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“Duran Duran Vs Spandau Ballet” in 2015 – the dimensions of rivalry

16 August 2014 19 Comments
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DuranSpandauIn an interview back in the 90s, Duran Duran lead singer Simon LeBon admitted that New Romantics act Spandau Ballet was their most direct rival – on the music charts as well as in British pop culture. For the generation that remembers the rivalry of these two bands, 2015 might be the year to look forward to as both bands return with new albums. In fact, both bands are currently toiling away in recording studios right now.
The nature of the “Duran Duran Vs Spandau Ballet” rivalry will have a different flavor in 2015 than it did back in the day. This new flavor gives the bands advantages on some dimensions but not so much on others. Here are the new dimensions of the “Duran Vs Spandau” rivalry:

The “Hiatus” factor:

Unlike many bands from the 80s whose careers ended when that glorious decade ended, Duran Duran persevered and enjoyed two stunning comebacks – one in 1993 with the “Wedding Album” (which yielded two legitimate global radio hits – “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone“) and then again in 2004 with “Astronaut” (which featured the band’s original five members). Their most recent album – a “back to basics” album titled “All you need is now” was released in late 2010. Hence, Duran Duran never really went away despite the fact that pop culure influencers continue to bottle them into the 80s. Spandau Ballet, on the other hand, is slated to release their first album of new material since 1989 (besides their 2009 album “Once More” which primarily featured reworked versions of hits). Theirs is a sound that is married to the 80s. Hence, the curiosity factor around “Spandau in 2015” is immense. Their succesful arena tour in Europe and Australia in 2009-2010 suggests that Spandau Ballet is also the beneficiary of a deep-rooted “absence makes the heart grow fonder” syndrome. Duran Duran’s sound has evolved over the years. Hence, the curiosity factor around them is not that high. Hence, on this dimension, Spandau Ballet wins hands down and has a huge advantage over Duran Duran.

The America factor:

The success streak that Duran Duran has had in the US is commendable in the first 15 years of their career. They made the successful transition to the 90s with their hit album titled “The Wedding album“. They were a potent for to be reckoned with from 1981 all the way till 1993 in the US. While they have not necessarily transcended generations with their music in the US to the same extent that their late 80s rivals Depeche Mode have, they have held on to an incredibly loyal following that shows up in hordes for their concerts. Spandau Ballet has not had the same luck in the US. For reasons beyond our comprehension, they only had three US top 40 hits – “True“, “Gold” and “Only when you leave“. The latter two have not stuck in American pop culture the way “True” has. In fact, in the US, their legacy revolves solely around that one hit single. Hence, at least in the US, Duran Duran has the upper hand in terms of general anticipation for new material based on the breadth of their legacy.

The “production” legacy factor:

spandautrevorDuran Duran
is back in the studio with producers Nile Rodgers and Mark Ronson. Both producers brought out a sound in Duran Duran that marked stylistic shifts. Nile Rodgers gets the credit for infusing the funk in “Notorious” by Duran Duran while Mark Ronson forced the band to re-embrace the sound that made the band global superstars on “All you need is now“. Hence, Duran Duran is dipping into the same production well that made them stand out and have people take notice of them.

In the Spandau Camp, legendary music maestro Trevor Horn is holding the production reins on the new album. Trevor Horn has never worked with the band before but he is responsible for the sonic magic on albums by some of pop music’s most celebrated acts. Noteworthy examples include Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Pet Shop Boys, Robbie Williams, and Seal. It is safe to say that Mr. Horn just might be the music industry’s best and most reliable producer. He has the ability to overlay a cloak of classic timelessness on every piece of music that he touches. While Duran Duran has tapped into the production talent that built their legacy, Spandau Ballet is availing of production talent that has built the legacy of other great artists – including some of their contemporaries in their 80s heyday. Hence, on this dimension, it is not very clear who has the upper hand.


