one that I grab immediately when I think of Duran Duran?

I put the album aside again for a while, figuring that after the holidays, I’m going to sit down and give it a dedicated listen,  hopefully without my little back-up singer so that I can concentrate. (I don’t dare say that to her!) I’m curious to see how I feel about it after more time away, and I’m wondering if others have done similar – either with this album or others.  Chime in if you care to share!

-R

Daily Duranie Video Review for Pressure Off!

Anyone see any good videos lately?  Anyone??  Anyone??  Bueller?  Obviously, we might have taken some time to watch a certain little video for Duran Duran’s Pressure Off a time or two thousand.  Then, of course, we took some more time to bring you all another of our ridiculous, why-don’t-we-ever-stop-talking video reviews of it!  While we could go on and on here in writing, we won’t.  We’ll just let the video speak for itself…after all, we talk enough for the video AND a written blog.  (Yes, it seems we are always very wordy!)  Enjoy!  snort

Now, you probably want to watch something much more…fun so we thought you might enjoy seeing Pressure Off again for the 38,456th time and then the 38,457th time and the 38,458th time…You get our point!

-A&R

Daily Duranie Special Report: F.O.L.D. Festival

We know it’s been a couple of weeks since the F.O.L.D festival, but we don’t think anyone is going to mind revisiting the show in anticipation of upcoming tour dates! Thanks to our special correspondents “on the scene”, we’re able to bring readers a taste of these amazing shows!  -R

 

By Michelle Duran (Daily Duranie Contributor)

I hate festivals. I hate shortened set lists, I hate being surrounded by fans of other bands who only know ‘Hungry Like a Wolf’ (grrr!!!), I hate sitting through sets of artists I don’t like, and I absolutely hate port-a-potties. This isn’t just my mantra but that of many other Duran Duran fans I know.  Add to it the horrific New York – Long Island summer commuter traffic and why would any of us want to go to the Martha Clara Vineyard in Riverhead, Long Island for the two day F.O.L.D. (Freak Out Let’s Dance) Festival?

For starters, this wasn’t just any music festival. Organized by Duran Duran’s self- proclaimed big brother, and musical genius extraordinaire, Nile Rodgers, he promised it would be something special and it most certainly was. This was THE ONE, Duranies, the one that made the lack of indoor plumbing and the possibility of traffic congestion all worthwhile.

My friends and I opted for general admission tickets for Day 2, the day the band was to play. Parking lots were to open at 4 pm and the venue at 5 pm with the show beginning at 6 pm. Due to the winery being in a residential area, there was an 11 pm curfew, meaning that the concert would be no more than five hours. I’ve endured twelve plus hour music festivals in the blazing summer sun before so five hours in the evening at a winery sounded pretty good. While we were enroute to the winery, a friend messaged us that the lots opened early. What followed was a series of sharp corners and possibly illegal U-turns when I drove past the entrance for the parking lots not once, but three times. Finally, we made it, parked our car and were ready to queue. There were about twenty people in front of us, including several Duranies. The line was sheltered by tall shrubs along the vineyard, so not only was it a beautiful place to wait but it was also shaded and relatively comfortable. The festival staff, dressed in black shirts and shorts, presided everywhere. All were polite and professional. The stage was only about fifty feet from the entrance and we arrived to hear the incomparable Chaka Khan warming up, which was amazing.  After she finished, we were treated to something even better- Duran Duran’s sound check.  Thanks to Twitter posts by the band, we confirmed what our ears already knew,  Janelle Monae and Nile were with them running through Pressure Off several times. In addition, we heard snippets of Notorious, and Wild Boys. Try as we might, we couldn’t see the stage from where we were standing. However, we heard a crowd cheering and found out that VIP ticketholders were allowed in front of the stage to watch the sound-check. In true Duran fashion, the sound-check ran late and they were still on stage when the gates were supposed to open at 5 pm. By this time the line snaked down quite a distance. The only complaints I heard were from a few older fans of some of the other acts. The rest of us know Durantime is always in effect and took it in stride.  At 5:15, some of the staff came through the queue to apologize and hand out free bottles of water to those waiting, which was a nice touch.

Gates finally opened a few minutes later and we were in. Thanks to a tip from a friendly photographer (heyjoe.nyc) we’d met at breakfast, we knew the right side of the stage was only for VIP.  My friends and I bee-lined for the left side of the stage and found spots directly in front of where John would be, with only the photo pit separating us from the stage. The crowd itself was a mix of older fans of Nile, Chaka Khan, and the other “old school” performers; Duranies; music loving locals from the area; and a few younger fans there for the EDM (Electronic Dance Music) acts. Due to the selection of performers, I think the crowd was older than the usual age at a music festival of this nature.

