Some people call it a one night stand but we can call it paradise.
Save a Prayer is a painfully beautiful and genuinely moving ballad about the reluctant acceptance of the reality of fleeting relationships. In 1982, the sexual revolution of the 1960s had already lost its libertarian context and the world was already used to one night stands. In Save a Prayer, Simon Le Bon addresses the sentimental issue behind these cases in a way that is realistic, without being cynical, and empathetic, without being soft.
The song, released as the third single from the band's second album, Rio, differs somewhat from the standard Duran Duran's songs at the time. Save a Prayer starts with an ethereal synthesized riff, instantly recognized by fans, that runs throughout the track from beginning to end. With the exception of Roger Taylor's bass, as melodic as always, but rhythmically contained, the other instruments are hidden in the background, letting the layers of Nick Rhodes' synthesizers and Le Bon's vocals to create an almost dreamlike atmosphere, subtly hidding the sexual tension (“All alone ain't much fun so you're looking for the thrill”) and the desire for the unknown (“Take a chance like all dreamers can't find another way”) hint on the final phrases of the first two verses.
The group skillfully brings the song to its climax in the midst of the second chorus, changing the rhythm, with the drums coming in strong and the bass gaining rhythm. The vocals, revealing the song’s theme, starts to show a more nervous tone, tying everything up with the a reflection: to choose fear or amazement, pain or joy (“And you wanted to dance so I asked you to dance / But fear is in your soul / Some people call it a one night stand but we can call it Paradise”).
The song could as well end in this mood, just repeating the chorus, but with the same skill shown in the second chorus, the band again changes the rhythm in the middle of the chorus, bringing back dreamy feeling of the beginning of song, perhaps an allegory for the cycle of pleasure and pain, joy and sadness, of several short lived relationships .
Unlike most videos, which feature shorter versions of the song, the video version was edited to be longer, exceeding the six minute mark, against 5:32 of the album version and 3:45 of the American single version. The edits are extremely subtle and hardly noticeable, if the time difference was not present: the synth riff in the introduction is repeated four times, against twice in the original version and the phrase “'til the morning after” in the final chorus is repeated 12 times, against six of the original version.
The video, directed by Russell Mulcahy, was filmed in Sri Lanka, in a two for the price of one scheme, along with the video for Hungry Like the Wolf. These two videos, together with Rio's, filmed on a yacht in the Caribbean, created an exotic and luxurious lifestyle image for the band.
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