Duran Duran Joins Comeback Parade This week's music releases feature a string of comebacks, with offerings from Duran Duran, Boyz II Men and Alicia Keys. Lizzy Goodman, editor-at-large of Blender magazine, samples the new old sounds.
NPR logo

Duran Duran Joins Comeback Parade

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/16243290/16243253" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Duran Duran Joins Comeback Parade


Duran Duran Joins Comeback Parade

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/16243290/16243253" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


It's Tuesday, and that means it's music time. And, no, you're not dreaming; it's not 1984. We actually have some offerings, though, from Duran Duran, Boyz II Men, Aretha Franklin - that's actually going past, way past the '80s if you want to go back to the time machine - and Alicia Keys, a little bit more current with her stuff.

In honor of these comeback kids, we're going to take a step back and talk about some old made new this Music Tuesday.

Lizzy Goodman is here to help us with that. She's the editor at large of Blender magazine. Hi, Lizzy.

Ms. LIZZY GOODMAN (Editor-at-Large, Blender): Hi there.

BURBANK: So first stop we've got Duran Duran. It's called "Red Carpet Massacre." Let's hear some of that.

(Soundbite of song, "Nite Runner")

Mr. SIMON LE BON (Vocalist, Duran Duran): (Singing) You're nocturnal, only come out at night.



(Soundbite of song, "Nite Runner")

Mr. LE BON: (Singing) And I'm learning all the ways you wanna ride 'cause you're on the roam.

BURBANK: So that track is called "Nite Runner," one of my favorite Justin Timberlake songs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: How Justin is that? I mean, like, that didn't sound like Duran Duran to me?

Ms. GOODMAN: Really? It's…

BURBANK: You think so?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. I mean, it's sort got that sleazy, '80s vibe going for it. I think maybe Justin has more in common with Duran Duran than we realized.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Yeah, the whole album really does sound sort of classically Duran Duran-like to me. It's exactly what I would expect from a kind of updated version of, you know, the synthpoppiest of synthpop band ever. Yeah, I like it. I think it's good.

BURBANK: Who produced this? I understand that some of the folks who helped Britney out on "Blackout"?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, Timbaland and his protégé Nate Danja Hills who worked on a lot of the songs on the Britney record are both all over this Duran Duran album. So - and Justin has a couple of production credits as well.

BURBANK: Okay. So I'm not crazy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: No, it says…

BURBANK: I haven't even seen that on the notes, I just want to tell you. I was calling Justin out before I even saw that.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, then that is very impressive. Yes. No, he's - yeah, he's, I mean, he's all over this and he's on that song, he did the vocals on that song. So you - you've - you're picking up on something that's actually there which is nice. But, yeah, I mean, this is - there's a lot of contemporary people on this record, but it still sounds very much like the band to me.

BURBANK: I guess it's kind of interesting because it's - Duran Duran - it sounds like kind of taking a note from these pop-type people that were probably influenced by them in the first place.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, exactly. It's very circle, circle, circle. It's all coming back to them. It's convenient to be so influential because then if you want to come back, you sound current again because everything that other people have been doing has been sort of, you know, there's - their influence on music is still very present. So, I mean…

STEWART: Somebody needs to get Madonna that e-mail.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I think, frankly.

Anyway, sorry.

Ms. GOODMAN: That's funny.

BURBANK: All right, keeping with everything old being new or at least back out for people to enjoy, Boyz II Men?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, they're back.

BURBANK: They're back with "Motown: A Journey through Hitsville USA." Let's take a listen.

(Soundbite of song, "The Tracks of my Tears")

BOYZ II MEN (Singing Group): (Singing) So take a good look at my face, you'll see the smile looks out of place. If you look closer, it's easy to trace the tracks of my tears.

STEWART: I'm not sure that needed remaking.

BURBANK: In the exact vocal styling of Smokey Robinson.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: I mean, I don't know if you improve on Smokey.

BURBANK: Clearly, high harmony it ain't.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, they're not - I mean, there's a reason that Boyz II Men is one of the most successful, you know, male R&B vocal groups ever. They're - they do what they do very well, and it's very clean and, yeah, they didn't take a lot of risks on this one. But, you know, it's - this is what people expect from them; it's very pristine, and that's what they deliver all the time.

