Two weeks ago, Duran Duran released a new music video for their song “Girl Panic.” It’s a very busy, high-concept affair, featuring five of the most popular supermodels from the 1980s portraying the members of the band. The real members of Duran Duran play the supporting roles of limo driver, hotel bellboy, room service waiter and elevator operator. They also appear as journalists interviewing their model doppelgangers, and as camera-wielding paparazzi.
It’s classic Duran Duran in so many ways — with the emphasis on glamour, decadence, and an abundance of scantily-clad women, it hearkens back to earlier videos like “Girls on Film” and “The Chauffeur.” There’s a subtle sense of humor in this one too, shown in the answers the models-as-Duran give to the interview questions. Cindy Crawford as John Taylor makes a wisecrack about “never really knowing who’s going to show up” as a nod to their frequently-changing guitarists. Helena Christensen as Roger Taylor says, “I don’t hang out with the rest of the guys, they’re a bad influence,” while in other scenes she’s seen guzzling champagne from the bottle and taking polaroids of the passed-out girls in her hotel room. Eva Herzigova was the standout, providing very opaque non-answers to questions posed by the actual Nick Rhodes. Yasmin Le Bon (wife of Simon), plays the unnamed “Guitarist,” which some people seemed to feel was kind of a slam to their current guitarist Dom Brown, who’s been with them for about five years now, but I thought it was all in good fun, and Dom himself always maintains (as did Yasmin in character), “I’m not a member of Duran Duran.” Naomi Campbell plays Simon Le Bon, and does so with some real poignance, I think. I wonder how much each band member scripted the responses for the women, because they did seem to really reflect the personalities that we know as Duran Duran.
I have to say, it’s a relief to see age-appropriate models in the featured roles. Even though there are piles (literally in some scenes) of young models all throughout this video, the band members aren’t really interacting with them, so it avoids the ick factor I felt about their video for “Falling Down.” In that video from 2007, the band members play doctors in white coats supervising a rehab center/mental institution populated with very young ladies in various stages of undress. I’m sure this attraction to the young ladies is mostly the Nick Rhodes influence at work — see also his photographs for the album cover of Red Carpet Massacre. The “Girl Panic” video could’ve easily gone in the same creepy direction, but manages to avoid it by keeping the middle-aged band members in cameo roles. Though I think it could have been just as good without the dozens of girls dressed in black lace, patent leather bodysuits and garter belts. Even the camera crew for this fake documentary is played by girls who look like they’d be more at home in a bondage club.
And I know, that’s the point. It’s excess to the nth degree, a callback to their 80s past, when they made luxurious big-budget videos in a time of economic austerity, thumbing their noses at the dourness of modern culture. But I watch this video and I wonder, “Who did they make this for?” They are fully aware that the large majority of their fan base is women. Yes, they have male fans, but let’s be honest, it’s the women who pay their bills. I’m one of those women. And you know what I’d love to see in a Duran Duran video? Duran Duran. I have no objection to looking at pretty women in pretty clothes, but when it’s a Duran Duran video, guess who I’d prefer to watch? They still look fantastic and can dress well when they put their minds to it, so why do they persist in overpopulating their videos with babes? Is it just because having pretty girls around is more fun for them when they have to spend a couple days shooting a video? Their last video, for “All You Need is Now,” was, in my mind, pretty close to perfect. Just the band, playing in a room lined with aluminum foil, and various shots of them walking the streets of London. Simple, lovely to watch, no naked women required. Was that just too boring for them? Oh well.
I realize I’m thinking too hard about this. It’s pop music, it’s the thing you’re supposed to use to escape from all the miserable stuff in the world. Am I criticizing a bon bon because it’s not a salad? Probably. And clearly a lot of people are loving this video, because since it was posted on November 8, it has (as of this writing) over 3.4 million views on YouTube. A lot of people are watching it, and it’s gotten a lot of press. So they obviously did something right. In contrast, the video for “All You Need Is Now” has just over 1.2 million views, and it’s been on YouTube for almost a year.
Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t come anywhere close to hating this video. I think it’s a really fun idea, and if it had just been executed in a slightly different way I would be ready to put it near the top of my list. The song itself is definitely one of my favorites from this album. But when you buy into the Duran Duran universe (as I obviously have), you know this kind of awkward excess is part of the deal, and you keep loving them anyway.
All videos referenced above are linked here: