For over three decades, Duran Duran have been purveying their own form of futurism — be it sleekly modern or raggedly post-apocalyptic. Best remembered as a pop single juggernaut in the 80’s, the English band still makes technology-laced music (their 14th studio album is rumored to arrive next year).
At FutureDude, we’re big fans of (a majority of) their catalog and the edgy videos that often accompanied the songs. Below are five strong examples that emphasize the band’s forward-leaning visual and musical sensibilities. We hope you agree that Duran Duran is more than just pretty boy band.
1. Planet Earth
To give you a sense of context, MTV didn’t even exist when this video came out. I remember seeing it while shopping in a record store (RIP Wax Trax in Lincoln Park) and being absolutely floored by the song’s modernity, especially the rhythmic synthesizer pulse which held it together.
The video might seem sparse and and low budget by today’s standards, but there was nothing quite like it then. It contained what-would-soon-be-known-as Duran Duran trademarks: elaborate outfits, extreme hair, and a dream-like juxtaposition of imagery.
Remember that Kenny Rogers and Lionel Richie were the kings of Top 40 then. And, compared to the turgid dinosaur rock of the time — REO Speedwagon, Journey, Foreigner, and, yes, you Styx — “Planet Earth” was fresh, vital, and immediate.
2. Is There Something I Should Know?
To be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of this song when it came out — but it’s grown on me. Coming after the slow-burn success of their second album, Rio, it was a bit of a letdown. Of course, looking at much of the pop landscape now, it sounds like pure genius.
Again, Duran Duran pushes their singular vision of the future. Gone now are the frilly, pirate-influenced New Romantic costumes. Instead the entire band is uniformly garbed in crisp, militaristic blue and black — the New Wave as filtered through Kraftwerk’s The Man Machine. Simon even leaves their idyllic, light-shafted room to venture into an oddly retro ‘real’ world.
What does it all mean? Your guess is as good as mine. But it only gets weirder from here on out…
3. Union of the Snake
By their third album, Seven and the Ragged Tiger, Duran Duran were a multi-platinum, global phenomenon. So their visions of future became — if not better or more engaging — certainly more expensive.
This time lead singer Simon Le Bon descends into a netherworld culture that is strange, savage, and (let’s admit it) completely incomprehensible. The whole thing’s visually stunning, but really doesn’t make a bit of sense — much like a summer blockbuster film of our own era.
4. The Wild Boys
“The Wild Boys” is the penultimate music video of the era — a historical document that I’d use to define human culture to an alien species. Everything that I hated about it in 1984 — it’s bombastic and ludicrous, it’s Mad Max on acid — is what makes this 4-minute, over-the-top epic brilliant and memorable today.
Narratively? I don’t know. Maybe we’re still stuck in one of the techno-savage caves from “Union of the Snake”, but the stakes are higher and more dangerous. There’s the creepy mechanical android head, fire dancers catapulting into the air, Simon lashed to a windmill, the Alien mouth creature in the water…
Basically, some director lost his mind but not his production budget (they spent over $1 million!). By the time the band is waving to their tattered minions in a ticker tape parade, the entire experience has slide painlessly from ridiculous to sublime.
5. All She Wants Is
Four years later, as the 80’s started to wane, the game had changed for Duran Duran — now down to a trio. The huge budgets and elaborate sets were gone. But limited resources forced their creativity into overdrive.
“All She Wants Is” is a hypnotic journey through memory and desire (with just a touch of sensuality) that’s totally in character with the band’s futuristic ideals. One of my favorite moments is when Nick Rhodes pushes a pulsating arc of energy through Simon’s head. In fact, the entire video is a canvas of dreamy, dancing light beamed to us from another world. Enjoy…