Everybody, everywhere, feel it in the air…
Duran Duran just released the video for “Pressure Off”, the first single off their new Paper Gods album, and it’s a good one; since first viewing it, my fingers have been itching to Duranalyze the crap out of it. “Pressure Off” was directed by the band’s frequent collaborator, visual artist/director Nick Egan, who, in addition to creating the cover art for Duran Duran’s Wedding Album, also directed four of their earlier videos: “White Lines”, “Perfect Day”, “Ordinary World”, and “All You Need is Now.” Hey, those are all great songs! And those are all beautifully composed and visually compelling videos! However, while I have Duranalyzed a grand total of twenty-four videos to date, none of the aforementioned have made the cut. You know why? Because Egan doesn’t really do plots. His videos for the band, which mostly feature impeccably-shot performance footage mixed with cool visuals, don’t have storylines. Trust me, it’s much easier coming up with a thousand words or so about a video when there’s at least a loose narrative thread to follow.
“Pressure Off” has no storyline, either, but it’s so damn fun that I’m going to give this a whirl anyway. Here goes:
We open with black-and-white shots of the band performing against a stark white background. Everyone looks good, like they’ve been following sensible diets while getting plenty of sleep and fresh air and exercise. I mean, they probably haven’t—we’re talking about Duran Duran, louche party boys extraordinaire—but they look like they’ve been behaving themselves.
(I know, I know. They’re no longer the hilariously decadent and hard-partying twentysomethings of days past. They’re adults. They’ve all given up smoking, and at least half of them no longer drink, and the rest of their famous vices were jettisoned years ago. It’s disappointing. If Simon and Nick no longer take their famous portable wine cellar along when they go on tour, please don’t tell me. I’d like to cling to some illusions a while longer.)
Monsieur Le Bon: fifty-six years old and still smoking hot, thank you very much.
Guitar duties for this track are deftly handled by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, who also was one of the album’s co-producers. Nile, of course, has a long and productive history with Duran Duran: He produced “Wild Boys” and the Notorious album, and he’s the man who gave us the souped-up mix of “The Reflex” that everyone knows and loves. Man’s a legend. Always good to see you, sir.
Guest vocals are provided by the adorable and über-talented Janelle Monáe, whom I love to pieces for having the great, geeky taste to do an ambitious concept album based on Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi masterpiece, Metropolis. Anyway, instead of her signature tuxedo, Janelle chose to wear a jacket with one white sleeve for the shoot, which, thanks to the stark white background, means she has no left arm in this video.
“Pressure Off” is a light, fun, frothy song about easing up and letting things go. In fitting with that theme, it features a bunch of shots of the band members taking gravity-taunting leaps and tumbles through the air. Let’s hear from John Taylor, as quoted on the band’s official site, on the genesis of this video: “Nick Rhodes had the jumping idea, based on the photographs of Philippe Halsmann. It’s what the song is about, leaping into the unknown, taking the plunge, seizing the moment.”
Well, what do you know? Somewhere along the line, Nick Rhodes apparently stumbled across the concept of fun. Remember the old days when Nick would come up with an idea for a video, and his ideas would always be something like, “we’ll do an homage to Cocteau’s Le Testament de Orphée, only we’ll make it more esoteric, and we’ll take ourselves very, very seriously”? Don’t get me wrong—Nick being artsy and strange is the kind of stuff I live for, but using Halsmann’s famously cheery, buoyant photos as an inspiration is definitely a sign his obsessive little brain is functioning in a more laid-back groove these days. Even if he still constantly looks like he’s trying to shoot deadly laser beams from his eyes at the viewers.
Holy crap, Nick is dancing. Duran Duran’s glacial, glamorous ice prince is bopping around at his keyboard like he doesn’t have a care in the world. What’s going on? What kind of mad, mixed-up world have we entered?
Here’s Simon doing his very best impression of Tom Cruise in Top Gun:
(It’s possible he’s doing his very best impression of David Caruso in CSI: Miami, I suppose, but everything I know about Simon suggests he’d pick Maverick over Horatio Caine any day. Simon’s no fool.)
Oh, John. I don’t think John got the memo about the pressure being off. He looks very serious and glum, like he’s carrying the weight of the world on his narrow yet attractive shoulders. It’s going to be okay, John, I promise. You’re a world-famous pop icon! You live in a lavish 15th-century manor in the English countryside! Your cheekbones still ignite fires in the loins of women around the globe! I promise you, things are not all that bad for you right now.
Really. Everything’s going to be fine, John. You too, Roger.
No, seriously, John. What’s going on, babe? Talk to me. I’m starting to get concerned.
Anybody up for an impromptu Duran Duran striptease? Simon, naturally, is happy to oblige. There goes the jacket.
And the scarf.
John tries to get into the spirit of things by, uh, unzipping the sleeve of his leather jacket a bit. Partial credit for effort, John, especially since it looks like you’re maybe starting to think of smiling, just a little.
Nick looks into a crystal ball, which is filled with an image of wisps of smoke. Can’t tell that’s Nick? Step back from the screen a few paces and look again. You’ll see it. I mean, it’s a blurry shot, so I suppose that could be anyone, but the blond hair and smudgy dark eyes would seem to indicate our Mr. Rhodes.
Also… it’s a crystal ball encased within a metal claw. Of course that’s going to belong to Nick. Who else? What, you think John’s going to have one of those lying around his manor? Roger? Nope, that’s most definitely Nick’s. Nick, who once quipped to WWD that his pre-bed ritual involved “a small goblet of virgin’s blood”; Nick, who, years after the buzz about Second Life had run its course, still clung to the dream, probably because he’d designed himself a super-pretty Goth avatar. Claw-encased crystal orbs are right up his alley.
Oh, look. Yep, there it is. Nick owns a staff topped with a claw-encased crystal ball, quelle surprise. The coat’s pretty fabulous, too. Never stop being you, Nick.
That’s… not how you should treat a guitar.
There we go, John! Look at that gorgeous smile!
And in the closing seconds, now that the pressure really is off, Roger, who otherwise keeps a very low profile throughout this video, finally breaks into a wide, sunny grin.
Nicely done, everyone. Take a bow; you’ve earned some applause.