This week, we begin Pop Trash, released in June of 2000 – the very first album of the decade by the band. The album was the first release after leaving EMI, the label they had been with since 1981, and was the only album released under Hollywood Records. It was also the final album for the LeBon/Rhodes/Cuccurullo era, and the first to be 100% written without John Taylor. Nick Rhodes has said in recent years that Pop Trash was the most difficult album for the band to make. Without a Taylor in the room, the writing process was significantly different. Simon had a severe case of writers block, causing Nick to write many of the new lyrics. They had also not used a producer for the album, requiring Nick, Warren, and Simon to bring their ideas together, and as Nick puts it “whilst not having a clear vision of what we were trying to achieve with the album.” The album was not well promoted, and as result sold very poorly, although the supporting tour did very well – selling out in many venues.
We begin this week with “Someone Else Not Me”, the only single from Pop Trash. It is the 30th single from Duran Duran, peaking at #26 in Italy, and only #53 (UK Singles Chart) in the UK, although it *did* reach #10 on the UK indie charts. It did not chart at all in the United States. Some interesting facts about Someone Else Not Me is that it is the only song on the album with lyrics written by Simon, and the accompanying video is the first to be created entirely in Flash animation by the web design firm Fullerene Productions. (who also created the band’s flash-based website during the same period of time. Anybody remember that old site??) Let’s get after it!
Audio & Video
This song has always made me melancholy. The entire theme of the lyrics—letting go of someone you love because you understand that what is best for them is not you—is indeed sad. I can’t help but think of the special relationship shared between John and Simon. While perhaps not a romantic love, I still wonder if this song was another manifestation of the grief Simon must have felt at the time. The lyrics are indeed beautiful, poignant, and likely personal. Knowing that this is the only song on the album with lyrics written by Simon makes them particularly special.
Musically, the song reminds me very much of The Beatles, a comparison made many times since the song was released. With synths that sounds like they came straight from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds meets Yellow Submarine, it is a connection that is easy to make.
Warren’s simple but effective, slightly wistful guitar, adds a pretty layer to the contemplative lyrics. While not a critique, one of the most noticeable facets of Duran Duran’s music during this period is that the guitar never seems to quite take the lead, even on the heaviest numbers. To my ears, the efforts sound far more collaborative in nature rather than the notable push and pull or tug-of-war between synths and guitar found on their earliest albums.
The song is by no means a rocking number, rather bumping along slowly, hanging itself up in the process. The tempo is, by far, the biggest challenge with this song. Melodically beautiful, lyrics meaningful, but the tempo feels like it is crawling, half-dragging itself after the melody, struggling to get wherever it intends to go. It is unfortunate that Someone Else Not Me is overlooked so often. The song is beautiful, even if a bit hindered by tempo.
Someone Else Not Me is one of those Duran tracks in which Simon gets my focus, no matter how much I try to pay attention to the music. His vocals combined with the lyrics draw me in each and every time. Obviously, the story he tells here through both the lyrics and the way he sings them in one of loss, of sadness, of letting go. I listen to a song like this and cannot help but think about all those people out (critics and public alike) who think of Duran as this pop band who make one type of music, one type of song that is catchy, fun to dance to, etc. Clearly, those people have not taken the time to really dive into the Duran catalog where they would be educated on the full range of Duran’s capabilities. A song like this reminds me that they can capture a whole range of emotion and subtle emotion, specifically. I find so many songs that are about loss by other artists to be simplistic. They are either full of anger at the other person for betraying them in some way or full of sadness for the end. This one, though, is more complex, deeper. Simon is letting them go because it is better for them. It is a kind of love that is so often not represented and not appreciated. Rhonda mentioned above that it could be about John. That sounds like a good explanation to me. Maybe Simon knew that he had to let him go. Maybe that is what allowed John to come back.
Of course, there is more to the song than the lyrics and vocals. Immediately when the song begins, I could tell that this was no longer the Medazzaland era. It didn’t feel experimental, nor full of effects. The music felt like a blend of instrumentation coexisting to create the beautiful back drop to the vocals/lyrics. On top of that, it just feels more like a standard song while creating such a strong feeling. Every time I listen to the song, I cannot help but think of that image in the video of Simon laying on the yellow ground with flowers all around. I feel like that is how the music feels to me. It is sort of comforting in a way that the songs on Medazzaland weren’t.
Overall, this song is a beautiful but sad song that shows (again) the full range of what Duran is capable. I agree with many that it is often overlooked. I’m sure that a great deal has to do with the lack of promotion, where Duran was at the time, etc. It is also one of those songs that I can appreciate musically but don’t often turn to myself. It is one of those songs that really are not that fun to listen to even if you know it is a quality song.