BURBANK: There was no band comprised of totally able-bodied guys that used more canes than Boyz II Men.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Every member of Boyz II Men had a cane at one point for some reason.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, they're the canniest band ever. Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Well, it's the whole step…

BURBANK: Blender's canniest band list, right?

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, Blender's…

STEWART: Well, it's the whole step dancing from…


STEWART: …black fraternities.


STEWART: That's the whole cane thing. They were trying to be down with that. So, they…

BURBANK: Right. But they - I always - when I would see those step canes, they would sort of look like a candy cane, like candy stripe. No, like red and white and the ones that…

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, totally.

BURBANK: When I was, like, a white guy growing up in Seattle, I would see the Boyz II Men cane, I would just think, oh, Shawn has a limp - and a beautiful sweater to match.

Do they do anything surprising on this record?

Ms. GOODMAN: Not really. I mean, they cover their own song which is, you know, brave, I guess, thanks to the…

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Or can we say ballsy?

Ms. GOODMAN: I guess the egos are in healthy state at this point which is nice, but, you know, I mean, they're not (unintelligible) that either.

STEWART: They covered their own song.

BURBANK: Which song?

Ms. GOODMAN: "End of the Road." And…

BURBANK: You know, it's - that's not the last time you're going to hear "End of the Road" in this show. I'm not even kidding you. Stay tuned, a very special BRYANT PROJECT -BRYANT PARK PROJECT presentation coming up involving that song.

But, wait a minute, they covered it? Did they just do it exactly the same or…

Ms. GOODMAN: No, it sounds, you know, slightly different just enough different to make it seem like completely familiar, but also like a new version. Yeah, it's sort of cheeky that they did that, but, you know, other than that, it's pretty much, you know, exactly what you would expect from Boyz II Men doing a bunch of Motown standards.

BURBANK: Well, somebody sued Nickelback for plagiarizing Nickelback.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: So, I guess, you know…

Ms. GOODMAN: So Boyz II Men better watch out because…

BURBANK: Seriously, you're on notice.

And now, somebody with, I would argue, a fine musical pedigree, someone not ever accused of being derivative or playing it safe: Ms. Aretha Franklin.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah.

BURBANK: She's got a new offering called "Jewels From The Crown: Duets with the Queen of Soul." Let's have a listen to that.

(Soundbite of song, "Put You Up On Game")

Ms. ARETHA FRANKLIN (Singer): (Singing) …I'm just watching you, babe.

Ms. FRANKLIN and Ms. FANTASIA BARRINO (Singer): (Singing) Let me put you up on game. Every man is different, but the game won't change. Let me put you up on game, so you don't make the same mistakes I made.

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) Ooh.

Ms. FRANKLIN and Ms. BARRINO: (Singing) Let me put you up on game. Players make the players and the players play the game.

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) So before you go and you take his last name…

Ms. BARRINO (Singer): (Singing) …his last name.

Ms. FRANKLIN: (Singing) Let me put you up on, up on, up on game.

Ms. BARRINO: (Singing) Oh, I understand what you are saying.

BURBANK: That's Aretha Franklin singing along with Fantasia of "American Idol" fame. That song is called "Put You Up on Game."


BURBANK: So is this a good record, or is this just a sort of marketing gimmick?

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, I mean, maybe both. There's sort of always - there's something always appealing about kind of miming the back catalogue of a great artist like Aretha and seeing what else is out there and what else she can do with other sort of disciples. And there's a lot of disciples on this album - Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston - people who are very prominent in their own right. But, you know, Aretha is the queen.

And I think that's kind of - is proven on this record. There's a lot of interesting songs on here. But for the most part, there are a few that make me think I wouldn't rather just be listening to an Aretha Franklin song.

STEWART: Yeah. All hail the queen, as far as I'm concerned.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes. It's kind of tough. You know, you kind of can't blame these people. It's hard to go up against her.

