The other day, I started to think about how Future Past will be judged in a year, in 5 years, in 10 years, etc. Of course, you can ponder this question based solely on the music, lyrics, vocals, etc. You might be able to determine it by examining commercial success in terms of chart positions or units sold. One might even take into consideration number of streams or views of videos on YouTube. No matter how one wants to analyze this current album, I think it is important to consider the context. Where was the band at the time? Where was society? Where was the fan community? Then, one might want to also think about where the listener is in their life, their fandom. Let’s take a look at the albums released since the reunion in terms of context.
Rhonda and I have discussed this era of Duran Duran fandom a LOT. The reason for this is quite simple. It was a time period filled with energy, excitement and such positivity. It sure felt like everyone and their sibling returned to the fan community, hoping to fulfill some childhood dream to see the Fab Five all together again. No one thought it was going to happen and when it did, it was hard to feel anything but extreme joy. While there were members of the fan community who had been around before the reunion, from my perspective, they did not make up the majority of Duranland. Therefore, it felt like everyone was looking to make friends with other Duranies or, at least, looking to spend a ton of time talking about everything and anything Duran. Negative stories about individual fans were few and far between, from my point of view. Everyone was a potential friend, or so it felt. Duran’s future felt so bright and the entire fandom could not control their excitement.
Astronaut and the reunion came into my life at just the right time. I had just finished graduate school and now had more time and more money on fun things. Things finally settled and I felt for the first time in my adulthood, relatively secure. I felt confident in my job and things were going well. I could finally think about other things than classes, my students and trying to figure out how best to be a teacher. I was ready for some fun and definitely ready to meet some people and make some friends. Therefore, when Astronaut came out I was fully-prepared to love, love, love it and I did, for a long time. Even now, I smile when I hear the songs from that album even if I might now get that the music wasn’t always the best from a critical eye.
Red Carpet Massacre
The first word that comes to mind with this album was division. With the decision to work with Timbaland, fans picked a side. Some thought this was a great move to make Duran more modern, more hip and more likely to experience commercial success. Others felt like this was not them at all and that the music was bound to be soulless. Then, of course, Andy left in the process, adding to the angst. On top of all of that, the fan community started to seem super competitive. Who went to more shows? Who met the band? Who met the band more? Who had inside info?
I hate this time period on so many levels. While I definitely sided with those concerned that this album was not going to feel like Duran, I didn’t like all the negative emotions even if I understood where they were coming from. I was not ready to get so angry about one album that I would reject all the fun I had been having and the friends that I had made. No, I wanted to sort of ignore the album to just move on and focus on the fun. That, of course, was easier said than done since the competitive aspect of the fan community jumped to the forefront for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot and will not compete, socially. I’m never going to be cool and nothing I do can really get there. So, I sought a corner where I could be comfortable. In this case, it was about trying to figure out what the heck was making the fan community so competitive. Yes, academically, I could be comfortable and separate myself from any pressure I felt to be popular.
All You Need Is Now
When this album was released, it felt like the entire fan community took a sigh. It was not Red Carpet Massacre part 2. No, it felt like Duran had returned to the form that most people felt comfortable with. As for the fan community, the competition was still there but seemed to be less widespread and more focused, especially with Simon and John’s Twitter accounts. My guess, looking back on it, is that a lot of people walked away from Duranland, at some point during the Red Carpet Massacre era. Those who stayed were more prepared to understand the pattern of Duran’s albums and sounds.
Duran Duran was often the highlight in what became a pretty tough period in my life. The end of 2010 saw an election loss that would have significant impact on my life, my state and my country. Then, my grandma and beloved kitty died. Still, Duran kept me going as I began to fight for my political life. In fact, this era gave me some of my best Duran fan community moments from seeing the band play in the UK, the start of this blog and more. That being said, by the summer of 2012, some of those losses made it harder for me to feel joy. Planning Durandemonium, our convention, helped give me purpose when I needed it most. I loved the idea that our meetups and our convention would help bring fans together, which I hoped would minimize the competition within the fan community.
I have a hard time describing the fan community when I look back to the Paper Gods era. It felt like Duran had been been on some sort of pendulum, going from one side to the other. This time, it felt like they had found some sort of balance. Things felt more settled. The competition, as always, remained but it felt like it was easier to ignore that if you wanted.
After Astronaut, Red Carpet Massacre, and All You Need Is Now, I finally felt like I knew my place in the fan community. People knew me from the blog, from our meetups and I, generally, felt good about that. It wasn’t perfect but overall good. I fully embraced fandom in the sense that I pushed to go to as many shows as possible as I had learned that Duran provided the fun, the escape that I needed to balance out the challenging parts of life, including aging parents and increasingly concerning political environment.
It is hard to tell how the fan community really feels about this album cycle is because we are living through this era. It is hard to evaluate as we have no distance. That being said, it feels like the vast majority of fans have embraced this album. Many seem to feel like the band finally got the right balance between acknowledging their past while keeping up with modern and new musical trends. People were anxious to love it and most seem to. I think it is important to note that this album came out during a pandemic when people have experienced challenges and witnessed global mass death. Was there a need to find something joyful? Perhaps.
I’m enjoying the album but I don’t feel as obsessed about it as I had with previous albums. I don’t honestly think that has anything to do with the music or songs themselves. This has been a big period of transition for me. I made a big life change with changing careers. I’m spending a lot of time caring for my parents and now dealing with my own physical and mental health. All of this change makes me evaluate where Duran and this fan community fit into my life and will fit into my life moving forward.
So what about the rest of you? How did you see the fan community through these album cycles? How does your personal context affect your feelings about the albums?