Duran Duran - "Pressure Off" feat. Janelle Monaé and Nile Rodgers
Our writers offer up the skinny on the first single, "Pressure Off", from synthpop vets Duran Duran's upcoming new album, Paper Gods, which releases September 11th via via Warner Bros.
Matt James: If 2010's glitzy All You Need Is Now was a time travellin' Rio successor, Duran are now seemingly redialing their DeLoreans towards 1986's Notorious. A 'Get the funk out' rumpshaker with Co-Pilot Nile “Goldfinger” Rodgers (back! Back! BACK!) again sprinkling a soupçon of Chic magnifique. Le Bon struts around hollering about “The Future!” with such fizzy abandon you suspect it was recorded the day Duran signed their new swanky 'Daddy Warbucks - Champagne Breakfast - Enormodomes 'Ere We Come' deal with Warner Bros. Sure it's all a bit daft, slightly “Duran dumbed down” for “The Kidz” but we're promised forthcoming album Paper Gods will honour their “Dark, weird experimental side” so it's worth sticking around. Le Bon's got rid of his dodgy Captain Birdseye beard too which is a bonus. [6/10]
Timothy Gabriele: The strangest thing about a bunch of late 50-something, one percenter dudes (including one who once made a documentary about his yacht) asking us to “take the pressure off” and “step out into the future” over a beat that could have emerged from any one of the four decades they’ve been a band is that most of those who hear these sentiments will not experience them as cognitive dissonance at all. We will accept these rules as instructive. And there’s a reason for that. Duran Duran, forever scarred by their hideous covers album 20 years ago, sound as vital as they have in years -- or at least I think they do -- who could bother to pay attention after that baffling mix of “911 is a Joke”? Mark Ronson, he of midtown/uptown funking, is apparently all over this album, and steely-eyed in his determination to do to the Gap Band and the Time in this decade what the '60s and '70s did to Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Wilkins (exploit their wares for drugged up white kids to take the pressure off to). Still, the song they’ve cobbled together (with an assist from Nile Rodgers) is solid through the verse and the bridge up to the chorus, where it just loses the script. Those “oh-oh”s are in dire need of some digital gloss, a Jai Wolf flip or Rustie photplasty. Then, Janelle Monae shows up, never one to pass up the opportunity for a quick cameo paycheck. At least the listeners will be having more fun than anyone in the studio. Eh, state of 2015, really. We could do worse/we could do better. [5/10]
John Bergstrom: The last Duran Duran production-fest, the Timbaland/Timberlake-assisted Red Carpet Massacre, was a flop. For this new one, they've got Mark "Uptown Funk" Ronson and Nile "Get Lucky" Rodgers, and the prognosis is a bit better. Sleek, Euro Duran beats cod-funk Duran any day, but just enough of LeBon, Rhodes, and the Taylors comes through to make "Pressure Off" a pretty good time. Just. [7/10]
Jonathan Frahm: Though my opinion on the track is still far less scathing, I find myself agreeing with Adrien’s musings on New Order’s latest single, “Going Steady”, on the most baseline of levels: the song doesn’t offer much new or innovative if you’ve been listening to them for years. Duran Duran, another '80s synth-oriented pop band of revere, however, knows how to brush tinges of familiarity in with something relatively avant-garde for the outlet. In this case, that’s a hefty dosage of metallic funk retrofitted into Duran Duran’s proverbial pop-rock rabbet in large part thanks to Nile Rodgers, with Janelle Monaé carrying a less weighty, but nice touch as an airy harmonist to Le Bon’s grittier, take-charge lead. With this single, Duran Duran is back, even though they’ve never really quite left the building. [8/10]
Paul Duffus: It's a fact that Nile Rodgers' playing improves any song by about 250%. Using Rodgers on a track is like activating a cheat mode. His genius only makes his longstanding fondness for Duran Duran all the more bewildering. The Rodgers and Mark Ronson co-production is super-contemporary, totally now, right of this second, mondo 2015. In other words like most modern pop it’s swathed in horrible retro garb, which in this case fits the artist perfectly. However it’s a bit like having cutting edge cloning technology and using it to resurrect the most useless figure from history you can think of. All in all a spirit-sapping exercise in nostalgia guaranteed to sound catastrophically dated (again) in about five years. [4/10]
Chris Gerard: The first single from Paper Goods, the upcoming follow-up to Duran Duran’s superb 2010 album All You Need Is Now, is a welcome return for a band that has been delivering consistently terrific pop for over 30 years. Their glory days of riding high in the Top 40 are long gone, but anybody who’s followed them knows that Duran Duran, unlike many of their MTV-era peers, have never really gone away. Produced by Nile Rodgers and featuring a vocal cameo by Janelle Monáe, “Pressure Off” is an energetic slice of funk/pop with the type of soaring chorus for which Duran Duran is famous. It sounds current and fresh, but with sharp bursts of retro synths harkening back to their ‘80s heyday. Nobody will ever put “Pressure Off” in the same category as classic singles like “Hungry Like the Wolf", “Save a Prayer” or “Notorious", but it’s still a promising beginning to the latest chapter of Duran Duran’s long and massively successful career. [7/10]