The insanity continues, though for many “duranies,” it never stopped. Think of all the moderately successful musical, acts of the ‘80’s, and when you think you have it, ask how many remain even marginally relevant in today’s musical landscape. The answer? Not that many.
For the younger generation, the ‘80’s has achieved that mythical juncture in time where it is considered retro, and by extension, desirable. The era found itself defined by the striking mastery of Michael Jackson, a demigod of pop music, but few escaped the clutches of musical oblivion with popularity shifting as rapidly as the tastes it depends on (just ask yourself how many disco artists you know).
Duran Duran, known for its controversial musical videos and its hit single “Hungry Like the Wolf,” escaped the realm of irrelevancy by avoiding the often detrimental “diversification” phase and instead retaining their identity—and core members—for over three decades.
Paper Gods is their 14th studio album and first since 2010. It possesses all of the elements that catalyzed their rise to stardom: Simon Le Bon’s refreshing vocal range that can make you both bump to a contagious beat and reminisce on a distant past, its upbeat synthpop mix, and the steady stream of social commentary sprinkled throughout the album.
Unlike many of their previous works, especially their much-maligned 2010 effort All You Need Is Now, Paper Gods manages to keep their characteristic punk-meets-EDM style and infuse it with an invigorating new age pop sound made possible by its surprisingly large list of contributors, including the former Red Hot Chili Pepper John Frusciante and Lindsay Lohan (yes, you read that right).
The album owes much of its sound and success to the work the band embarked on with producer Mr. Hudson—made famous by his collaborations with both Kanye West and Jay-Z—and the revival of the deeply ‘80’s synthesizer-based sound experience spurred by Pharrell Williams’ “Blurred Lines,” and “Happy.”
During a recent interview with TIME magazine, keyboardist Nick Rhodes explained the reasoning behind their current sound: “We often talk as a band, ‘Who are our contemporaries? Who are doing anything in the same spectrum as we are?’”
“You can’t really stay around for this long and still be crap,” he said. “Making another record is not necessarily the easy route to take. It has a lot to do with not being intimidated by past success and not looking down.”
“Paper Gods,” the album’s first single, wastes no time in making the band’s view on the current states of affairs in the music industry abundantly clear. Mixed in between the uplifting chorus and soothing bridges, Le Bon puts forth an indictment of the superficiality of the “paper world” he lives in and its dependence on material possessions.
Often working with unknown entities in the industry yields unpredictable results, it seems almost a flip of a coin, it can either be a resounding success or a catastrophic failure—adding Lindsay Lohan definitely fits the above description, but her sultry spoken word in “Danceophobia” is remarkably bold and welcomed.
Lohan can now see herself at home among a rapidly expanding spectrum of unorthodox contributors that add an extra layer of intricacy. Her innuendo-filled delivery brings to mind Chris Rock’s surprise appearance in Kanye’s “Blame Game.”
“You Kill Me With Silence” adds a previously unheard intensity to Le Bon vocal range that feels almost like a plea to an unresponsive entity. It’s the type of song you listen to cruising on the highway after a long day in search of validation and catharsis. It achieves the most spiritual—if it can be deemed that—quality of the entire album.
The album delivers the type of sound that feels right at home in the current musical climate, but finds it not in the over diversification of their identity, but rather, it stems from a combination of new ideas and the elements that made Duran Duran popular when our parent’s actually liked popular music. Although it runs for perhaps two songs too long, Paper Gods delivers the type of sound that leaves the listener hungry (like a wolf) for more.
Featured Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records