After a few minutes, the music started with international celebrity DJ, Greg Cerrone, who fit F.O.L.D. Festival between gigs in St. Barth’s and Saint Tropez. The crowd was fairly small at this point, fewer than one thousand, but his enthusiastic attitude never waned.  I have to admit, EDM is not my thing. I may think I’m still twenty five but EDM proves I’m not. The heavy electronic bass pounding through my body and trying to take control of my heart isn’t something I enjoy, especially when I’m right in front of the speakers. However, there were plenty of people in the crowd enjoying the show as a slew of DJ acts such as Slander, Lea Luna, and Ultra Naté all took turns on the main stage. Later, drag queen Ginger Minj, best known from RuPaul’s Drag Race, performed; interacting with the crowd in a set that was a mixture of standup comedy and singing.

Finally, the EDM portion of the evening ended and Old School arrived as Grandmaster Melle Mel accompanied by DJ Prince Paul took over.  For the next thirty minutes, we were all raising our hands in the air and waving them like we just didn’t care- Oh yeah!  Melle Mel reminded us all of where Hip Hop and Rap began, performing the Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five version of White Lines, The Message and then leading the audience in a medley of some of the best known Old School rap.  Once his set finished, the DJ table was removed and it was time to move to the next portion of the evening.

While the stage was readied for Nile Rodgers and Chic, a youth dance troupe from Oakland, California, Destiny Arts, entertained the crowd with a high energy hip hop performance. This non-profit group combats inner city violence through programs in dance and martial arts.  Nile personally introduced them. In fact, throughout the night, Nile had been on stage, cheering on the various performers and even taking pictures. F.O.L.D. Festival was definitely a well-recorded event.  In addition to a cadre of professional photographers and videographers, a drone hovered above the crowd and a 360 degree camera captured every moment from every angle. In addition to heyjoe.nyc, also check out Jennifer Sheppard’s blog here.

Shortly before 8 pm, Nile Rodgers and Chic, currently comprised of singers Folami, Kim Davis, and musicians Ralph Rolle on drums, Jerry Barnes on bass, Bill Holloman on sax, Don Harris on trumpet, and Russell Graham and Richard Hilton on keyboards, began their set. Like many fans of Duran Duran, I consider Nile to be an icon.  Aside from the actual members of Duran, there is no one else more responsible for their sound, first as an influence when they were teens in Birmingham listening to Chic, then later as a mentor, producer and co-writer on everything from The Reflex, Wild Boys, Notorious, Astronaut and right up to their new single, Pressure Off. Nile had injured his knee the previous night so he apologized for not being able to dance around the stage and for wearing a tee and jeans with his signature beret, instead of his customary suit. Regardless, getting to finally see Nile Rodgers playing his signature Stratocaster, the Hitmaker, live with Chic was incredible. Tight doesn’t even begin to describe them- their sound, their look, their moves are all well practiced and well executed.  Everyone is in black and white with the singers, Folami and Kim Davis in matching print jumpsuits that recall the glamour of disco fashions.  Launching into Dance, Dance, Dance, the band wowed the crowd as they played hit after hit, not only from Chic but other songs Nile has written such as Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out and Upside Down and Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Nile teased us you’re all about to go crazy as he began playing Let’s Dance, which he wrote for one of Duran Duran’s other major influences, David Bowie.

Nile next introduced Janelle Monae, referring to her as his little sister while praising her talent and hard work.  If you’re not familiar with Monae, watch a few videos of her live performances and you’ll understand why she has earned such high acclaim from Nile Rodgers.  Also dressed in black and white, the diminutive Monae, who will be thirty this year, could easily pass for someone half her age.  However, she’s a powerful, dynamic performer, singing and dancing with intensity and skill. Performing with Chic as her backing band, along with her own charismatic guitarist, Kellindo Parker, Janelle Monae gave her all as she ran through her 4 song set, which included Q.U.E.E.N, Electric Lady, a cover of  James Brown’s I Feel Good, complete with the requisite cape, and finished with Tightrope.

As with Janelle Monae, Chaka Khan used Chic as her backing band and supplemented with her own guitarist.  Dressed all in black, she looked ageless with her trademark hair and beautiful smile as she sang four songs: I Feel for You, Sweetest Thing, I’m Every Woman, and Ain’t Nobody.  Unfortunately, Melle Mel had to leave right after his set so he wasn’t there to perform his “Let me love you Chaka Khan” rap during I Feel for You. Duran fans were also well aware that this meant he wouldn’t be there for a possible guest appearance with Duran Duran during White Lines.

After Chaka Khan finished her set, the Destiny Arts dancers and a number of family and friends joined the band on stage. After a moving speech by Nile about his aggressive cancer diagnosis and ultimate recovery, Chic played a rousing finale of Good Times. Nile even rapped part of the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rappers’ Delight, which famously sampled Good Times, bringing it all full circle and again emphasizing Nile’s influence on artists across many genres of music.  Throughout the night, you could really sense the camaraderie not only between Nile Rodgers and the other performers but the crew and staff as well.  Everyone working the show seemed truly happy to be there.

Once Good Times finished, the stage cleared and the DJ table was brought back for Chuck D. from Public Enemy.  Chuck D was originally scheduled to perform on the first night but couldn’t make it due to scheduling conflicts.  He began his set by telling us we had “twenty nine minutes to Duran Duran.”   With Nile again staying on stage and lending his support, Chuck D, backed by another Public Enemy founding member, DJ Keith Shocklee, led the crowd through some of the rap group’s biggest hits including Fight the Power as well as songs from their just released album, Man Plans God Laughs.  Chuck D rapped almost non-stop during his set, only stopping to tell the crowd how many more minutes to Duran Duran or to express his respect and admiration for Nile. As promised, he finished his set in just under thirty minutes and it was time for Duran Duran to perform.

Nile once again introduced the band, recalling how they met back in the early 80’s, and their long association with each other. Simon called the introduction the best they’d ever had before launching into an energetic performance of Wild Boys. The band looked and sounded fantastic. Simon, looking slim in white jeans and a black and white leather jacket, launched right into A View to a Kill as Nile Rodgers stood on the side of the stage clearly enjoying the set as the crowd, now at an estimated twenty-five hundred, sang along.

The next song on the roster was Girl Panic, which cause a minor panic of its own because up until this point, we had expected nothing more than the same five song set as all the other performers had given, especially with the time constraint of an 11 pm curfew. Therefore, we expected the Nile songs- Wild Boys, AVTAK, Notorious, Pressure Off, and The Reflex.  Girl Panic was quickly followed by All You Need Is Now and then Come Undone. We were getting a full set. F.O.L.D. Festival was suddenly even a better decision.

Following the AYNIN selections, the band rolled out three fan favorites, Is There Something I Should Know and The Chauffeur and Ordinary World.  It’s been exactly three years since the AYNIN tour ended abruptly with Nick’s illness in August, 2012 so it was fantastic to once again hear these live. The crowd, which wasn’t as familiar with the newer songs, was also thrilled to be back in familiar territory.

After OW, Nile walked back onto center stage as Simon announced “There’s one reason-one really big reason why we’re standing in front of you guys tonight…. And his name is Nile Rodgers.” Simon went on to describe the band’s reaction when they first heard The Original Sin by INXS, which was also produced by Nile Rodgers. They sent The Reflex to Nile and we know the rest. Simon finished by telling Nile “I love you, you are my brother” and hugged him, while every Duranie in the house raced to capture this Kodak moment.  They then launched into the song Simon describes as the complete “intertwangling of Nile Rodgers and Duran Duran”:  Notorious.  Nile went right over to JT and fans were treated to Nile and John playing together as Simon led the crowd.

Simon reintroduced Janelle Monae, describing her as a firecracker, as she returned to the stage and it was time for the premiere of Pressure Off.  The chemistry between them was fantastic.  Janelle’s high energy invigorated everyone and even Nile’s injured knee couldn’t stop him from dancing along as they played.

After once again thanking Nile and Janelle, the band continued playing, pushing well past the curfew as they played set list staples Planet Earth, HLTW, and Sunrise.  Finally, they said good night but were soon back on stage for their signature closing song, Rio.  Hearing it is always bittersweet since we know this is really the end.  The band thanked the crowd and the first F.O.L.D. Festival was officially in the history books.   Interestingly, the song many most associate with the relationship between Nile and Duran Duran, The Reflex, wasn’t on the set list.   I thought this was an odd decision since the song has so much history.  Also, the band once again didn’t play GOF and there were no band intros.  They skipped the intro again the next night at Musikfest and I’m told it was also skipped at the Capitol Theater shows.   It’s hard to imagine that they won’t add the intros back in for the main Paper Gods tour when it begins unless they’re looking to purposefully change their show ending.

Overall it was fantastic to finally be back in my favorite place on Planet Earth, front row at a Duran Duran concert.  My expectations for F.O.L.D. Festival were more than exceeded.  Nile Rodgers has already committed to bringing the festival back to Riverhead next year as a three day long weekend event, promising to bring back many of the acts that performed this time and grow the festival so that it’s one of the premiere destination events like Coachella.   Only time will tell, but if anyone can do it, it’s Nile Rodgers.

Set list:

Wild Boys
A View To A Kill
Girl Panic
All You Need Is Now
Come Undone
Is There Something I Should Know?
The Chauffeur
Ordinary World
Notorious
Pressure Off
Planet Earth
Hungry Like The Wolf
Reach Up For The Sunrise


Encore:
Rio

Nile Rodgers’ Freak Out Let’s Dance (FOLD) Festival

Nile Rodgers is so cool that he’s throwing a party and we’re all invited!  The Freak Out Let’s Dance (FOLD) Festival takes place in Riverhead, New York on August 4-5 with some great music spread out over the course of two days.  A Tuesday and a Wednesday?? Who does that?!? Nile Rodgers!

Just a few of the acts slated to perform: Duran Duran (obviously!), Beck, Janelle Monae, Pharrell, Chaka Khan, Keith Urban…and the list goes on.  We are still gathering information (like a website or ticket info!)…and as we find it, it will be posted here.

 

Paper Gods Press Release Insights Part 2

We continue our analysis of the press releases surrounding Duran Duran’s upcoming album, Paper Gods.  In part 1, which you can read here, we discussed statements made about the album as a whole.  In this part, we look at how individual songs on the album are described.  Of course, we have yet to hear any of these with the exception being the first single, Pressure Off.  Therefore, these descriptions are just that.  They are descriptions, which we may or may not find completely accurate once we actually have the chance to hear them.  Nonetheless, we thought it would be fun to offer some thoughts and reactions to the written descriptions.

Pressure Off

As described in the press release:  “Mark, Nile and Mr Hudson co-wrote and produced, the tracks ‘Pressure Off’ and ‘Only in Dreams’. The former, which will be the album’s lead single featuring Nile Rodgers, harks back to the taut funk of Notorious, with a sensational vocal from Janelle Monáe, and a chorus that is audacious in its effortless immediacy. “If only,” laughs Nick. “The one thing it wasn’t was effortless. But the idea was to make it sound like that.”

Amanda:

In reading this, I wish I knew more about Only in Dreams, especially since I have heard Pressure Off already.  Does the combination of Mark Ronson, Mr Hudson and Nile Rodgers always produce a song like Pressure Off?  I look forward to finding out.  As for what Nick said here, I wasn’t surprised that it took effort to create the chorus in Pressure Off.  Rhonda suspects that they came up with the hook  and the chorus first and built the rest of the song around it.  I wouldn’t be surprised.  I just wonder how or what in particular they were searching for when trying to find this chorus.  Was it a certain style?  Were they trying to match certain songs?  I wish I was a fly in the studio for that!

Rhonda:

Well…mostly I just wouldn’t be surprised if they came up with the hook first and built the rest of the song around it. I have no idea what Duran typically does, but that hook is so strong it just seems like it would have come first. (I’m probably dead wrong though!) I think that the chorus does have a sort of “effortless” feel around it…it’s kind of like I’ve told my daughter Heather so many times: “It’s ok if it really ISN’T effortless or easy, it just needs to LOOK that way when you’re on stage!” That’s sort of the way the chorus to this song comes off. On the other hand, I don’t think the verses sound so easy.  I’ve been reading the opinions of many fans lately on this one, and a lot of the criticisms seem to come from the verses – people don’t feel they match up well, stylistically. My opinion is very different because while it’s true, they definitely aren’t as bright, they give the song a lot more depth, sound-wise. If every line sounded like the chorus, I am afraid the song would be making a serious slide into bubble-gum land. I also recognize that I am a far better kitchen-table blogger/armchair critic than music writer, so there’s that.

“Big-Chorus Bankers”

The press release stated the following: “‘Face For Today’, ‘Butterfly Girl’, ‘Danceophobia’ (with a guest appearance from Lindsay Lohan as the voice of the ‘doctor’) and ‘Last Night In the City’ (which features a killer contribution from Kiesza) are among the album’s other big-chorus bankers”

Amanda:

Big-chorus bankers?! I totally get the idea of songs with big choruses. I assume that to mean choruses that stick out, that are memorable, that stick in people’s heads and make them want to keep listening and keep singing along. Duran has had many of those in their history, including some of my favorite songs. The most recent song that comes to mind with that description is Sunrise. As soon as you heard that chorus, you wanted to keep listening and you wanted to sing along with Simon. Interestingly enough, two out of the four tracks described like that featured contributions by others. Lindsay Lohan is the voice of a “doctor”.  Will this be a little like Nina Hossain in Leopard?  I’ll be very curious to hear that one!

Rhonda:

So basically it is saying that these songs were written with strong hooks? I think it has to be said (many, many times) that even Pressure Off has a ridiculously catchy chorus – probably the best I’ve heard out of this band in 25 years, if not 30.  I can’t imagine what else would be meant by a big chorus, so I’m going with that. I thought back to the last several albums. Admittedly there are very few songs with truly great big choruses. Is that really a bad thing?  I think it depends upon the intention. If you’re writing without the goal of getting on radio, then no, I don’t think it really does matter. I think it is about the artistry of what you’re writing. Does the writer really feel like they got their message across?  However, radio and chart-land does not work that way. Go listen to the radio. Songs that get played often, songs that are genuine “hits” typically have very strong choruses. VERY strong.  They get deposited in your ear, swim to your brain and hold on for dear life. That’s why they work. Listen to “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk & Nile, or Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. Those are some huge choruses!

I suppose though, for those of us Duran-purists out there, there’s likely some nose-scrunching going on. On one hand, sure, we want the band’s music to do well because of course we want to see the band succeed. Fans typically want that, don’t we? We want to sort of be validated so that we can walk around and say “See? We TOLD you Duran Duran still had it. We TOLD you they’re fantastic!” But, and this is the crazy, insane thing about Duranies that I’ve learned from over the years, there’s also a part of us that really doesn’t want it happening that way.  We want them to write solely for themselves. We want them to laugh in the face of critics and music charts. We want them to write the really cool, obscure stuff that we first fell in love with (or maybe discovered after we were finished devouring other songs like Rio or Hungry Like the Wolf?).  We don’t necessarily WANT them to bow down to the masses and write/record so that they get played on radio. What we want is for the band to write the music they want to write without worrying about it getting played; then, if it hits big we can sit back and pat ourselves on the back for knowing they had it all along but that the masses were too silly to really get it…but we’ve stuck by the band all along.

Personally, I’m not so sure it all works that way. I think that at least for me, I’m willing to concede to the fact that perhaps the music I love most from this band isn’t going to ever get them radio play. I kind of think they’ve got the right to make music that stands half a shot of being heard by a bigger audience, if that’s what they really want. In a lot of ways I feel for the band because I think they know it’s all a pretty tall-order. Up until now it’s felt like they’re either pissing off long time fans or they’re screwing themselves out of ever getting radio play. Where’s the middle ground? IS there middle ground?? If I were in their shoes, I am not entirely sure what I’d do. Try to do it all, and hope for the best, I suppose. Maybe, just maybe, there’s enough for everyone on this album.

What Are the Chances?

From the press release:  “‘What Are the Chances?’ the song that rolls back the years to the yearning and beauty of ‘Save a Prayer’”

Amanda:

Hmm…so What Are the Chances is the ballad on the album.  It is interesting that it also features John Frusciante on guitar.

Rhonda:

I knew it would come down to the guitar player. It always does. Listen, anyone who has read this blog during the past four years knows how I feel about guitar in general. I think the band needs guitar, and yes, I think it should be someone we as fans can all count on to be there permanently. To me, it’s not Duran Duran without it. I am much less of a fan of the music where the guitar is added deep into the mix as a sort of atmospheric afterthought than I am of the songs where there’s this beautiful, lush melody and seemingly out of nowhere I hear a soaring guitar. That’s the kind of juxtaposition, duality, tension….that I know to expect from Duran Duran at SOME points in their career. I also know that right now, they have a touring guitarist, but apparently he isn’t someone that the band wants to include or name as a permanent member.  Feelings about Dom run the full spectrum: many Duranies consider him just to be the hired gun in the same way they look at the roadies – they don’t even “see” him onstage, and still many others like myself consider him to be part of the family even if the band refuses. Perhaps it is all purely a business decision. I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter. Duran Duran is happy to be a foursome, and from what I’ve been told over the past couple of years, it doesn’t seem they included Dom as much in the writing for this album (as opposed to All You Need is Now). Instead, they sought out presumably bigger names to do the writing and recording. It’s the one issue I’ve got with the band this time around, and it’s something that I continue to come to terms with as a Duran Duran fan AND as a fan of Dom’s. I’m truly surprised (and incredibly thankful!) that Dom has stuck around….and yes, I’m well-aware my words here are harsh, and yes, I know he’ll still be on the tour. He’s been around for over ten years now. It’s time for more than that. That said, I’m curious to see just what John Frusciante brings to this record. I’m well-aware of his incredible talent and I look forward to hearing what he’s got!

You Kill Me With Silence

Press Release:  ‘You Kill Me With Silence’ may boast another huge chorus, but at heart it is a deeply unorthodox and sonically engrossing song, with a disorientating closing sequence that reinforces the band’s art-pop credentials. Simon’s verdict on it sums up the freedom and inquisitiveness that still define the band’s music-making. “What I love most about the track is that it opens like a Snoop Dogg song; you almost expect a rapper to kick off, and instead what you get is Simon Le Bon channelling Nancy Sinatra.”

Amanda:

I have to admit this one intrigues me.  Any song that opens like a Snoop Dogg song and features Nancy Sinatra like vocals is going to interest me, as in “I can’t imagine what the heck that is going to sound like!”  Then, the idea that the closing is “disorientating” and “reinforces art-pop credentials” adds to my interest and inability to really process.  Heck, even the title adds to the mystery.  Yes, this one will definitely be one I look forward to hearing simply because it sounds so unimaginable!

Rhonda:

When I read this stuff, it’s very difficult to keep an open mind and not have already formed opinions by the time the album drops. I don’t want to go in with expectations of what I’m going to like or not like, you know?  Been there, done that with previous albums, and the results (for me) were disastrous, to say the least. HOWEVER…I’m really excited by what I’m reading here! Words like “art-pop”, “unorthodox”, “sonically-engrossing”….now those are music to MY ears. The trouble is that I’m really hoping it is going to be one of those delicious Duran-obscurities that no one but the deepest of fans loves…and that is one of those HOPES I’m trying to keep clear out of my head.  No expectations!!

