Duranalysis: "Pressure Off"

Everybody, everywhere, feel it in the air…

Duran Duran just released the video for “Pressure Off”, the first single off their new Paper Gods album, and it’s a good one; since first viewing it, my fingers have been itching to Duranalyze the crap out of it. “Pressure Off” was directed by the band’s frequent collaborator, visual artist/director Nick Egan, who, in addition to creating the cover art for Duran Duran’s Wedding Album, also directed four of their earlier videos: “White Lines”, “Perfect Day”, “Ordinary World”, and “All You Need is Now.” Hey, those are all great songs! And those are all beautifully composed and visually compelling videos! However, while I have Duranalyzed a grand total of twenty-four videos to date, none of the aforementioned have made the cut. You know why? Because Egan doesn’t really do plots. His videos for the band, which mostly feature impeccably-shot performance footage mixed with cool visuals, don’t have storylines. Trust me, it’s much easier coming up with a thousand words or so about a video when there’s at least a loose narrative thread to follow.

“Pressure Off” has no storyline, either, but it’s so damn fun that I’m going to give this a whirl anyway. Here goes:

We open with black-and-white shots of the band performing against a stark white background. Everyone looks good, like they’ve been following sensible diets while getting plenty of sleep and fresh air and exercise. I mean, they probably haven’t—we’re talking about Duran Duran, louche party boys extraordinaire—but they look like they’ve been behaving themselves.

(I know, I know. They’re no longer the hilariously decadent and hard-partying twentysomethings of days past. They’re adults. They’ve all given up smoking, and at least half of them no longer drink, and the rest of their famous vices were jettisoned years ago. It’s disappointing. If Simon and Nick no longer take their famous portable wine cellar along when they go on tour, please don’t tell me. I’d like to cling to some illusions a while longer.)

Monsieur Le Bon: fifty-six years old and still smoking hot, thank you very much.

Guitar duties for this track are deftly handled by Chic’s Nile Rodgers, who also was one of the album’s co-producers. Nile, of course, has a long and productive history with Duran Duran: He produced “Wild Boys” and the Notorious album, and he’s the man who gave us the souped-up mix of “The Reflex” that everyone knows and loves. Man’s a legend. Always good to see you, sir.

Guest vocals are provided by the adorable and über-talented Janelle Monáe, whom I love to pieces for having the great, geeky taste to do an ambitious concept album based on Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent sci-fi masterpiece, Metropolis. Anyway, instead of her signature tuxedo, Janelle chose to wear a jacket with one white sleeve for the shoot, which, thanks to the stark white background, means she has no left arm in this video.

“Pressure Off” is a light, fun, frothy song about easing up and letting things go. In fitting with that theme, it features a bunch of shots of the band members taking gravity-taunting leaps and tumbles through the air. Let’s hear from John Taylor, as quoted on the band’s official site, on the genesis of this video: “Nick Rhodes had the jumping idea, based on the photographs of Philippe Halsmann. It’s what the song is about, leaping into the unknown, taking the plunge, seizing the moment.”

Well, what do you know? Somewhere along the line, Nick Rhodes apparently stumbled across the concept of fun. Remember the old days when Nick would come up with an idea for a video, and his ideas would always be something like, “we’ll do an homage to Cocteau’s Le Testament de Orphée, only we’ll make it more esoteric, and we'll take ourselves very, very seriously”? Don’t get me wrong—Nick being artsy and strange is the kind of stuff I live for, but using Halsmann’s famously cheery, buoyant photos as an inspiration is definitely a sign his obsessive little brain is functioning in a more laid-back groove these days. Even if he still constantly looks like he’s trying to shoot deadly laser beams from his eyes at the viewers.

Holy crap, Nick is dancing. Duran Duran’s glacial, glamorous ice prince is bopping around at his keyboard like he doesn’t have a care in the world. What’s going on? What kind of mad, mixed-up world have we entered?

Here’s Simon doing his very best impression of Tom Cruise in Top Gun:

Nailed it.

(It’s possible he’s doing his very best impression of David Caruso in CSI: Miami, I suppose, but everything I know about Simon suggests he’d pick Maverick over Horatio Caine any day. Simon’s no fool.)

Oh, John. I don’t think John got the memo about the pressure being off. He looks very serious and glum, like he’s carrying the weight of the world on his narrow yet attractive shoulders. It’s going to be okay, John, I promise. You’re a world-famous pop icon! You live in a lavish 15th-century manor in the English countryside! Your cheekbones still ignite fires in the loins of women around the globe! I promise you, things are not all that bad for you right now.

Really. Everything’s going to be fine, John. You too, Roger.

No, seriously, John. What’s going on, babe? Talk to me. I’m starting to get concerned.

Anybody up for an impromptu Duran Duran striptease? Simon, naturally, is happy to oblige. There goes the jacket.

And the scarf.