BURBANK: Yeah, like…

Ms. GOODMAN: But the Fantasia song is great. They have a really - for some reason, that just really works, the two of them together. So that's nice to see.

STEWART: Yeah, if I had to do the whole "Quiet Storm" thing, I think I'd choose this versus the Boyz II Men thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: That's fair enough. Fair enough.

BURBANK: I mean, are you referring to our friends who create the smooth jazz, the smoothest of the jazz? This is "Quiet Storm."

All right. Well, I guess, if you are Fantasia or Mariah and you get a chance to sing with Aretha, we can't really hate on you for wanting to take…

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. You got to take - you got to bake it.

BURBANK: Take and bake it. She's everybody's hero.

Ms. GOODMAN: Exactly.

BURBANK: She was my hero growing up as an African-American woman. I can tell you that much.

All right. Well, speaking of people who may actually be a little more the heir apparent to Alicia Keys - to Aretha Franklin, that would be Miss Alicia Keys. And she's got a record out called "As I Am."


BURBANK: Let's hear a track called "No One."

(Soundbite of song, "No One")

Ms. ALICIA KEYS (Singer): (Singing) But all I know is everything's gonna be all right. No one, no one, no one can get in the way of what I'm feeling. No one, no one, no one can get in the way of what I feel for you.

BURBANK: All right. Alicia Keys' 19 million records, nine Grammies, any sign of that in this record?

Ms. GOODMAN: Sure. I mean, she's doing, to me, exactly what she's been doing all along, which has made her so successful, which is record the sort of classy, '70s influence, soul, R&B piano stuff. And it's - she's done it again on this record. I don't think it's as quite as good as some of what we've heard from her in the past. But she's talked about wanting to kind of break out of the box a little bit on this record and explore. And maybe that sort of accounts for some of the deviations from - you got to applaud her for trying to kind of change up her formula.

But - yeah. There's a - this single, "No One," there's a couple of other really, really strong contenders for major, major radio play on this record. And that's - I'm sure we're going to see that.

BURBANK: I know this is already getting a lot of play on VH1.

Ms. GOODMAN: It's all over - yeah.

BURBANK: I was trapped in a hotel room recently and it was, like, on 30 times in one hour.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes. I think you're going to be hearing more of that - from this song and others.

BURBANK: And she also got some good producers on this record, I understand.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah. She's got - I mean, she's working with really good people as usual. But, again, I mean, she - the sort of star collaborations on this album where she worked with John Mayer on a song and she worked with Linda Perry on a song. And she's sort of - she had talked about sort of trying to kind of, like I said, step outside the box and work with new people. She's a very accomplished songwriter in her own right obviously. So when she goes out and kind of seeks collaboration, that says something, it means she's trying to kind of change things up.

And for the most part, you know, I don't think those are the songs on the album that really stand out. The songs that are most successful to me are the ones that kind of do what she - what we know she can do, which is channel this kind of great '70s old school feel.

BURBANK: Lizzy, I'm hearing in these releases that we've talked about so far overwhelming apathy from you. Are there any releases out that we didn't get to mention, just maybe one or two that you think people should check out? Is there anything that does get you kind of jazzed?

Ms. GOODMAN: The apathy - it's showing through. No. I'm not - I don't feel apathetic. But - yeah. There is - the Hives record comes out today. I really love the Hives record. I think there's a couple of great songs on The Killers B-Sides(ph) Collection which comes out today.

BURBANK: Which we would have played except for, unfortunately, they don't have their music available yet. And so…


Ms. GOODMAN: No to killers.

BURBANK: No to killers. Look, you are dead to the BPP, not dead to the BPP as our friend Lizzy Goodman, editor-at-large of Blender magazine, bringing us the freshest of the hits on this Music Tuesday. Thank you, Lizzy.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

BURBANK: All right, bye.

STEWART: Thanks, Lizzy.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: All right. If you're one of those people who's late to work a lot, you're driving your officemates crazy. We'll explain a little further. Not that it needs a whole lot of explanation.

BURBANK: I'm sorry. Did you say something? I'm just - my headphones were turned on.

STEWART: Luke Burbank, this segment is for you.



BURBANK: My stapler.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.