I know I said I wouldn’t write My Own Way this month, but with a new song being performed last week on the Today show, and seeing the reactions to said song, I decided a quick blog wouldn’t hurt.
Before I get into it, I’d just like to thank Simon for some fantastic lyrics. It is wonderful to have new lyrics to think through and use for blog titles and inspiration.
Last Friday, I woke up in my Chicago hotel room (incidentally I stayed in the same building as where we hosted the Durandemonium 2013 convention – it’s now called the Hotel Kinzie) in some sort of a jet lag haze. I had no idea what time it was, but I did remember that there was a new Duran Duran song being performed that morning. I grabbed my phone and commenced the hunt for new music!
It didn’t take me long to find the performance. Truth be told, in the same jet-lag fog that didn’t really know what time the Today show was broadcast in Chicago, I dashed off a quick text to Jason asking him if he’d seen it. Hello Pacific Daylight Time…which is two hours behind Chicago and Central Time. Sorry if I woke you on your day off. Oh, and also sorry that I made you find the performance before it had even made it to the west coast. I am awesome.
Now, before anyone asks what I thought of the song, I’ll say this much: I have already made this mistake before, and thankfully I’ve learned my lesson. I know the detriment of speaking out too early about a song with which I am still mostly unfamiliar. For one, I saw the performance ONLY on my iPhone, which quite frankly isn’t the greatest these days (it is old). The screen is only so big, my eyes are…well, my eyesight is only as good as my progressive lenses allow, and the speakers….yeah, they’re not fabulous. I knew I’d need to get home and see it on my larger computer screen or TV to thoroughly enjoy the performance. Then of course, I saw Erol Alkan explaining that the version we saw on Today was not the full song (which explained plenty for this viewer) There was no way I was going to review something in any grand way from simply experiencing it on my iPhone. That still holds true today.
It wasn’t only the band, or their extended circle of closest influence, that expressed their dislike of people (that’d be me) jumping to conclusions after only a couple of listens to new songs. Fans came out of the woodwork to question my intelligence, hearing, taste, and musical knowledge, among many other less kinder points of (my) failing. Fine. After all, I wasn’t saying all positives about the songs at hand. Pushback comes with the territory. I checked myself, thought it over, realized that much of what was being communicated to me through band friends and family was absolutely right. I owed everyone – particularly Duran Duran – a lot more thought and respect than what I was giving a band that I have looked up to for now over forty years, and tried to make the situation right. I’m not quite sure I ever did, but I tried.
The funny thing is that just one album—I mean 1.66 songs later, actually—I am seeing a similar thing happen. Since Monday, I have seen the results of a poll circulating on social media. This particular poll was a survey taken from fans who were kind enough to come up with a variety of ways in which the band should change their recording and production process. Some of the suggestions were likely tongue-in-cheek, such as “finding a proper producer” and then having two or three suggestions of proper producers (Mark Ronson and Nile Rodgers were then listed as producers to choose from). Other survey choices were to have Andy or Warren come back, or to have songs written before they go into the studio – such as the way the first two albums were done. Even better, there were some who must feel especially confident with the production and mixing skills they’ve acquired in the thirty-forty years they’ve been fans, as they suggested turning the guitar up in the mix, or having Nick tone it down.
Truth be told, some of these items of critique I do understand. There have been many times where I’ve wondered why there isn’t more guitar, or why there are SO many effects in a song. That isn’t just with Duran Duran music though. I’ve shared that feeling about plenty of bands over the years. That said, I didn’t write the music. It isn’t my name on the album. It is one thing to say that a certain piece of music doesn’t hit me, or that I didn’t care for the way something sounded – after all, I don’t love every single thing I review for The Encores Club. More often than not, I’m deciding whether or not I like the style of music at all, rather than deciding if I think there’s too much background effect or if there should have been a different producer. Most of the bands I listen to each week are brand new to me, so I’m never quite close enough – I don’t know the bands beyond their name – to start nitpicking beyond the basics.
That is probably the difference, isn’t it? Many of us have been around now for at least thirty years. Some even approaching the forty year mark. We feel as though we know this band inside and out. Some of us dare to say we know them better than they know themselves because while they’re questioning their sound and relevance, we’re standing up and shouting that they should simply embrace who they are. Yes, I can see that. There is a real sense of that in the community right now. We know this band. We want them to be their best and think we know how to get them there. I too tend to fall ever-so-not-gracefully into that camp. I too, have nitpicked.
