Ever since they emerged as part of the New Romantic scene of the early 1980s, Duran Duran have divided opinion. They inspire intense loyalty in their fans (of which there are many) but tend to draw blank looks or flat-out derision from others. Regardless of whether you’re a lover or a hater, there’s no arguing with their success. They dominated in the 1980s, and despite a few minor commercial hiccups, have enjoyed continued chart success ever since. With over 100 million records sales under their collective belt, they now rank as one of the best-selling music acts in the world. Here’s how we rank all the Duran Duran albums from worst to best.
15. Thank You
After the success of Duran Duran’s 1993 self-titled album, hopes were riding high for their next release…. hopes that came crashing down to earth the moment people heard what it was. Although you can’t fault Thank You’s ambition, you can fault its intention. There are certain things that Duran Duran just shouldn’t do, and covering heavyweights like Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Public Enemy, Bob Dylan, and Sly and the Family Stone is one of them. Their cover of Grandmaster Melle Mel’s White Lines is passable, but the rest of the album is best avoided.
14. Red Carpet Massacre
As diffuser.fm comments, Red Carpet Massacre is a rare case where collaborating with a team of cutting edge movers and shakers didn’t reap any benefits for Duran Duran. The Justin Timberlake and Timbaland collab, Nite Runners, has got plenty of flair, and there’s a lot to like about Falling Down and Tricked Out, too. But the album just doesn’t come together, particularly on the tracks involving producer Danja.
When the clock struck 1990, Duran Duran and every other big arena rock act from the ’80s suddenly found themselves out of favor and out of date. You couldn’t really blame them for not having a Plan B in place, as no one had anticipated how quickly tastes would change. You can blame them (at least a little) for the lackluster Liberty though, which aside from a light sprinkling of gems, is one of their most lethargic, lackluster efforts to date.
12. Pop Trash
By the time Duran Duran released Pop Trash in 2000, only Simon LeBon and Nick Rhodes remained from the classic band lineup – which may explain why they sound so far removed from their ’80’s heyday. There are a few lovely ballads scattered throughout, but the overblown production kills most songs before they get the chance to prove themselves. Of all their releases, it’s one of their more overlooked… for good reason.
The band’s eleventh album, Astronaut, was released in September 2004. It was the first full album since 1983’s Seven and the Ragged Tiger to feature the band’s classic lineup. Fans clearly appreciated the chance to hear the fab five in all their glory, sending the album to No. 17 on the US Billboard 200 and the top ten in various other countries. The critics didn’t appreciate it quite so much, but tracks like the No. 1 dance hit (Reach Up for The) Sunrise and the excellent title track did at least give them something to chew on.
10. Big Thing
Duran Duran’s fifth studio album Big Thing wasn’t what anyone would describe as a critical success. All Music called it their “most disappointing album,” which just about summed up the general consensus. But time has, if not completely redeemed it, then at least allowed people to appreciate the merits of songs like the techno-rocker Lake Shore Driving and the lushly arranged Do You Believe in Shame?
On November 21, 1986, Duran Duran released their fourth studio album, Notorious. It was their first album without guitarist Andy Taylor and drummer Roger Taylor, and their absences are tangible. The album showcased a new funk-pop direction, complete with falsetto vocals and sharp blasts of horn. It’s an album that you’ll either hate or love… although most fans seemed to like it well enough at the time, with the album charting at No. 16 in the UK and No.12 on the Billboard 200.
On Medazzaland, Duran Duran got deep into electro experimentation. It didn’t go down well with fans, and the poor performance ultimately led to Duran Duran and EMI parting ways after two decades. But there are some very solid songs if you look for them, not least the melancholy Midnight Sun and the futuristic synthrock of Big Bang Generation.
7. Paper Gods
In 2015, Duran Duran made a big return to form with Paper Gods, a sleek, purposeful album that proved a big hit with both critics and fans alike. In the UK, it charted at No. 5, making Duran Duran one of a very small group of bands who’ve achieved a top 5 hit record in four consecutive decades. In the US, it charted at No. 10, becoming their first top ten hit since 1993’s Duran Duran.
6. Seven and the Ragged Tiger
Some people have criticized the writing on Seven and the Ragged Tiger as being inscrutable, or in some cases, just plain meaningless. But meaningless or not, the songs themselves are excellent, particularly on highlights such as Take the Dice, New Moon on Monday, and the No.1 hit, The Reflex. Released in November 1983, it became their first and so far only No. 1 album in the US.
5. Duran Duran
Duran Duran’s debut album is a wedge of pure, unapologetic pop with a few hints of new wave, a touch of disco, and plenty of space-age guitars. It might not have the polish of some of their later albums, but its freshness and vitality are irresistible. Released in June 1981, it reached No. 3 on the UK Albums Chart and stayed in the top 100 for an astonishing 118 weeks, certifying platinum in just 6 months.
4. Future Past
This year, Duran Duran returned with Future Past, an album that finds that band in particularly fine form. The lyrics are strong, with more emotional depth than many would expect from Duran Duran, and the band’s performance is exceptionally tight. Released in October 2021, it made it to No. 3 in the UK Albums Chart and No, 29 on the US Billboard 200.
3. Duran Duran (The Wedding Album)
After the disappointing Liberty, Duran Duran rebounded in style in 1993 with the excellent Duran Duran (The Wedding Album). Everything had taken a turn for the better, from the songwriting to the experimentation to the production. A commercial hit, it charted in the top 5 in the UK and the top 10 in the US.
2. All You Need Is Now
Teaming up with a hitmaker like Mark Ronson is never a bad idea. It certainly did wonders for Duran Duran. With its retro sound, huge hooks, and irresistible beats, All You Need Is Now is a stark reminder of just how good Duran Duran can be when they’re firing on all cylinders. Released on 21 December 2010, the album reached No.11 on the UK Album Chart and No.29 on the Billboard 200.
Finally, we come to Rio, an album that even the harshest Duran Duran critic would struggle to pick fault with. Everything comes together in one neat, perfect package: the songwriting is strong, the band’s disparate influences work together in harmony, the production is tight, and the vocals are delicious. Released as the band’s second album in 1982, it soared to No. 1 in Australia and Canada, No. 2 in the UK, and No. 6 in the US, eventually achieving double-platinum status.