Duran Duran albums have been released in a pretty consistent way throughout their career. There is a campaign to remind the public who they are through adverts and TV / radio appearances (starting with a recap of who is now in the band and a clip of the Rio video); the release of the lead single (accompanied by mumbled and disbelieving best wishes); followed a few weeks later by the album; and then anything else would depend on the (surely inevitable) chart success.
As you are well aware, with the exception of The Wedding Album and Astronaut, this meant that for most post-Big Thing albums, the Duran bubble would then proceed with only us faithful following it round the world. Duran would be enveloped into a void from which they would not emerge until they did it all again a few years’ later.
Duran’s last two albums have at least been a bit different. All You Need Is Now gave us the 9-track i-tunes release ahead of the full album a few months later. Paper Gods dropped 5 songs prior to the album's release.
The Future Past strategy has learnt from this – and is adapting itself to the emerging post-Covid world. Let's take an interim look at what has actually happened so far.
Dates are as exact as possible, other activities are reminders of what has been happening.
We know that Future Past was scheduled for release in late 2020. This fell through in March 2020 with the pandemic, and it now seems likely that the album was not finished when the world came to a halt.
Duran started 2021 with the release of Five Years on 8th January, which they performed virtually the next day, with Mike Garson on piano. It was the first Duran song not to feature Dom Brown since Astronaut (2004). The video followed on 28th January. The world at this stage was deep in the grip of Covid restrictions, with no obvious end in sight. The new Duran album remained on ice.
Early April: Katy Krassner mentioned in a tweet that the new Duran song would be released “between Roger and John’s birthday” (i.e. by 20th June).
19th April: Nick mentioned the new song would be called Invisible.
At this point any coordinated campaign was non-existent with these two pieces of information being easy to miss and not officially confirmed.
10th May: ‘Duran Duran’ sign spotted above Hammersmith Odeon.
11th May: Official pictures of the band + Graham Coxon outside Hammersmith released. Band not socially distanced.
12th May: Billboard appearance 'to debut new single' announced.
14th May: An enigmatic DDHQ tweet:
16th May: Snippet of Invisible (later proven to the chorus) played on BBC Radio 2 40th anniversary special show.
17th May: Snippet of Invisible (later proven to the be intro) released on social media.
18th May: Album title 'Future Past' and cover announced. Pre-order announced for midnight, for the album that will be available on 22nd October.
00:05 Pre-order opens - a variety of versions and bundles are snapped up by 00:06.
08:30 Invisible premieres on BBC Radio 2.
11:00 3 more coloured vinyl options drop during the day
15:00 Invisible video premieres on You Tube
23rd May: Billboard TV appearance (Hammersmith recording in front of no fans).
4th June: After worries that Invisible had 'done a Falling Down' and sunk without a trace, it makes the prestigious BBC Radio 2 playlist for 4 weeks.
Late June: Fans keep the conversation active with various rumours of a Moroder-produced song being the next release, and guesses about possible guest singers.
(26th June: date of one of 2021's cancelled shows, at Lisbon)
9th July: Give It All Up premieres on US TV (Hammersmith performance). Considered (correctly) by fans as being incomplete, with fade out. Rumours of guest singer on the (still unheard) incomplete section.
Mid-July: Japanese all-female group Chai announced as collaborator on a song. Fan reaction verges on hysterical meltdown in some quarters.
21st July: Merchant releases Dead Days and Gatorade, with John as collaborator and co-star of the video.
1st August: ‘More Joy’ announced as the song title of the next release. ‘Anniversary’ title confirmed, and further confirmed as not being a Moroder track.
2nd August: Duran on 'Watch What Happens Live' American TV (interview).
3rd August: More Joy! confirmed as track 11 on Future Past.
4th August: More Joy! premieres on You Tube (audio).
Full 12-track album listing released / leaked: Lykke Li (announced as collaborator in 2020) NOT on the album; Tove Lo announced as collaborating on Give It All Up; Ivorian Doll announced as collaborator; Mark Ronson seems to be confirmed as NOT a producer (despite 2020 announcement to the contrary); ‘Can’t Say That It’s Love’ song-title changed to ‘Falling’.
New Duran promo shots (in black) released
More Joy! video released.
The three Future Past bonus track names are released / leaked.
Duran on Fallon American TV – perform Invisible (Hammersmith).
Simon suggests there are plans for 32-date US tour (radio interview).
Which brings us pretty much up to date. Here are some observations:
After a clunky, fairly rushed beginning, this campaign has been building and revealing itself. It has unfolded and developed, updating over months. Invisible got a call back on Fallon; Give It All Up revealed its hidden second act a month after release.
Covid has left its mark: The songs and final credits have shifted as the months have passed; live dates (which might have been had promo events planned around them) have had to be cancelled; Hammersmith was a big deal and unfortunately could not be filmed in front of an audience (something not possible until at least late July in the UK). Restrictions continue to constrain what is possible (e.g. visiting different countries quickly).
The campaign is picking up steam as the pre-release ‘buzz’ has varying items of interest for different audiences: the AI video for Invisible; the collaboration with Chai; the impending ‘controversy’ over the linking up with Ivorian Doll and Tove Lo (the former has just declared herself to be a flat-earther; the latter has a track record of exhibitionism in videos and on stage).
Duran have made themselves available in various ways over different platforms: radio playlists, TV interviews, the Hammersmith live performance, collaborations, innovative videos, new photo promos, announcement of live shows.
The three released songs have been able to be enjoyed and considered by us fans without the clatter of the mass drop of songs that accompanies an album.
DDHQ has (presumably) road-tested different songs and media reaction ahead of the full album push.
DDHQ have had to manage / ignore / hold their nerve over varying fan reactions to the new songs and announcement of collaborations. The Chai controversy of mid-to-late July (followed by the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the actual song) will have been a learning point
Which brings us to ‘What Next’? There are now 9 weeks to the release of the album. What might happen in that time? Here are some 'best guesses' (with the four confirmed events):
Release of fourth song from Future Past. (The full version of GIve It All Up? A long-awaited Moroder track?).
Duran return to the UK ahead of their two shows (with due consideration of Covid restrictions).
Possible warm-up shows in the UK.
· 17th September: Live at Scarborough.
· 19th September: Live at the Isle of Wight
Late September: return to the USA (with due consideration of Covid restrictions).
Early October: Fifth single drop (with video?)
· 3rd October: Live in Austin City, Texas (show one)
· 10th October: Live in Austin City, Texas (show two)
22nd October: Future Past released.
What this means is that the next 9 weeks should continue to be busy. And, to bring this back round to where we started, the Future Past campaign will have been building very nicely for FIVE MONTHS by the time the album actually drops.
You may not like all of the three songs heard so far. You may be correct in your view that things could have been done differently in various ways at various times by DDHQ. But I suggest to you that the Future Past campaign has not been without thought or varied activity. Which, if you ask me, has been better and more fun than the campaigns for pretty much every other album since The Wedding Album.