Heck, Amanda and I write a blog on Mondays about going back, listening to songs and then picking them apart. We admit our bias and still go back and analyze the music. I don’t think either of us has grand designs, or believes we’ve got a future as music critics. We take ourselves seriously in that we go through the process each week, but that’s about all we take seriously. On the other hand, we also embrace our longtime fan bias as we describe what we like or don’t like. Honestly, our opinion is kept to the back catalog simply because of that bias, and because of the respect we try to show for the current work. We are well aware that fans, generally speaking, really think they know best (including ourselves). The trouble is, we really don’t know.
Unless you are a fan who has directly worked in the music industry, and preferably the recording studio, for the past forty years, I think it’s fair to say fans don’t know. I definitely do not know and I’m a musician! It is one thing to say you prefer one song over another. My goodness, even I have a list of favorite and not-so-favorite songs. We all have opinions and I’m not suggesting those can never be discussed openly. That, however, is a very far cry from bloviating a poll demonstrating a complete lack of respect for the boundaries in our roles as fans, along with an unhealthy, egotistical dose of bravado, and/or fanfaronade.
Granted, there is a part of me that believes the poll has been taking completely out of context at this point. I would imagine it began with a healthy discussion about the songs and the sound. Then someone took it all a step further and put together a cute little survey. “OK, you don’t like the music these days. How do we fix it?” The next thing you know, a few pointed screenshots later, and it has been propagated across social media. The whole fan community knows about it, and the band – or at least DDHQ – does too. Out of context? Sure, maybe. Perhaps even probably.
The fact is, we’re all “just” fans. Hell, I’ve been regularly reminded of that since the day I started writing Daily Duranie. You can choose to either like the music, or not. It’s that simple. There is no contract that states we must like every single thing the band ever says, does, sings and/or plays, till death do we part. The band is not setting out to offend any one of us (or all of us) when they put out new music or play a new song live. It isn’t all about you. Or me. Or anyone. But what good do we really do the band we say we love when we hear a song once, twice, or even ten times, and then denounce an entire album?!?
Sure, the argument can (and has) been made that any chatter is good chatter. It doesn’t really matter in the end if you’re being talked about negatively, particularly on social media (but not necessarily exclusively), as long as your name is out there. I hear you. Oddly, Daily Duranie gets the most amount of traffic and unique hits when the world is angry about something we’ve written. It’s never the best pieces that strike the attention gong, it’s the ones that (at the time of writing) feel pretty damn innocuous, yet they end up hitting a nerve center with similar force from swinging a baseball bat. Yesterday, clearly aware of some of the discussions taking place with their name attached, Duran Duran asked what we might be expecting the rest of Future Past to sound like. Isn’t that a bit like opening Pandora’s Box?? (they do seem to enjoy that activity!) On one hand, yes; but at the same time – isn’t it a bit genius to just open the floodgates and let the masses have at it on a single thread?
Sometimes, I think fans believe that they somehow appear more credible, less “fan”, more “discerning music aficionado” by panning things the band has done. The more hypercritical, the better the ability to demonstrably get into the minutia of the sound and recording, the more likely that fan is taken seriously by others. I have seen this activity in action many, many times. Is there a competitive sport behind knocking your favorite band? I just have to wonder what it really ends up accomplishing in the end. Do we really believe that by publicly disparaging an album that doesn’t even have two songs available for download yet, that the band is somehow going to see it as a directive to get themselves together? Forgive me for doubting our all-knowing, all-seeing, power as fans.
It is important for me to note that not liking a song and saying so isn’t what this is about. It also isn’t about what happens in a year or two, when we look back with all of the hindsight (and of course genius that we don’t really have) and then talk about this album as though we are truly experts in our field. I wouldn’t bother coming out of vacation mode if that were it. I’d also like it on record that this has far less to do with whomever put together the survey, than it does the people who are broadcasting the results as though the “PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN”. Far be it from me to bring everyone back down to reality, but we are talking about results from 53 people. There are more VIP ticket holders to any single DD show than there were people answering this survey. No, this is about ego. Bravado. And one hell of a lot of nerve. This isn’t even about being negative. It’s about not even bothering to be respectful enough to fully-digesting something before casting it aside as garbage. Are we sure we want to go that route?