What do you do if your favorite band puts out an album you don’t like?
I feel like maybe this is a fair question that many of us have dealt with over the course of our lives. There are likely countless answers, some great, some fair, and others…well…we’ve seen some of the “others”, haven’t we?
Truthfully, as much as I’m poking the bear a bit, I shouldn’t judge. I’ve been there myself. I’ve written blogs about my experience with Red Carpet Massacre, for instance. Bottom line is that it comes down to a simple phrase, “It’s just music”.
Sometimes, I think fans take it all far too seriously. Other times, I think we are all so committed and emotionally tied to whomever we thought the band was when we first discovered them that we can’t let that go. As a result, we refuse to accept whomever they are right now.
I’ll use myself as an example. I found this band when I was somewhere between ten and eleven. For the longest time, their debut, Rio and Seven and the Ragged Tiger were the albums I think of first when I would think of Duran Duran. My formative years were during the 80s, these albums were what guided me through my adolescence. As I matured into an adult, Duran Duran changed, too. Roger and Andy left. They gained Warren, played with Steve Ferrone, then Sterling, lost John, and asked Warren to leave so that Roger, Andy and John could rejoin Nick and Simon once again. It was as though just as I entered my 30s and began to struggle with my own middle-agedness, Duran Duran brought my childhood back for another visit.
If the story ended right there, I would have learned nothing. After all, I was able to go back and experience a lot of things I never had the chance to do at the height of the 80s Duran Duran firestorm, like actually going to a concert, road tripping with friends, going to a convention…planning a convention, writing this blog, staying up all night talking about a band, and yes, even meeting them at a signing. It’s more than that, though.
One of the problems with still loving a band I discovered as a ten year old, is that I’ve had to learn that just as I’ve changed over the years, so has the band. I can’t force them into that same musical “box” I put them in back then. Maybe I just didn’t want them to change much. That was okay when it came to Astronaut. The album sounded enough like the Duran Duran I knew and loved, that it had me. Hook, line, sinker. I think I was so happy they were back together that perhaps the album didn’t matter as much to me as the fact that they were on stage, in front of me. I was able to live out some of my childhood daydreams. The fab five, in all of their glory, basking in OUR glory. Things that good can’t last though, and as quickly as all five came back into my life, one was gone again when Andy left. Then, Red Carpet Massacre arrived.
Now, I’ve talked enough about that album to fill books, so I’ll just say this. It was not what I was expecting. We all know about expectations, though. That album threw me for a loop and a half. It was a zigzag I didn’t see coming. I felt like after running to catch a bus, I’d missed it and was left standing on the corner. I didn’t handle it particularly well, either.
I think this is why I can at least partially understand anger towards the songs that have been released from Future Past so far. While I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard, not everyone can say that. I know how that feels. I also know though, that there’s something to be learned from this process. It really is JUST MUSIC. An album is a simple statement during particular period of time. We’ve seen them make a statement now…well, nearly fifteen times. (counting just the official albums!)
The good news is that Duran Duran is different from the multitudes of other bands out there. While any other band might have started off in one musical vein and then somewhere along the line completely changed direction, Duran Duran changes with every album. No two are ever the same. Just because you don’t like one album or another does nothing to guarantee that you won’t fall in love with the next one. Don’t believe me? Well, you should go back and re-read some of my reviews of All You Need is Now.
I never thought I needed the band to occupy a certain set of standards I had for them, or a memory I had from my childhood until very recently. Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t want to accept that just as I’d changed over the years, the band had too. It’s not just the band, either, but technology, the music business, people, our world…everything has changed. Nothing is going to stay the same forever, and we’re being wholly unfair to ourselves to even hope otherwise. To be angry that the band didn’t create the same sort of music or album in 2020 or 2021 that they once did back in 1980 or even 1983 is crazy. The thought makes me laugh, but yet, I was guilty of such a thing.
Now, that nugget of truth doesn’t make mean I love Red Carpet Massacre any more now than I did when it was released in 2007, but it doesn’t make me less of a Duran Duran fan, either. It was one album over the course of an entire career. ItI didn’t love all of Thank You, either. Yet both of those albums, and all of the other ones along the way, are what helped to create All You Need is Now, Paper Gods, and yes, even Future Past. I can’t be mad about that.
Eleven years of blogging changes you a bit. When I first started, I know I had a starry-eyed vision of what it meant to be in a fan community. For that matter, I believed I had something to say that could fill the pages of a book, and that if I wrote a manuscript about what it meant to be a fan, that some publisher out there would want it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I took my fandom seriously. My writing was probably too important to me. I saw it not just as a hobby, but as something that was a crucial part of me. There was a part of me that wanted to believe in myself and Daily Duranie so much that if Amanda or I stopped publishing blogs and quit, the fan community would feel the loss. Maybe even the band might notice. In short, I was absolutely ridiculous.
It isn’t that fans don’t matter. It isn’t even that this blog doesn’t matter. The context, though, is important. I can’t seriously allow myself to believe that we matter so much that the band’s voice matters less. It IS their voice – their collective “Duran Duran” voice – that creates the music, whether we like what it’s saying or not. If they wrote what we told them to write, and how we told them to do it, the outcome wouldn’t be Duran Duran at all. Whether you like Duran Duran circa 2021 or not, we can’t expect the band to bend to whatever we fans want, or think they need. Sometimes, it really is about our own growth and stretching our own ears a bit. It’s time to admit that I don’t know how to be a member of Duran Duran.
I can’t do their jobs for them, because if I could – I already would be a rock star! My job, is to be the fan. Buy the music, listen to the albums, go to the shows, cheer until I’m hoarse. Maybe even write the blogs. Their job, is to create the music and push my sometimes very stubborn musical boundaries. Trust that this is still Duran Duran, and that since I’ve loved them longer than I’ve even known my own husband, that maybe, just maybe, they won’t steer me wrong. Maybe I needed a Red Carpet Massacre, or even a Paper Gods album to teach me that. I’m not sure.
So, how do you deal with an album you didn’t see coming? It is just music. Open your ears and listen.