Paper Gods

Press Release said:  “The title track (which features Mr Hudson’s vocals alongside Simon’s) is similarly daring, its polemical lyrics set to a soundtrack of fierce originality and menace. “It’s a song about our obsession, with money, with material things,” says Simon, “and how we trivialise our lives, and humanity. It’s definitely the angriest song on the album. Usually I tend to be much less specific when it comes to lyrics, because I like it when people hear our songs and create their own stories around them. But in this case, I wanted the anger to be unambiguous: ‘The slaver in a sweatshop, putting trainers on your feet.’ It’s about the price that we pay, that everyone pays, for the world as it is now.” “That song is definitely one of the strangest things we’ve done in a long, long time,” says Nick, “in that it’s a real journey, a strong lyric – we don’t often get into social commentary with songs, but this one felt like it needed that. And I do love the fact that it’s so unpredictable.”

Amanda:

I won’t lie.  I cannot wait to hear this one.  I like angry.  I like social commentary.  I do.  It is the Social Studies teacher in me, the political activist in me.  I have ALWAYS loved when Duran has gotten close or entered the social commentary realm because they always do it so intelligently.  It isn’t preachy but clever and thought-provoking.  Thus, I can’t wait for this one.  I suspect that I will love it and I will love the album title because of it!

Rhonda:

I’m really not a fan of obvious social commentary in music. I want to escape from reality, not be transported back to it every time I listen. That said, I like angry… (I doubt that surprises anyone. I’m the one with the fiery attitude around here, I think.) and I’ve heard that this song is of incredible length for a Duran song (9 minutes, I believe??) and it’s been compared to Bowie. That’s intriguing enough for me…and I do agree with Amanda, when Duran does a social commentary, it is usually done with incredible intelligence. I’m really looking forward to hearing this one.

Collaborations

John Frusciante:
What Are the Chances?
The Universe Alone
Butterfly Girl

John Frusciante’s playing…is equally unpredictable, the former Red Hot Chili Pepper twisting the songs into new and unexpected shapes. “We’re all so in awe of what he does with the guitar, his style is completely unique,” says Simon. “As a musician, he’s fearless, and that’s incredibly inspiring.”

Mr Hudson
Vocals on Paper Gods

Lindsay Lohan
Voice of the doctor on Danceophobia

Kiesza
Last Night in the City

Nile Rodgers
Co-wrote and produced Pressure Off and Only in Dreams
Featured on Pressure Off

Janelle Monae
Vocals on Pressure Off

Amanda:

There isn’t much to say about collaborations that I haven’t said before.  Sometimes, they are awesome as is the case with Janelle Monae’s vocals on Pressure Off.  Sometimes, they are not (thinking Skin Divers here).  Yet, we really don’t know until we hear the album.  Then, I will be able to  judge properly.

Rhonda:

Here’s the thing: I love John Frusciante’s work. He is an incredible guitarist. I’m looking forward to hearing him, all of my other feelings about the band and guitar players aside. Huge fan of Janelle Monae’s work on Pressure Off, the song would be completely different without her. I really like Mr. Hudson, so I am really excited that he did vocals on Paper Gods. The only thing that really intrigues me by Lindsay Lohan’s appearance on the album is why? Overall, I think there are an awful lot of big names packed into one album. In some ways it reads like overkill, in others, perhaps not. Time will tell.

What do you think about what you read about these upcoming songs?  Which ones interest you the most and why?

-A & R

Video Review of Duran’s Pressure Off

We have often threatened to do video blogs.  Today, we decided to make that threat a reality.  Why today?  Simple.  A certain song by a certain band was made available.  Yes, that’s right.  We finally could hear Duran Duran’s Pressure Off in its entirety.  Therefore, Rhonda and I took the time to listen to the song for the first time together and then did a video of our brief review.  How did the band do?  How did Nile Rodgers do?  What about Janelle Monae?  Do we think it could be a hit?  Will be a hit?  Should be?

In case you have not heard it yet, here are a couple of places to check it out yourself:

X-Box
Rdio
Google Play
Vimeo

Duran Duran also posted that it will be available via Amazon UK and US but isn’t so far as of this post.

On that note, here’s what WE think of the song.  Listen to the song, watch our review and then share your review!

-A

 

Just A Case of Early “Album” Nerves

It is coming.  Everyone in Duranland can feel it.  #DD14 is coming.  Pressure Off, the first single, is coming.  Perhaps, more show announcements are on the horizon.  Duranies knew this before this past week’s Katy Kafe but emotions surrounding the upcoming Duran happenings spiked in response.  Why?  Simple.  As part of the Kafe, Roger said that there were some surprises on the album, including a big one with a first name starting with the letter “B”.  This, of course, in typical Duranie fashion got the speculation running wild.  Who could it be?  Bowie?  Boy George?  Brandon Flowers?  Beyonce?  Bruno Mars?  While each of those guesses produced mixed reactions, an underlying feeling began to present itself.  The feeling?  A mixture of hopefulness, anticipation, and anxiety.

