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Duran Duran

Career Killers: “Yes Please!” by The Happy Mondays.

When it comes to movies, there are box office bombs and then there’s Heaven’s Gate.

The 1980 western epic went massively over-budget thanks to a disastrous and well-publicized troubled production and received infamously bad reviews upon release. The film ended up being such a box office bomb that it single-handedly killed director Michael Cimino’s Hollywood career and star Kris Kristofferson’s potential as a leading man (one particularly brutal review from Vincent Canby of The New York Times wondered if Cimino had made a deal with the devil to produce his last movie, Oscar-winning classic The Deer Hunter, and now the bill had come due).

And that was just the beginning. According to the documentary Final Cut: The Making and Unmaking of Heaven’s Gate, the movie may have also killed off United Artists, the studio that produced it. Shortly after writing off the film’s entire $44 million budget (equivalent to nearly $140 million in today’s money), UA was sold to MGM and ceased being an independent studio. The movie may have even killed the era of the all-powerful director, as runaway disasters like Heaven’s Gate, Apocalypse Now, At Long Last Love and others caused studios to step in and start asserting control.

By those standards, Yes Please! by the Happy Mondays is the Heaven’s Gate of albums.

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Career Killers: “Soul Dancing” by Taylor Dayne

It’s easy to forget, but at one point, Taylor Dayne was one of the biggest pop stars in the world. And for many years, it was Dayne and not Swift who was the one and only Tay Tay (you know, unless you count John Taylor, Mick Taylor, Roger Taylor of Queen, Roger Taylor of Duran Duran, James Taylor, Taylor Hanson or Taylor Hicks).

Dayne was a juggernaut from the moment she burst onto the scene in 1987, starting her career with nine consecutive Billboard Top 20 hits. In fact, each of her first seven singles hit the Top 10, including “Love Will Lead You Back,” which went to #1. She also charted well in Canada, Australia and the U.K., while several of her singles were big hits on the Billboard Dance charts. With her deep, soulful voice and dynamic range, she could seamlessly excel at a wide range of songs, including pop, R&B and ballads. In doing so, she amassed a large and devoted fan base — one that continues to support her to this day.

As the 90s got underway, it was clear that Taylor Dayne was a hit machine and pop star. What wasn’t clear, however, was whether she was an artist. Like her label-mate, Whitney Houston, Dayne’s first two albums were made up of songs from outside writers and handpicked by Arista boss Clive Davis for maximum commercial impact. For her third album, 1993’s Soul Dancing, Dayne was determined to prove she had the songwriting chops to go with her vocal and chart topping prowess.

It turns out that she did not.

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Album Review: “Paper Gods” by Duran Duran

There are many ways to make a “comeback album.” There’s the “back-to-basics” record that countless bands and artists have done where they create an album that sounds like something they would have released during their heyday. Duran Duran did that in 2010 when they released the Mark Ronson-produced “All You Need is Now,” an album that consciously aped “Rio.” Another type of “comeback album” is the one released by a past-their-prime band or artist that is loaded with duets or collaborations with younger stars (Carlos Santana, more or less, perfected this with “Supernatural” in 1999).

Duran Duran’s latest effort, “Paper Gods,” is this a little bit of both. On the one hand, parts of the record are darker and more melancholy than most of the band’s 80’s-era catalog. Indeed, the album is more reminiscent of 1993’s “The Wedding Album,” which saw the band take a more mature and introspective approach. The title track, for instance, is over seven minutes long and contains this, fairly cynical lyric: “Bow to the Paper Gods in a world that is paper thin.” Meanwhile, the haunting “You Kill Me With Silence” is an uncomfortable listen, which makes sense considering it’s about how relationships are destroyed by a lack of communication.

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