Duran Duran – Rio: #376 of best 1,000 albums ever!

Duran Duran - Rio

So why is Duran Duran’s Rio on this best 1,000 albums ever thing?

There are certain albums – by virtue of the album art alone – that immediately pull me back decades to a very different time in my life, and Rio is one of those.

I’m roughly elementary school age, growing up on Long Island. My biggest concern in life is figuring out which friend’s house we’ll go hang out at after school (which is North Ridge elementary through fifth grade, followed by Burr Junior High).

Rio represents the 1980s as The ‘80s as very few other albums and bands can. It’s synth pop and gorgeous vocals and masterful hooks, and it’s new wave fashions and wild hair and even wilder belts.

And it’s also my childhood roaring back at me. Here’s a rando story for you. We were in the fourth or fifth grade or so, which was one of the happier periods in my far-flung youth days, really, looking back. And we were at my friend’s house, in the lower level of a split ranch – or splanch as it was known – which formed a large den.

Being a bunch of boys, we got into wrestling each other in that kind of feistily playful way that kids will get after it. Charlie got flung into a corner at one point, where all of our backpacks happened to be on the floor. As he hit the ground (mat?), I realized that I had left some perishable snacks in my backpack for, let’s say, a few days or so.

And I’ll never forget what Charlie said next, for reasons that remain unclear: “Does something smell like bananas?”

And that’s what cover art and an album, a great album, like Rio can do, conjuring rando yet specific anecdotes out of the memory attic along the lines of…

Does something smell like bananas?

Onward to Rio the album. I’m struck by how rock solid it is from end to end, with each of its nine tracks offering up Duran Duran at the peak of their powers. And very few albums ever recorded can offer up a trio of incredible songs – bangers as the kids might say these days – as strong as “Hungry Like the Wolf,” “Save A Prayer,” and the title track, “Rio.”

It occurs to me that Duran Duran are experts at inserting a tiny yet iconic slice of audio at the beginning of songs. On “Girls On Film,” off of their eponymous debut album Duran Duran, it’s the sound of a camera shutter, and on “Hungry Like the Wolf,” it’s a woman laughing.

If nothing else, it helps us as the audience to not take the song overly seriously. This is synth pop and new wave fun, and a great delight it is.

“Rio” boasts one of the band’s all time catchy and iconic choruses, and Simon Le Bon’s vocals are top notch. Side note that I was always fascinated by the deal with the woman with the body paint on the boat in the “Rio” music video. What’s for sure is that it’s a Maximum 1980s Music Video.

“Save A Prayer” slows things down, showing off Duran Duran’s consistent ability to layer dreamier and more wistful material with real pop chops into the mix with the more fun and dance-oriented songs.

“Hold Back the Rain” is a relative deep cut that has really grown on me over the years. It’s optimistic and catchy and expertly produced pop music through and through.

Pop culture stuff that has something to do with Duran Duran’s Rio

Here’s another rando memory if you can stand it.

Rio the album somehow always makes me think of the movie called Blame It On Rio. I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually seen Blame It On Rio, but I was very aware of it around the time it came out in 1984 and am sure I saw it advertised on TV, HBO most likely, any number of times during the ‘80s.

It was released in 1984, roughly two years after Rio, and stars Michael Caine, Michelle Johnson, and a young actress named Demi Moore. The log line, as they say in the biz, is, “Best friends and their daughters vacation in Rio de Janeiro only for one to fall for the other’s daughter.”

Surely romance and comedy ensued!

Some stats & info about Duran Duran – Rio

  • What kind of musical stylings does this album represent? British Bands, Synth Pop, Pop Music, Dance Music, New Wave
  • Rolling Stone’s greatest 500 albums ranking – not ranked!
  • All Music’s rating – 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • When was Rio released? 1982
  • My ranking, the one you’re reading right now – #376 out of 1,000

Duran Duran’s Rio on Spotify

A lyrical snippet from Duran Duran’s Rio that’s evocative of the album in some way, maybe

In touch with the ground, I’m on the hunt I’m after you. A scent and a sound, I’m lost and I’m found, and I’m hungry like the wolf.

What does the “best 1,000 albums ever” mean and why are you doing this?

Yeah, I know it’s audacious, a little crazy (okay, maybe a lot cray cray), bordering on criminal nerdery.

But here’s what it’s NOT: a definitive list of the Greatest Albums of All-Time. This is 100% my own personal super biased, incredibly subjective review of what my top 1,000 albums are, ranked in painstaking order over the course of doing research for nearly a year, Rob from High Fidelity style. Find out more about why I embarked on a best 1,000 albums ever project.