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Mixed Emotions: Duran Duran f/ Timbaland & Justin Timberlake – “Night Runner”

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 16, 2007

Talk to me, Simon


My excitement over the prospect of Duran Duran teaming up with Timbaland for their new album is well covered on this blog, and that excitement has little faded over the last few months. Despite some of Timbaland’s friskier attempts on solo album Shock Value to bridge the rap-rock divide turning out a little half-cocked (to be fair, collaborating with The Hives and She Wants Revenge is never really a great idea), Duran Duran have always been far more of a pop band, and given the critical and commercial success of that blue-eyed-funk-y Maroon 5 single, it seemed like Timbaland would be just the man to throw the unfortunate has-beens back in the spotlight they still so richly deserve.

And for all I know, he still might be. Comeback single “Night Runner,” which leaked in an unfortunately poor-quality rip via a stream on the Entertainment Weekly site, is definitely the fucking jam, no question. It’s the exact kind of fortune-reverser of a groove that revitalized Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake’s careers and gave people a reason to give a shit who D.O.E. and Keri Hilson are, the sort of shiny, breathy, sweat-soaked beat-rocker that Timbo has become Hitman #1 crafting these last few years. For all I know, it’ll give Duran Duran their first legitimate hit in over a decade, and I sincerely hope it does.

But as a Duran Duran single, it’s hard to view this as anything but a flop. Talking about “purity” with a band as crassly commercial as Duran Duran immediately verges on the hypocritical, but in any of the countless skins they’ve adopted in the past 25 years–new wave, disco, soul, adult contemporary, techno-pop, even a couple questionable stabs at hip-hop–however ill-advised, I could still feel Duran Duran’s presence behind the song. But even half a minute through “Night Runner,” it’s abundantly clear–this isn’t really Duran Duran featuring Timbaland, it’s Timbaland featuring Duran Duran.

And really, it’s just Timbaland featuring Guest Artist. It’s hard to tell, especially on such low quality an MP3, where Simon Le Bon ends and where Justin Timberlake begins on this track, but if you had told me that this was just one of the tracks on FutureSex/LoveSounds that I had somehow yet to hear, I’d probably have believed you. Le Bon’s vocal lacks any of the wailing urgency that made his singing on their dozen or so 80s classics so inimitable (and believe me, I’ve tried), his potential for stunning histrionics wasted in the song’s low whispers. As for the rest of the band–it’s sort of hard to hear where they even fit in to this track. How bored are Roger and John gonna be playing this song live?

Some people weren’t too thrilled with it, but I thought “Earth Intruders,” the Bjork / Timbo collab from earlier this year, was an awesome, hugely inventive single, and a perfect example of two entirely unique artists mind-melding to come up with something that’s not only totally new, but still bears the thumbprints of both artists. “Night Runner” just sounds like Duran Duran showing up at Timbaland’s doorstep with a pouty look and their hands out, and while it’s probably the best single the band’s put out in a decade or so, it’s definitely not what I was hoping for.

Oh, also, the song might actually be called “Nite Runner,” not “Night”–the Wikipedia entry lists it as the latter, but google has far more hits for the former. So don’t give me shit if it turns out to be the other one.

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7 Responses to “Mixed Emotions: Duran Duran f/ Timbaland & Justin Timberlake – “Night Runner””

  1. Bonnie H. said

    I’ve been a Duran Duran fan for as long as I remember, so I was really excited to see a blog post from you about them.

    While I do agree with you at certain points, especially “This isnít really Duran Duran featuring Timbaland, itís Timbaland featuring Duran Duran.”… I disagree with you at others.

    I don’t think that “Night Runner” is the best single that Duran have released in the past decade, or even the past five years. For example… Astronaut (realeased on October 11th, 2004!) is not my favourite Duran album, but I definitely prefer its sound over what I fear Red Carpet Massacre will be like. I do realize that the version on EW’s site is very low-quality, but I also feel like “Night Runner” is sorely missing something. I mean… if not for Simon’s unique voice, I wouldn’t have believed that it was Duran Duran! Maybe it’s because Andy Taylor is no longer in the band? I can definitely understand why he left, in any case… I wouldn’t want to work with Justin Timberlake either.

    Personally, I don’t really feel Duran Duran’s presence in this song. Simon’s, definitely (and Nick’s, I suppose.), but not the entire band. What I’m wondering is… if/when they play this live, will Roger and John even be able to participate?

    When I first heard that Duran Duran were going to work with Timberlake and Timbaland, I was afraid of what the result would be. Unfortunately, it seems like my fears weren’t completely unfounded :(. As it stands, I’m not even sure if I want to buy Red Carpet Massacre.

    It’s past 4AM and I haven’t slept yet, so I’m not sure if any of my response makes sense. Whee for sleep-deprived ramblings!

  2. I haven’t heard this single but I am very excited for this album.

  3. Wow, listening now and this is totes a Timbaland song.

    Why even bother calling this Duran Duran, Simons vocals are weak and whatever

    great song, also this sound leak is ass

  4. Bonnie H. said

    Me again :]. I was just wondering… Andrew, have you heard “Falling Down”? If not, let me know – I can link you to where you can download it. In case you have no idea what I’m going on about… It’s the other song that’s been leaked from Red Carpet Massacre. I just listened to it a couple times, and… wow. “Falling Down” is ten times better than “Night Runner”.

    I swear there was something else I wanted to say here, but I’ve forgotten whatever it was. Damn it.

  5. Andrew Unterberger said

    yeah, I saw about “Falling Down,” didn’t know it had leaked yet though. If you had a link that’d be awesome.

  6. Bonnie H. said

    This link should work… someone else uploaded it for me (so I could hear it), but I figured I could share the wealth. If it doesn’t work, let me know :).

  7. sahunvp said

    Nite Runner is more current and will chart alot better. Falling down is more Back street boys sounding and is gunna appeal less so to radio, NR = RADIO HIT, FD = more indiffernce from radio and will have the ablum debut at about number 193 on the billboard album chart i.e. a flop if FD is released as the first single.

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