// Album Recommendation

Duran Duran

Red Carpet Massacre


“And all good sense had tread no further
And as the ghost will shiver trees
How I'm trembling on my knees
But I'm still drawn on by the murmur.”

Red Carpet Massacre by Duran Duran

In an attempt to satisfy both older and younger generations, the legendary 80's band recorded an album that married the traditional Duran Duran sound with more modern beats. Red Carpet Massacre ended up dividing their long-time fanbase, while the critics wrote predominantly positive reviews. In 2006 Duran Duran’s label Sony Records rejected an album’s worth of material (Reportage), allegedly because of too much political content and the lack of potential hit singles (the album remains unreleased). As a result thereof, Duran Duran took a completely different approach. For the first time in their 27-year career, they decided to work with outside writers (much like Earth, Wind & Fire did with 2005’s Illumination), opting to enlist super-producer Timbaland and his protégé Nate “Danja” Hills, famous for their funky, electronic dance-floor fillers. Some fans complained that Red Carpet Massacre was too much Timbaland and too little Duran Duran, but even if Timbaland’s influence is all over the album, some of the mechanical, programmed beats here are in turn obviously very much influenced by late 80’s Duran Duran singles like I Don’t Want Your Love and All She Wants Is (both off 1988’s Big Thing).

Right from the opening notes of the energetic The Valley –- an outstanding update of the aforementioned singles -– the listener is drawn into a universe that is very much Duran Duran’s. The bone-dry drum machine, Nick Rhodes’ synth motif and John Taylor’s funky slap bass create a cool, futuristic sound. Simon LeBon’s lyric is a critical look at the times we live in, and how the general mentality seems to be “everyone for themselves” ("These are days of hit and run / In the stream with everyone"), questioning whether we’ve lost the ability to listen to our own inner voice instead of listening to the chaotic and confusing world around us (“You think you're happy, think you're free / But maybe we're just comfortably dizzy”). In the words of Nick Rhodes, Red Carpet Massacre (the title track) is: “Punk Electronica –- a bit like Warm Leatherette, the 1979 track by The Normal. Very tongue-in-cheek and very apropos of where we are now in the world with regards to Reality TV and the whole 15 minutes of fame existence.” Punk Electronica is quite an apt description for a song that blends Nick Rhodes’ synth sounds with unpolished electric guitars and an insistent chorus.

The energy of the exciting The Valley is successfully replicated in the shape of several other electronically pulsating compositions featuring Nick Rhodes’ alluring synth textures, John Taylor’s funky slap bass, and Timbaland’s skittish, syncopated beats. Amongst these tracks are the funky Pop Noir of the addictive Nite-Runner –- more or less a successful modern update of the single Notorious (off 1986’s Notorious album). Nick Rhodes: “It's a really beautiful, fragile song. It was so easy. Sometimes that's the mystery of making music and writing songs. It can be just natural and happens there and then, and other times you can struggle for weeks and not get what you want.” Riddled with quirky keyboard sounds and irresistible hooks, the hedonistic and risqué Skin Divers is a particular highlight. John Taylor: “It wrote itself during a jam, and then Tim (Timbaland) finished off his parts a couple of months later when he was in the UK - very late at night, after a gig. He came down to the hotel ballroom and just recorded them on a laptop. Fucking genius!” Another showcase for Nick Rhodes’ inventive and creative synth soundscapes is the equally entertaining and club-oriented Tempted. Nick Rhodes: “It was instant smiles as soon as we gave in to our disco temptation. Which is always a good sign. It's like a song inside a mirror ball.” These dance-friendly tracks are of a very high standard and by no means your average forgettable eurotrash floorfillers; it’s intelligent dance music –- sophisticated, stylish and fresh –- and also has much to offer in the way of pure heart and soul.

For a band so indepted to bass-heavy Black Dance/Disco Music (Chic albums C’est Chic and Risqué, Bowie’s so-called Plastic Soul album Young Americans), Duran Duran have always been very adept at composing a memorable pop ballad, too (honorable mention goes to Save A Prayer off 1982’s Rio, A Matter Of Feeling from 1986’s Notorious, and Ordinary World off 1993’s Duran Duran). And the ballads on Red Carpet Massacre follow that tradition. The melodic and infectious Falling Down, co-written by Justin Timberlake, is an archetypical and classic Duran Duran song whose catchy chorus is quite irresistible, their best bid for a hit single since Ordinary World. Box Full ‘O Honey is a reflective, atmospheric mid-tempo ballad with lively acoustic guitar, a bouncy drumbeat, and distinct albeit discreet synth sounds. Simon Le Bon once again proves his melodic gift as a lyricist. Simon LeBon: “It's my best lyric on the album. I can see the person I'm writing about, my “queen of tumbledown”. No, I won't say who she is.”

The delicate She’s Too Much, the album’s third ballad, is adorned by gentle electric guitar flourishes, an interesting drum pattern, and an occasional keyboard motif. Nick Rhodes: “This is a key track, a story-telling ballad, which touches base with our traditional songwriting.” Simon Le Bon’s lyrics tend to be ambiguous, but here he makes no secret of who he’s singing about. Simon LeBon: “It's about my 16 year old daughter Saffron. She was in the studio that day and triggered the lyrics. I didn't know I was writing about her until the second line 'she's everything head first'. It tells a story. It's a soft moment on the album.” It’s also one of the most endearing songs on an album chock-full of irresistibly catchy compositions. Red Carpet Massacre is among Duran Duran’s most consistently enjoyable releases and a minor masterpiece within overtly commercial Pop Music. Hopefully, one day the album will receive the recognition that it deserves.

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