A Lesson in Relevance: Duran Duran Through the Eras

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By: Nicole Cormier AXS Contributor Mar 14, 2016

Although many older groups have done their part to retain relevance through their long careers, few have mastered the ability to reach the younger generations of each era. One of these few is new wave band, Duran Duran who have evolved and persevered for damn near forty years. But they haven't simply survived, they have thrived, garnering new fans with each new release or move, all while staying committed to their artistry.

Band members have changed and tragedy has befallen the group, but their dynamic character has allowed them to thrive from decade to decade.

The 70s

The origin story is not an atypical one, budding from working odd jobs in a club until they earn some stage time, Duran Duran was born from its two founding members, John Taylor and Nick Rhodes in their hometown of Birmingham, England. The first lead singer Stephen Duffy was quickly replaced by Simon Le Bon who remains as the front man today.

It was during those first vital few years that their legacy's foundation was built upon expert media relations, charming good looks and an expertly curated image. They immediately worked with stylists to ensure that they carried themselves in a fashionable way. They would continue this trend throughout their career, choosing relevant designers each decade. They were covered consistently by teen magazines, which eventually exploded them into the success they would soon become quite comfortable with.

The 80s

It was in this decade where Duran Duran truly saw commercial success. During the 80s the group released their first studio album, Duran Duran and followed it in quick succession with four more, including Rio. Beyond their music, they also realized the importance of visual imagery and started catering to the then-brand-new MTV with risque and provocative videos, some that had to be heavily edited for on-air play. These videos, which became part of the “video star” era, were directed by well known and talented directors, making for instant hits.

It was also during the 80s that Princess Di did her part for their success by naming Duran Duran as her personal favorite and the group seamlessly catered to both UK and US fans as the press coined, “Fab Five.” Throughout the decade the group tried to shake their teen idol roots and as their fans aged, their music became more complicated and precise.

The 90s

This decade may have been the toughest on Duran Duran who was by then a quartet. They closed out the 80s with a greatest hits album that did well, but their follow up didn't perform as hoped. Matched against the grunge and mourning rock of the 90s the group didn't stand out, but they did continue to stand.

Their persevering nature was proven yet again with a move that regained their relevance without requiring them to reinvent themselves. They released Thank You in 1995 and it is comprised solely of covers of other great and germane artists including Led Zeppelin, Lou Reed, Melle Mel and more.

The 00s

The beginning of the new millennium marked some changes to the roster once again with the departure of John Taylor. But it only took a few years before a full reunion took place, followed by a new album, a world tour and a Lifetime Achievement Award via MTV in 2003.

True to their history, Duran Duran found another opportunity to reengage with younger fans by working with popular acts, including Justin Timberlake and Timbaland. Their popularity earned them a half time slot during Super Bowl XXXVIII.

The 10s

Duran Duran has continued to make well received music, but as every artist learned (at least we hope) that's not the key to relevance in the 2010s. Social media presence has become the single most important factor for garnering attention from fans and critics, and like in every other aspect of their career, the group excelled at this too. So far in this decade they've performed in the 2012 Summer Olympics and released 14th album in 2015, Paper Gods. Their understanding and use of social media has not only helped promote their album and supporting tour, but has also kept them relevant with the fans of all ages.

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