Ranking All The Duran Duran Studio Albums

Duran Duran

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.

13. Liberty

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struck 1990, Duran Duran and every other big arena rock act from the ’80s suddenly found themselves out of favor and out of date.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.

11. Astronaut

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?

9. Notorious

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.

8. Medazzaland

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.

1. Rio

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.

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One Comment

  1. ……definitely NOT the ranking I’D have submitted, Linda – no matter HOW much I try, ALL You Need Is Now falls COMPLETELY flat for me; presents as trying just WAY too hard to recapture their introductory vibe but, way, WAY too noisy and dissonant – for THESE ears, anyhow…..as to Seven (them, the Berrows) and an-ALREADY (!) ‘ragged tiger’ of success, DD’s third is ALL about Simon’s conflict between it and deeper pursuits (“Union Of The Snake” actually describes his experiences with Eastern disciplines and sensibilities, kundalini yoga CLEARLY depicted in its video – uncoiling ‘SERPENTINE’ energy archetypically portrayed by Hindu deity Shakti, who makes an appearance of SORTS as LeBon emerges into an unspecified desert and fever dream…..a reply to my query from his MOTHER 38-39 years ago, further CONFIRMED such realizations…..)

    My own order:

    15. All You Need Is Now – I tried; l I really, REALLY tried…..

    14. Liberty – I tried; I really, REALLY tried…..

    13. Red Carpet Massacre – I tried; I really, REALLY…..

    12. Future Past – NOT bad but, SOMEhow seems ROTE – if INFINITELY more sonically interesting than AYNIN, unremarkable…..

    11. Thank You – with TWO exceptions, MOST of their attempts DO work, I feel…..boys’ arrangement, succeeds in demonstrating “White Lines” as an unlikely AMALGAM of the Fabs (as IF its opening harmonies WEREN’T enough of a clue) & ZEP…..

    (NOW it gets HARDer)

    10. Big Thing – HALF a GREAT (“I Don’t Want Your Love”, ALL of ‘Side 2’) album, with some decidedly-LESSER tracks (“Drug” and ESPECIALLY “All She Wants Is…”, they’re SERVICEABLE to the sonic goals, however…..)

    9. Seven And The Ragged Tiger – two-thirds of a near-MASTERPIECE; even so every selection is GOOD at least (BEST: “The Reflex”, “New Moon On Monday”, “(I’m Looking For) Cracks In The Pavement”, “Union Of The Snake”, “Tiger Tiger” / “The Seventh Stranger” – REALLY should’ve included “Secret Oktober”, though…..)

    8. Pop Trash – SAME as preceding but, a BIT more consistently audacious; contains a FANTASTIC cover title track (ONLY one for which Simon’s ever allowed, to the best of my knowledge!) what’s EASILY their most PUNISHINGLY-forceful number, “Playing With Uranium” (although we had a HINT they were HEADED in this direction with “Big Bang Generation” not long before) “Someone Else Not Me” (evoking “Ordinary World” without being a complete rip-off of it, VERY much its own GORGEOUS rumination) and a SHOCKING sleeper in “The Sun Won’t Shine Forever” – as thoroughly LUDICROUS as I’m SURE it’ll sound to music purists, one of THE best blues ballads EVER composed, a QUEENSRYCHE-worthy, yet Lennonesque “Last Days On Earth” closing matters…..

    7. Medazzaland – doesn’t QUITE gets to where it WANTS as a…..more ELECTROCLASHING Rio but, SOLID longplayer; aforementioned “Big Bang Generation” SHOULD’VE been the follow-up to an INFECTIOUS (come ON now, EMI – #82 peak position????) “Electric Barbarella”, with “Midnight Sun” a possible fourth single release…..

    6. Duran Duran (debut) – and yeah, SOUNDS like one from time to time but, a lot of EXTREMELY engaging tracks, including singles “Planet Earth”, “Careless Memories”, “Girls On Film”, “Is There Something I Should Know” (MIGHT it have made Seven…an even BIGGER smash? POSSIBLY)…..yeah, SENTIMENTAL vote DOES make me RELUCTANT to list it this LOW…..

    6A. So Red The Rose – Arcadia; REALLY, a Duran effort even WITHOUT John; unmistakably HINTS at what PINNACLE they were reaching for with Seven And The Ragged Tiger, segueing as it does PERFECTLY from “The Seventh Stranger” – “Election Day”, is as EXQUISITE a composition as ‘Charley’s EVER written (which AGAIN, can be said of entire album) – persistently DISTURBING, remorseful but, more SONICALLY deeper…..

    5. Paper Gods – UNQUESTIONABLY, regains the form Astronaut displayed a decade before; not a SINGLE weak offering (though the non-proper tracks COULD’VE just as easily replaced others which WERE…..)

    4. Wedding Album – PHENOMENAL (and TIMELESS, sadly) an anthem as “Ordinary World” IS, nothing else is THAT ear-grabbing (“Come Undone”, “Love Voodoo”, “Drowning Man”, Too Much Information”, “Breath After Breath” ALL still GREAT – a BIG underrated consideration: “Shelter”…..)

    3. Astronaut – just a BIT better than than ANYthing since those records commanding (again – for ME, admittedly) the top two spots; “(Reach Up For) The Sunrise”, a PERFECT greeting from these Fab FIVE after nearly 2 decades apart, while “What Happens Tomorrow” LIKE it, should’ve BOTH gone Top Ten HERE (once MORE, someone BUNGLED their promotion BADLY, declining traditional A & R model or NOT by 2005) and “Finest Hours, “Chains”, “Point Of No Return”, “Still Breathing” absolutely CAPTIVATE…..

    2. Notorious – a SMOLDERING bit of hard rock art-funk throwing down with, in order the title track, “American Science”, “Skin Trade” offset by balladic GEMS like “A Matter Of Feeling” and “Winter Marches On” – B-side “We Need You” as WELL; some mid-tempo essentials such as “So Misled”, “Vertigo (Do The Demolition)” and what COULD have been a fourth single, “Proposition” – indeed, GIVEN its chugging Stax-Volt feel I wrote an ENDEARING, humorous Old West TRAIN-based video storyline at that time with classic period captions but, if ever sent label never responded; CERTAIN it’d have been successful at least AS such otherwise…..

    1. Rio – though NOT a PERFECT song cycle (VERY close; “Last Chance On The Stairway” is SLIGHTLY inferior to everything ELSE) there are FEW records which ever SO thoroughly CAPTURED their moment of arrival – 80’s or any OTHER decade; you KNOW the HITS (title track – taking MUCH from idol Ferry’s “Sign Of The Times” just over three years before; CUNNING “Hungry Like The Wolf”, and EXOTICALLY ethereal “Save A Prayer”) but, it was the ‘Carnival’ EP with FAR more persuasive takes ON those; extended “Hold Back The Rain” (UK mix, AWFUL by contrast) “My Own Way” (DITTO) and Andy Taylor’s slashing MACHETE of a guitar accompaniment to American audiences which really BROKE them, BIG…..

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