December 20, 2017 Duran Duran – Rio 35 years Later
Be it in New York, Rio, Tokyo, or any other city in the world, where good ol’ Pop Rock music is a radio staple, Duran Duran has surely long become a household name. After all, the English band was one of the New Wave Pop luminaries that invaded the record players and the music television channels of modern music–loving families in the 1980s. It all started with five gorgeous young men and their electrifying, discothèque-incubated, dancefloor-ready music – Simon LeBon (vocals), Nick Rhodes (keyboards, synthesizers), John Taylor (bass), Andy Taylor (guitar), and Roger Taylor (drums).
Formed in 1978, Duran Duran may have soared even higher on the wings of its subsequent, massive MTV-championed hits like “The Reflex,” “The Wild Boys,” and “Ordinary World.” However, the sonic magic and charisma of the hardworking band started as early as the moment the five lads prodded their million fans to save their prayers for them till the morning after and declared that “her name is Rio and she dances on the sand / And when she shines, she really shows you all she can.”
Released on May 10, 1982, Rio was the masterpiece where Duran Duran’s ascent to stardom really began. Thirty-five years have passed, and any so-called Duranie or fan of New Wave/Pop Rock music can fall in love all over again with the songs that comprised it. Now, start singing them in order in your head as you celebrate Rio’s 35th anniversary.
Duran Duran’s second album, Rio opened straightaway with the breakneck, glittery outburst of the title track – cascading bassline; chopping, percussive drum beats; slashing guitar; flickering keyboard melody; and the swaggering, velvety vocals of LeBon who confidently strutted onto the dancefloor like a bird of paradise as soon as his bandmates had made their presence felt. The energy calmed down a bit as the Disco-flavored “My Own Way” played next, but still carrying the same funky rhythm of the tight guitar-and-bass combo of Andy and John and the trademark echoing synths of Rhodes. The mid-tempo mode of the song then smoothly gave way to the ensuing jazzy, R&B-glazed, four-on-the-floor beat of “Lonely in Your Nightmare.”
Duran Duran’s flair for upbeat and dancey New Wave sensibilities came to the fore again with the melodic and catchy “Hungry Like the Wolf,” further ensnaring the listener into its infectiously engaging music and leaving him hungry for more. The ensuing “Hold Back the Rain” maintained the same dancefloor dynamics and bass-heavy grooves, aptly giving way to the cinematic “New Religion,” which then gradually picked up pace as the sonic drama continued. At this point, Duran Duran and the whole New Wave phenomenon were beginning to gain momentum. Their moment had come; they were indeed becoming the new religion of the young, music-loving generation of the then new decade.
“Last Chance on the Stairway” is a synth-drenched bliss that opened with dreamy keyboard lines and angular guitar strums and which eventually established its solid rhythm with a closely knit bassline and drumbeats that harked to the aural ambitions of the previous album’s “Planet Earth.” The penultimate track was the haunting ballad that launched not only a thousand lit candles, lighters, or cellphones but also millions of screaming fans and adoring music enthusiasts all over the world, who had submitted themselves to the mesmerizing music of the five English boys who originated in Birmingham, England.
Finally, the no-longer innocent boys of Duran Duran wrapped up Rio with the glassy, Gothic predisposition of “The Chauffeur,” further driving their followers in a limousine of glossy music to even higher planes in the subsequent years.
Yes, before they were able to reach up for the sunrise in the decades that ensued and ultimately became paper gods as they gradually perfected their fine Pop Rock craft, the Duran Duran men were already the same energetic, driven, and innovative (albeit still very young) artists behind the landmark album that was born thirty-five years ago. In the intervening gap between then and now, the songs that it contained should remain as potent and engaging to any lovers of good music as when they first blasted out of the loudspeakers of the boomboxes and headphones of the Walkman players of the so-called ’80s music generation.