The “Chart” factor:

The only chart that the two acts are likely to seriously compete in are the albums charts of countries. While both hands have a knack for crafting delectable radio-ready melodies, terrestrial radio’s (sadly, these folks still “own” the ears of most music listeners) ageist slant makes it virtually for these bands to have a legitimate radio hit with their new material. Both bands should license away one song each to a high-profile television commercial that is featured at prime time if they really want to have a taste of radio success again -especially in the US where both these bands are seen as 80s bands. While that label might be understandable for Spandau Ballet, it makes virtually no sense for Duran Duran – since the band has been releasing albums through the 90s and the 00s all the way up until 2010’s “All you need is now“.  It is unclear how things will play out here. Frankly, it will be great if both bands have #1 albums – something that is more likely if they release their albums at different times of the year.

The “music video” factor:

When people think of MTV’s heyday, not a soul thinks of Spandau Ballet. Duran Duran very quickly bubbles to the top of mind for people when they discuss groundbreaking music videos – especially the Sri Lanka-based “location shoots” for the music videos for singles off the “Rio” album.  The return-on-investment associated with music videos is negative. Hence, the presence that both these bands had on television can no longer be leveraged. It is practically irrelevant as to what the bands look like since MTV does not feature music videos anymore and has instead degenerated into a showcase for mind-numbing reality television shows. That being said, it appears that Duran Duran has not lost their appetitie for indulgence when it comes to music videos as can be seen in their video for “Girl Panic” – the second single off their “All you need is now” album. The music videos features top models of yesteryear – namely Cindy Crawford, Yasmin LeBon, Naomi Campbell, Helena Christenssen, and Eva Herzigova. The video was a nod to Duran Duran’s over-the-top music videos from the early 80s – most notably “Girls on Film”. Either way, since music videos are virtually irrelevant today, odds are, Duran Duran will NOT have the upper hand on Spandau Ballet in the way that they did back in the 80s. Neither act has an advantage on this dimension.

So who do you think will win the battle of “Duran Duran vs Spandau Ballet” in 2015 and why?


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19 Responses to "“Duran Duran Vs Spandau Ballet” in 2015 – the dimensions of rivalry"

  1. Frannie says:

    If I’d have to compare them I’d have to vote for Duran Duran. Now maybe I’m biased because I do live in the US. But to me Duran Duran has more of that cool “it” factor I love. They are more rock and roll and exciting to me. People criticize them for working with Timbaland and Justin Timberlake, but I like that try to incorporate some modern influences into what they do.
    To me, Spandau Ballet seems a little more MOR and older and less cool,if you know what I mean.

  2. @Frannie: I think you definitely just spoke to the “America” factor and to the one about the breadth of the band’s legacy. I have to agree that Spandau Ballet has been quite MOR since the late 80s whereas Duran Duran has retained their spunk over the last three decades. I had no issues with the band working with Timberlake and Timbaland but I just think Timbaland did a lousy job of production on everything besides “Falling Down”.

  3. Frannie says:

    I guess I have a minority opinion because I really love Red Carpet Massacre. I like Duran Duran but was more of a casual fan just liking their songs on the radio, not necessarily following them super closely. But Red Carpet Massacre actually made me take an interest in them again when I had kind of forgotten about them. To be honest, I prefer Red Carpet Massacre to All You Need is Know. I know that’s a minority opinion though. I guess Duran Duran reminds me of Madonna my favorite artist in a way in that they do evolve and take on modern influences while still retaining their essence and they don’t make the same record over and over again. She also has that spunky factor I love.

    You mentioned that music videos are irrelevant now. I know MTV doesn’t really play videos but I’m not sure they’re completely irrelevant. People do check out videos on youtube. A lot of artists have been ignoring the power of videos recently, but I kind of feel that’s a mistake. I feel for some older acts who don’t get radio airplay making a really cool unique video and putting it on youtube could be a good way to get interest in their single so I don’t think that should be ignored. Duran Duran definitely has made great videos in the past so I think they should continue that.

