Duran Duran

Skin Trade

Composed by Christian Lebon

Song Review by

Beneath the avant-garde lyrics and futuristic synth textures, there was always a pulsing dance music quality that drove the classic Duran Duran sound. As they progressed into the late '80s, they allowed that dance element to move up front and dominate their style. A good example of this tactic is "Skin Trade," a hit whose silky and funky style led to it being mistaken for a Prince song. The lyrics have a surprisingly direct, soul-searching feel to them as they lay out scenarios of people shortchanging their dreams to make money. These moments are followed with the dramatic proclamation that makes up the chorus: "Will someone please explain/The reasons for this strange behavior?/In exploitation's name/We must be working for the skin trade." The music lends contrast to the angry tone of the lyrics by creating a sultry, mellow melody that juxtaposes verses with a soft, hypnotic ebb and flow with an ever-ascending chorus that revs up the song's inherent drama. Duran Duran's recording is fuelled by funky but gently layered guitar textures and subtle drum work that push its groove along, plus some atmospheric synth textures on the chorus. Interestingly, Simon LeBon uses his normal tenor voice for the choruses but sings much of the verses in a lush, soulful falsetto that led many pop fans to initially mistake "Skin Trade" for a Prince ballad. The result was a perfect blend of slow-dance textures and adult social critique. It didn't do as well as "Notorious," just barely making the Top 40 in the U.S., but it got plenty of radio airplay and is fondly remembered by the group's fans as one of Duran Duran's most mature achievements of the late '80s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Notorious 1986 Atlantic / Elektra / Warner Bros. / WEA
No Image 1989 EMI Music Distribution / Capitol 4:28
No Image 1993 Capitol
Now: 1987 [36 Tracks] 1998
Various Artists
Virgin/EMI 4:26
Ultimate Dance Beat Collection: Durantastic 1998
Various Artists
Mastertone 4:05
Greatest 1998 EMI
Strange Behaviour 1999 EMI Digital / Parlophone 7:43
Seven and the Ragged Tiger/Notorious/Duran Duran [The Wedding Album] 2001 EMI Music Distribution 5:57
Art of Pop: Wild Wild Life 2004
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 4:27
The Singles 1986-1995 2004 EMI Music Distribution 5:58
The Biggest and the Best 2012 Music Club Deluxe 4:28
Nite Romantics/Carnival/Tiger Tiger/Strange Behavior EMI Music Distribution 6:00
No Image
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