Why the anxiety?  Wouldn’t all big fans be excited for new Duran music?  Of course.  Fans can’t wait to hear new music.  We all can’t wait to see articles written about the band’s latest work and we so look forward to promotional activities and appearances!  That isn’t where the concern lies.  As we know, there are a ton of collaborations on this album.  Most of them are people who have been in the musical spotlight as of late.  Certainly, Mark Ronson, Nile Rodgers, Kiesza and Janelle Monae have all experienced a lot of success lately.  This leads to a myriad of thoughts and worries for many Duranies.

Why can’t Duran do an album just themselves?  Why do they need so many collaborations?  What is the goal?  Is it to make the best DURAN DURAN album or is it to make a hit?  Is commercial success the focus or is it the art?  Is it the music?   Will it feel like Duran Duran?  How will this album be marketed?  Will the focus be on getting new fans only or will hardcore fans who have been around for decades be acknowledged?  

There are just a few of the concerns I have seen, heard or even said myself.  I would guess that there might be even more out there.  Before I get the usual negative responses and comments, let me see if I could explain where these concerns are coming from, especially if you are a fan reading this that isn’t concerned.

I believe that all (or mostly all) fans want the band’s upcoming album to be one that is successful.  Of course, we do.  We want the band to experience success and we want to love what it sounds like.  This would make it more likely, I believe, for the band to continue beyond this album.  Yet, fans who have been around for a long time have seen albums not go as planned and ones that have created backlash. Goodness, just this week, I posted a poll with songs off of Medazzaland and Pop Trash and was told how those albums weren’t liked.  I won’t forget what it was like and still like whenever Red Carpet Massacre is mentioned.  There is division in the fan community about that album, like it or not.  All fans I know want to have an album that they can love and can be excited about.  There is just concern that this album won’t be one of those–that doesn’t mean it won’t be but just that there are concerns especially when there are so many others on the album and the focus seems to be on getting a “hit”.  Many fans don’t mind if the band gets a hit, obviously, but many want it to happen naturally because the band produced a Duran Duran song that just happened to get people’s attention and love.  Think Ordinary World.  As much as that song isn’t high on my list of favorites, I, too, can acknowledge that it was a genuine Duran song that just happened to find commercial success.  It wasn’t written solely for the hit.

Then, there are concerns about the marketing surrounding this new album.  Again, most fans I know are happy with Duran Duran getting new fans.  How could we not be?  We were all new fans once, right?  We all discovered them at some point, yes?  Yet, no one wants to be ignored or taken for granted.  After all, getting the diehard Duranies excited could help their cause, too.  I know that I, personally, have gotten non-Duranies to check out their music because of how much I have talked about them.  I know that I have gotten people to become fans by taking them to shows.  That happens all the time and can definitely happen with albums or singles, specifically.  Heck, it happens all the time with all sorts of fandom beyond Duran Duran.  How often do people go to a movie or check out a TV show simply because they have heard a lot of people talking about it?  How often do people check out new music for the very same reason?  It happens all the time.  In this case, Duran Duran has a built in fan promotional machine, if they just gave the fans something to work with.  If diehard Duranies got excited, REALLY got excited, we would talk up the new material in epic amounts.  The social media world wouldn’t really know what hit.  Look at how we got things like Duran Duran Appreciation Day to trend.  That was the fans doing that.  The fans could do that for this album, too, as long as we are included in the marketing package.  I’m not saying that the band and label shouldn’t try to get new fans.  What I am saying is that they should do something to have the Duranies help them sell more, too.  It would also help minimize the worries about the collaborations, too.  Fans would be too busy being excited and getting others to be excited that the concerns would simply be pushed to the back of minds.  This would reinforce Duranies’ fandom, too, ensuring that all of us stick around for a very long time, too.  To me, that matches everything I know about good marketing as well.  You want to keep the customers you have happy, while trying to get new ones.

It would be a win-win-win, for the band, for the label and for the fans.  Then, I suspect any and all worries would be wiped away.

-A

April Katy Kafe with Roger Taylor!

It’s that time again!  It is April, and that means Roger Taylor came to visit the Katy Kafe!  As always, I listened, took thorough notes, and will break down the highlights, and sprinkle a little opinion of my own throughout. This is definitely not the entire Kafe rewritten word for word, and if you want to hear the entire episode in its entirety, I encourage you to get your DDM membership – tour time is coming!!

Roger Taylor on the Record Deal with Warner Bros

The record deal with Warner is a “global” or “worldwide” deal, meaning that promotion for this album should not be a problem…and we will see how that works in the months ahead.  Roger confides that as of a month ago, they did not have a deal in the works. Simon and John took the album to Warner Bros, (could this have been part of that trip to LA around the time of the Grammys?) and played them some of it. The label said that they wanted to sign them immediately, which almost sounds too good to be true in this day and age. Lots of bands do get record deals these days, but very, very few get worldwide deals…and even fewer are “older” bands such as Duran Duran. Fans should probably grab onto that little tidbit and hold it for all it is worth.