    On another note, I just went to a Tori Amos concert last night. Great show! I know you said you weren’t so into her, but her new album Unrepentant Geraldines is great. I recommend the songs 16 Shades of Blue, Oysters, Selfie and Weatherman.
    Tori has a love for 80’s music! She has covered such songs as Duran Duran’s Rio, Culture Club’s Do You Really Want to Hurt Me, Careless Whisper by Wham, I Ran by Flock of Seagulls and at the show last night Pictures of You by the Cure. Those are worth checking out on youtube. (Every night at her shows she does two covers and they’re always different ones.)

  4. @Frannie: I like Duran Duran taking chances. They’re a fantastic band and I still think that “Falling Down” was better than any of the tracks off of “All you need is now”. The title track of “All you need is now” could have been a sure-fire comeback single for them if it was not for the god-awful verses.

    Music videos are relevant when they go viral. If not, they are still viewed by people but they certainly do not have the huge “reach effect” of the type that a mainstream broadcast medium (i.e. television) provides. Hence, the investment in them and its potential value to drive increased sales becomes questionable. The music video was a promotional tool but today, but it seems like its ability to drive sales is quite limited. That being said, I do agree with you. I hope Duran Duran continues to make more videos like “Girl Panic” as opposed to something low-budget like “All you need is now”.

    I will definitely spend sometime tonight listening to the Tori Amos tracks that you suggested. Thank you so much for these. You said you would also send me a few Wang Chung recommendations – so please send those over. Thank you in advance and thank you as always for stimulating interesting discussion on our blog posts. We truly appreciate it and do not take it for granted at all.

  5. ANDRES PREZA says:

    good to start think Duran Duran is definitely superior as spandu thousand light years, his musical career is amazing how many you can comment one day hear on planet earth or film grils
    another day you can hear rio hungry like the wolf one can hear the most notorious reflex can hear other day come undone ordinary world and for us younger generations often do not share some tastes of the past can hear what happens tomorrow and sunrise or if tell red carpet massacre was fine for me maybe 80s fans do not like me much but the new fans like me clarify that I love and I love DURAN DURAN girl from planet earth to panic. for my point of view I do not think that RCM is better than Aynn this album is the essence of the band masestra work is a mixture of past and present a very Cadre album that makes you see the band as it is not shit that today there music.
    generally to all Duranies or not so Duranies I teno a phrase that is true and ls share and also tells you that you see do not like all the songs of Duran Duran but there will always be one for each person of whatever age that no other band has a hate river planet earth come undone or other loved falling down but always open a song for every kind of person
    and that is thanks to what they say risk I am not repeated DURANIE’m 21 years old and am MEXICAN missing years of my life I will be true to the band until the day I die I’ll be DURANIE greetings

  6. @Andres: First, it is such as PLEASANT surprise to see a comment from a 21-year old Duran Duran fan – that too from Mexico! “All You Need Is Now’ is a real return to the sound that propelled Duran Duran into the limelight. The producer of the album Mark Ronson wanted that album to be the sequel to the “Rio” album, and sonically, it looks like he accomplished that very well with Duran Duran. RCM was a disappointment not because of its deviation from an 80s-friendly sound but most because the production was weak despite how great the songs were at their core.

    I definitely think the band is tapping into two producers that have brought something great out of the band. Hopefully, that also means the two distinct styles will characterize the new Duran Duran album. That, from my perspective, is never a bad thing! Just out of curiosity, how did you discover this radio blog? Greetings from New York City!

  7. Frannie says:

    Here are some Wang Chung tracks I like. I really like their song Hypnotize Me from their 1986 album Mosaic. Also, the Eyes of the Girl from that album. I also like To Live and Die In LA, They did the soundtrack for the movie.

    I guess I’m weird in that I do like some 80’s music, but I also like to keep up on current artists. I really like the new song by Zola Jesus called Dangerous Days. She had a few previous albums but they were more avant garde, but on this she is going in a more pop radio friendly direction.

