Rio is a perfect mix of style and substance, pretty boys who came to play in an era of one hit wonders. This isn’t heartthrob pop with no guts; it’s a driving mix of rock, synths and danceable tracks backed by a band at the peak of its creative powers.
The boys from Birmingham were only one album in; their self-titled debut released a year earlier in 1981 that spawned the hits, ‘Girls on Film’ and ‘Planet Earth’, but here they’ve found their sweet spot.
Duran Duran were a band wrapped in fashion and haircuts who subsequently became the darlings of MTV and who can blame them, with era defining video romps such as the Russell Mulcahy directed title track, ‘Rio’. A jet-setting cinematic piece full of vibrant colors and beautiful women prancing around on a yacht.
The glossy videos would take the new wave sound worldwide, outpacing their rivals, Spandau Ballet. ‘Rio’ became a record instantly identifiable, especially with the brilliant Nagel cover art of a smiling woman. The hits ‘Hungry like the wolf’ and ‘Save a Prayer’ drove sales but it’s the rest of the album where the brilliance shines.
The catchy ‘My own way’, danceable ‘Hold back the rain’ and the David Bowie leaning ‘The Chauffeur’ are standouts. ‘New religion’ screams Miami Vice care of an atmospheric synth whilst being driven by a killer John Taylor bass line.
I bought ‘Rio’ on cassette tape in the mid 80’s, which only fueled my ‘new wave’ musical discovery and inspired Simon le Bon blonde streaks. The beginning of my questionable haircuts.
Regardless, ‘Rio’ was a monster seller, especially in the U.S with heavy MTV rotation; it also hit the top ten in most countries around the world, and forty years after it’s release it’s as vibrant as ever.
It’s a vital record in an era of forgettable ones.
hallymustang rating 4/5