John tries to get into the spirit of things by, uh, unzipping the sleeve of his leather jacket a bit. Partial credit for effort, John, especially since it looks like you’re maybe starting to think of smiling, just a little.

Nick looks into a crystal ball, which is filled with an image of wisps of smoke. Can’t tell that’s Nick? Step back from the screen a few paces and look again. You’ll see it. I mean, it’s a blurry shot, so I suppose that could be anyone, but the blond hair and smudgy dark eyes would seem to indicate our Mr. Rhodes.

Also… it’s a crystal ball encased within a metal claw. Of course that’s going to belong to Nick. Who else? What, you think John’s going to have one of those lying around his manor? Roger? Nope, that’s most definitely Nick’s. Nick, who once quipped to WWD that his pre-bed ritual involved “a small goblet of virgin’s blood”; Nick, who, years after the buzz about Second Life had run its course, still clung to the dream, probably because he’d designed himself a super-pretty Goth avatar. Claw-encased crystal orbs are right up his alley.

Oh, look. Yep, there it is. Nick owns a staff topped with a claw-encased crystal ball, quelle surprise. The coat’s pretty fabulous, too. Never stop being you, Nick.

That’s… not how you should treat a guitar.

There we go, John! Look at that gorgeous smile!

And in the closing seconds, now that the pressure really is off, Roger, who otherwise keeps a very low profile throughout this video, finally breaks into a wide, sunny grin.

Nicely done, everyone. Take a bow; you’ve earned some applause.

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DKoren said…
No-storyline videos always leave me sad. Band-playing videos usually get a watch or two, but the storyline videos... those must be revisited over and over. Are we never to fight zombies or lead rebellions ever again? Sigh.

That said, this one is amusing, mostly for Nick, who... wow, he really was dancing there? Is it possible? He's got some cute parts in this one. Also, Roger's smile at the end? That's a happy sigh you heard from across the continent. Everybody does look great, really great. Simon is, indeed, still smoking hot.

This was an infectious happy video, so I give it points for that! Also points for generating more duranalysis, cuz there's never to much of that!!
Morgan Richter said…
I want more storyline videos too! Zombies! Cavorting on yachts! Wandering across post-apocalyptic wastelands! For rewatching purposes, they're far superior to these performance-type videos.

Nick is downright effervescent here, by his usual icy and remote standards. And Roger's beautiful smile is the perfect ending.
Minty said…
Love your site! I came across it a few weeks ago and have been loving the Duranalysis! Love the ending of this video with Roger smiling. He was always my second favourite after John. Is it me or is John just looking more somber in general these days now that he's clean?

Also, Simon's trousers. That is all.
Morgan Richter said…
Thanks, Minty! I love Roger's big smile. Yeah, I think John is taking life a little more seriously these days...

Simon's pants are amazing. His recent fondness for extravagantly-patterned pants is wildly entertaining.
Anonymous said…
Ooh, more duranalysing. You should have included a gif of John mouthing "Fuck You" in the beginning, that cracked me up when I noticed. Other than that, I love it! (though they really should make more story line/plot-based videos... Pressure Off is fun and all now, but it wont be as fun to rewatch years from now as the "oldies" :/)
Morgan Richter said…
Ha! Good catch, and you're absolutely right, Anonymous -- John's "fuck you" in the seconds is a fine moment.
Sarah said…
I also miss the storyline videos (New Moon on Monday...your recap is hilarious!) but thumbs up for more Duranalysis! Can't believe Nick is dancing...and having fun!
Morgan Richter said…
Sarah -- yeah, let's get more story-heavy videos! Much as I love seeing Nick bop around and enjoying himself, he's free to do that in a video with a plot, too.
Kate Crisp said…
Hurrah! Another excellent Duranalysis, based on a video that would seem to be a hard one to run any commentry on, so extra commendations are due. Oh how I miss the narrative videos! I sent Nick Rhodes a half tongue-in-cheek letter last year with some video plot suggestions. My favourite was that they get stranded after a plane crash, and after nibbling on shoe leather and cherry lip gloss, have to address the prospect of cannabilism (as per "Alive"). Using 1920'S style silent film narration they decide that John would be too stringy, Nick would taste the best (being vegetarian) but there's not enough of him to go around, Simon would be sustaining, but he argues he's irreplaceable. Everyone agrees Roger is too nice to eat - so that's the end of that. They trudge painfully to civilisation with Nick taking photo's every 2 seconds and John & Simon posting their exploits to social media. Roger carries all the luggage without complaint. This consists of 4 water bottles and about five monogrammed Louis Vuitton suit-cases and various hat boxes belonging to Nick. I suggested it might be nice if there was some gratuitous sweating and shirt removal, but you can't have everything... ;-) Cheers - Kate
Morgan Richter said…
Kate, this is the greatest idea for a video in the history of Duran Duran. Absolutely wonderful, down to the cherry lip gloss and unnecessary hat boxes. I can only hope Nick takes the proper inspiration from your letter, because I'm getting downright tired of these no-plot videos.

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