    I’m also huge on this new singer named Banks. I love her song What it Feels Like. She kind of does a mix of R&B and laid back electronica.

  8. Marisa says:

    It’s Spandau Ballet all the way for me, always was in the 1980s and still is today. Looking forward to hearing their new album of new music in 2015, working with Trevor Horn to me seems a very good choice the band made, just wanna hear it now!! Marisa, London UK

  9. Jan from Belgium says:

    I think that Spandau vs duran is a difficult choice. Both bands are good and sing very well. But my choice is Spandau because Tony his amazing Voice. He is one of the best singers ever. Simon is a kind of a showman on stage. The songs of Both bands are Great. I hope that Both bands give a tour in 2015.

  10. @Frannie: I am guessing you know that we added “To live and die in LA” and “Hypnotize me” to our library thanks to your recommendation. Banks is a bit too downbeat for us. We really want to like her. She’s “almost there but not quite” for us but we’re confident we will like her soon as she evolves as an artists. Some great potential in there. Still feeling quite ambivalent about Zola Jesus.

  11. @Marisa: Well, the first of the new tracks has surfaced. It is called “this is the love”. We reviewed it on our blog. Trevor Horn is hands down the best producer in the business today. He makes EVERYTHING sound epic – so Spandau could not have picked a better producer. It looks like we will hear two more new Spandau tracks this year and then hopefully the entire new album in 2015. Cannot wait to hear what Spandau in 2015 sounds like. Very Very exciting to say the least.

  12. @Jan from Belgium: It is likely that both bands WILL tour in 2015. Tony’s voice is beyond amazing. He still has the pipes. I am just not sure if there is a full-length album due in 2015 by Spandau though.

  13. irene Dailly says:

    Spandau will always be the best for me. Tony Hadley ‘ s voice is just brilliant.

  14. @irene Dailly: The only downer in all of this is that Spandau Ballet is NOT releasing a full-length album in 2015. We assumed incorrectly that the project with Trevor Horn was for a full album as opposed to just a few new tracks for a new compilation. But yes, Tony Hadley has an amazing voice.

  15. Gregor McIntyre says:

    Trevor Horn has previously worked with Spandau Ballet …. he remixed “Instinction” in 1982 and the band would have done an album with him back then but he wanted them to get a new drummer and the length of time he took in producing “Instinction” made it a problem!

  16. @Gregor: Thank you for the comment. We actually figure out about the work on Instinction after we published this article. We should go ahead and reflect the update and we will attribute credit for this information to you. Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station?

  17. Eucharia says:

    Spandau Ballet for me, as for Tonley Hadley in his day, phwoooarrr!!!

  18. andy says:

    i’m not gonna beat around the bush here, lets be honest duran then and now are far superior
    duran 21 hits billboard 100
    Spandau a sorry 3 hits umm
    duran 100 million records
    Spandau 25/35 million im guessing here correct me if i’m wrong.
    duran superior musicians
    superior song writers
    oh duran premier league
    Spandau championship
    need I say more.

  19. @andy: I am amazed that his article of ours still gets eyeballs and readers. I have to admit that this article has NOT aged very well – especially with the recent departure of Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley from the band that propelled him to stardom. Given this reality, there is no debate whatsoever that Duran Duran has the upper hand. While Ross William Wild (the new frontman of Spandau Ballet) is a competent vocalist, I think it is going to be difficult for the band to move forward without new music given how inextricably linked the band’s legacy is to Tony Hadley despite Gary Kemp being the band’s primary songwriter.

    As far as Billboard chart success is concerned, I would not make that a benchmark of evaluation (even though Duran Duran had the upper hand even on the UK charts relatively to Spandau Ballet).

    If Spandau Ballet had continued the way Duran Duran did in the 90s and beyond, one can only wonder if they would have been able to nurture their artistry in the way that Duran Duran did.

    Just out of curiosity, how did you discover our radio station and blog?

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