It opens like a steel knife slicing and segues into an entrancing cacophony of sounds that is disorienting and provoking. I think I’ve got it figured it out, but listening to Duran Duran’s “Rio” is always like I’ve never heard it before. In fact, I’ve heard it many times, but I’m forever amazed at how it sounds *different* every time I hear it.
Sometimes I choose to pay attention to the bass line that underpins the song. Other times, I concentrate on the pulsing drum beat. In some instances, I focus on the waterfall-like, flittering melody of synthesizer. A lot of the time, it is Simon Le Bon's beautiful voice with its almost piano-flat, oblique intonations, that captures my attention. And other times, it’s the grating, electric guitar, which grounds the song into a tangible reality. Interspersed with all this are bird-like sounds in the background, a saxophone interlude bridging the song, and the sound of a woman’s laughter, sharp and ringing, almost mocking.
The tone of the song begins with a cool indifference, “cherry ice cream/I suppose it’s very nice.” It builds a driving energy and then cascades. By the time you’ve reached the end, you feel a little more reckless, ready to dive in, to take a risk, because “luck is on your side or something.”
“Rio” proves to be as simultaneously satisfying and as frustrating as the elusive, titular woman of the song. You think you’ve found it, only to have it escape from your grasp . . .
“Who is Rio anyways?” asked a male friend of mine once. “That’s what I want to know.”
I just shrugged & smiled.