…It makes us feel gratified. Almost like starting out. Roger continues, saying “Simon says DD are like cockroaches. No matter how many times you stamp on them and kill them they just keep coming back.”

Could this really be Duran Duran rising from the ashes once again like a Phoenix? (Katy’s much nicer, much more triumphant analogy from the band!) We’ve all seen Duran Duran change and evolve as albums and labels have come and gone, and as Katy says “You can’t ever count out Duran Duran.”  Katy mentioned that labels really do not do “listening parties” for artists any longer (referring to the party done at Warner Bros for Duran Duran last week), but WB has rolled out the red carpet for our band. Roger elaborates, saying “We’ve not had that much excitement in a building since the early days.”  I could definitely since the excitement in his voice as he spoke of the deal, and the party where Pressure Off was unveiled to their team at Warner. Roger tells Katy that the song really grabbed them, and so John went back in and played them a few more off of the album to enthusiastic response. This is a band that is comfortable being treated like royalty. I have no doubt that the treatment they’ve been receiving from Warner Bros has felt like a wonderful welcome and it probably does quite a bit to validate. Duran Duran has not had the same measurable levels of success that they once enjoyed in many years, and I can’t really know what it was like to return to the studio after the All You Need is Now tour. Were they apprehensive about the future? Were they unsure of how to proceed? Were they growing tired of the process? Judging purely from the Katy Kafe’s we’ve heard in the past three years – I’d have to say yes. I think all of those things hold true to some limited degree if they were being honest (and human).  I would imagine that for the band, this is like returning to what they know and loved, and it gives them hope for the success of this album, and I won’t fault them for that. I can only hope that some of the humility they have acquired along the way will remain intact.

Roger Taylor on the album and Pressure Off

Pressure Off was produced by Mark Ronson and features Janelle Monáe. Nile did the vocal production, and he also played on the song. Nile provided the guitar riff that was the inspiration for the rest of the song, and Roger marvels at Nile’s energy.

there are still a few unannounced surprises on this album, including a BIG one, whose first name begins with “B”.

The idea itself came very quickly. Janelle’s part was done in LA with Simon, and John was also present. Roger commented that he wasn’t necessarily happy that the San Francisco radio people had posted some of the song because of the “large amount of production work” that had been done on the album – you can’t hear most of that in the snippets found online. I would agree that there is a ton of background noise and that makes it very hard to really know what the song sounds like. That said, I hope the band knows that the reactions that I have seen to the song have been HUGELY positive so far. I am sure that once the song is made public, the excitement level within the fan community will only continue to grow. The single will be out “soonish” (I have actually been told May by people at Warner Bros).

As for the album in its entirety, we all know that DDHQ has been incredibly tight-lipped (ridiculously so at this point, in my opinion.), and as such…they know the name of the album but it “hasn’t been released yet.” The album has taken the better part of the past three years to write, record and mix, but Nick (We don’t call him The Controller for nothing!) wanted the band to take as long as they needed to make a great record.

“…it was time to not rush and make a great record” – Roger

Roger reminds us that even two years ago he felt the album was nearing completion, but that they had to go through the “pain barrier”. They had to step back and take their time with it, and the result is an album that Roger feels is the best of the four he has done with the band since his return. He realizes that many people say their latest record is the best one, but that even as he’s had others listen to the work, the consensus is that this new album is better than the last. I suppose that in time, we will all be able to weigh-in with our own feelings on that topic. The album is still set to drop in September with no firm date given just yet.

Roger Taylor on Summer Festivals

Will the band be playing new tracks at the festivals this summer?  According to John, he had said no – that he felt like they wouldn’t be unveiling new material. Roger seems to feel similarly, saying that they want to give people the chance to hear the record as intended first. However, Roger says that certainly by September they will be playing the new material. As a fan, I still question the decision of playing festivals – where there are literally going to be thousands of people who are likely not diehard fans in attendance – and yet not introducing these people to new Duran Duran. I’m constantly reminded that marketing is about making people aware. People who are already counted as “sales” don’t matter, it’s about getting the people who are not already in that “sales” column (aka “NOT fans”) moved over there. Playing festivals should really be about marketing to and educating an audience that may not already be Duran Duran fans about their new music. Get the music heard by as many new people as possible, don’t you think? This my friends, is why I am not in the music industry. It makes no sense to me.

Roger continues by saying that he’s excited to start playing the new music, but laments that the process in getting the music translated to the live show will be difficult. He states that the album has so much technology on it, that it will be a task to make it all happen.

Roger closes the Kafe by saying he’s just glad to be out of the studio! His birthday is of course later in the month, and he is thinking he’s going to keep this one quiet – probably a wise choice given that in a matter of weeks, Duran Duran will be hitting the road once again!

-R