A Song That Makes You Sad: “Ordinary World,” Duran Duran (1992)

Task 4 on the “30-Day” (HA!) Music Challenge is to write about a song that makes you sad. It’s mid-week, and I’ve been fighting some form of sinus congestion for three weeks or so, so WHY NOT WALLOW.

How has Duran Duran stayed out of my FFWDing… (or otherwise music-centric) content thus far? Historically, they are my favorite band. I say “historically” because we have had our turbulent times in our 32-ish-year relationship when I am “mad” at them. Such as now, when I’ve solidly disliked their last two studio albums. Sometimes I’m obsessive, listening to every rare cut and B-side I can get my synthesizer-loving little hands on. Other times, I’m content to go weeks or months without hearing frontman Simon Le Bon’s signature wail.

Like every bad fan, the oldies (“Rio” et al.) are typically my favorites, but their 1992 “comeback” single is its own little gem. Also, I’m realizing as I type this, a relative oldie, as it has surpassed the drinking age. From Warren Cuccurullo’s expert guitar picking in the intro — solidifying his place in the band, to some Duranies, as nearly equal to Andy Taylor — to the falsetto-laced harmonies in the fade-out, this is one beautifully crafted piece of music.

And it’s downright sad.

Many reports have stated that this was written five or so years after the death of Simon Le Bon’s close friend. The verses contain some of the head-scratching vagaries for which Le Bon is well known (“Well now pride’s gone out the window, cross the rooftops, run away”) but for the most part, the story is clear. The narrator has lost a loved one, and against all odds, he needs to find his way back to an “ordinary world,” which was Duran Duran’s own name for a concept that would later be referred to as the “new normal.” We all love people, and they go away — through choice or through the realities of mortality — but all we left behind can do is get on with living–

But I won’t cry for yesterday
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive

What really gets me are the closing lines of the bridge, which are basically a version of, “Someone’s got it way worse, man. Take a deep breath and move along.” —

Here besides the news
Of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk

Every time I’ve seen them do this in concert, I weep like a child. Mostly because I’ve lost loved ones prematurely, but also because Simon — as arrogant, preening, and occasionally loathsome as he is — is still affected by this one (or is an even better actor than he’s previously let on). He’s learned to survive, all right, but it doesn’t mean he can’t miss his friend, especially when singing a song dedicated to his memory.

 

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