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In Review: Femme Fatale - The Daily Duranie

In Review: Femme Fatale

This week, we’re going to cover Femme Fatale, a cover of the original song released by Velvet Underground in 1986. This song was released as a single in France, and also as a promo single in the Philippines in 1994.

The original song was written by Lou Reed at the request of Andy Warhol. It was about Edie Sedgwick – one of Warhol’s superstars (she starred in several of his short films of the 1960s). Velvet Underground recorded the original version. Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico have each performed solo versions; and Duran Duran, along with nineteen other artists, have all recorded covers.

Original Velvet Underground audio

Duran Duran’s Video


Here she comes you better watch your step.
She’s going to break your heart in two
Its true it’s not hard to realize
Just look into her false coloured eyes
She’ll build you up just to put you down,
What a clown

‘Coz everybody knows… she’s a femme fatale
Things she does to please, sees just a little tease
See the way she walks, hear the way she talks

You’re written in her book, 
You’re number 37 take a look
She’s going to smile to make you frown, what a clown
Little boy she’s from the street
Before you start your’re already beat
She’s going to play you for a fool
Yes it’s true

‘Coz everybody knows… she’s a femme fatale
Things she does to please, sees just a little tease
See the way she walks, hear the way she talks
She will try to put you down, the hardest girl around

‘Coz everybody knows… she’s a femme fatale
Things she does to please, sees just a little tease
She’s a femme fatale.


I’ve often wondered why Duran Duran chose to record their own cover of this song. Nineteen other artists have covered it, and Duran’s version seemed a bit superfluous. I understand and acknowledge the Warhol connection, but isn’t it just a little unimaginative? That said, I’ve tried to give the song a fair shake over the years.

When I listen to a cover, there are a few things that go through my mind. One of which is whether the cover does justice for the original, is an exact remake, or if it detracts. The Velvet Underground recorded this song back in 1966, and lets face it – music has certainly changed since then. Duran’s version is bigger, brighter, far less sad, but also just a little over the top. That said, so is the video. If you’re like me and haven’t seen this video in years – by all means, take a 3-minute break. I found it equal parts humorous, and disturbing. (look, the band follows some girl that is apparently just as captivating to them as Edie Sedgwick was to Warhol, and they end up at a party where women want to turn Warren into a vampire….but not Nick. It weirds me out.) I like the music and the way they brightened the sound up, but I have to admit there is something I miss about the Velvet Underground recording – it feels far more haunting, less New York City. And then there’s the spoken word in the middle, which really just drops the song into the “way overdone” column for me. So many bands and artists have recorded covers of this particular song. The band would have been better off leaving it alone, and doing something new.

two cocktails!


The very first thing that I need to acknowledge in this review is that this song is a cover song. I, therefore, cannot judge it as I typically might. I won’t analyze the lyrics, for example. Obviously, then, what I am looking for in this review is pretty simple. Does it match the original song? Does it create the same feeling? Does fit the same kind of arrangement, vocally and musically? And if it does not, is it better than the original? I, certainly, have heard many covers that I like lots better than the originals. In those cases, the artist changes something about the song to improve it. I might argue that Duran’s Perfect Day is a good example of that. Of course, there are some covers that are way, way worse than the original. (Strangely enough, many of the ones that pop in my head for that are covers of Duran!) For those versions, they often miss something or change something that turns out is essential to the original. So, how did this one go? Did Duran just match the original? Did they make some change to make it better? Is it worse?

In order to really answer that, I had to listen to both versions, back to back. Obviously, the original has such a 1960s vibe, especially with the vocal quality of the song. As you listen to the original, you can almost see the stereotyped images of the 1960s. Then, of course, I have to acknowledge that the subject matter is about a woman who is a “femme fatale,” a woman who cannot be trusted at all and the vocal quality of the original matches this. Okay, so does Duran’s give the same vibe? I would not say that the music quality matches very well. Duran’s version is definitely updated. That could be a good change, though. I do admit that I like the instrumentation of Duran’s version as they modernized the original well and definitely added a Duran feel to it.

What about the vocal quality? The original’s vocals were almost wistful despite describing a situation that could or would generally generate anger, frustration or even sadness. Simon’s vocals start out that way for the most part but they do turn a bit rougher, a bit angrier. Then, there is that weird spoken word part in the middle of the song where Simon describes the woman’s physical characteristics. I don’t get it. Why? This is where the song definitely turns away from the feel of the original. Now, the question is, how good are these shifts? Do they enhance the song? I wish that I could say that they do but I have to admit that I prefer the feel of the Velvet Underground version.

I can appreciate Duran wanting to cover this song. There is a lot that I like about it but I wish that I could say that they added something unique and fabulous to it. It just doesn’t live up to the original for me.

Two cocktails!

By Daily Duranie

Once upon a time, there were two Duran Duran fans. One named Amanda, the other named Rhonda. Over many vodka tonics, they would laugh about the idea of one day writing a book about their fan experiences. While that manuscript is still being composed...Rhonda thought they should write a blog. (What was she THINKING?!) Lo and behold: The Daily Duranie was born.

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