Astronaut is the 11th studio album by English pop rock band Duran Duran, first released on 11 October 2004 (see 2004 in music).
This was Duran Duran's first studio album since Pop Trash (2000), and the first (and, to date, last) full album since Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983) to be recorded by the most famous five member lineup of the band (the stand-alone 1985 single "A View to a Kill" was their last studio recording together.)
Duran Duran originally announced a reunion of the most famous five members in 2001, and began writing new music together in the south of France. They continued to write and record intermittently, working hard for a few months at a time, throughout 2002 and 2003. The band's friend Nile Rodgers did preliminary production work on several tracks.
Meanwhile, the search for a record label went on, complicated by the band's desire for independence, control, strong promotional support, and a commitment for more than one album, at the same time that the cash-strapped and risk-averse recording industry was unwilling to gamble on the "leftover fame" of a band best known for a series of 20-year-old hits.
The band, frustrated and with nearly thirty new songs approaching completion, set out on a world tour in 2003 to show that the band still had drawing power. The sold-out dates in Japan, America, the United Kingdom and Australia and New Zealand—and the nearly delirious news coverage that followed the reunited band—warmed the record labels to the possibilities. The new songs "Sunrise", "Still Breathing", "Virus", "Beautiful Colours" and "What Happens Tomorrow" were played during these concerts; John Taylor also played a demo recording of "What Happens Tomorrow" on the air at Los Angeles radio station STAR 98.7 in May 2003.
During this period, a "teaser CD" with short demo versions of a few of the unfinished songs (used to demonstrate the new work to potential labels and producers) was leaked to the Internet and quickly copied throughout the band's fan base. The songs were "Virus", "Sunrise", "TV vs. Radio", "Taste the Summer", "Salt in the Rainbow", and "Pretty Ones". The band was very unhappy about the leak, and with the exception of "Sunrise" (which became the first single) and "Taste the Summer", the leaked songs were not included in the final track listing for the album. Jason Nevins also remixed "Virus", which was not released as a single. (The Jason Nevins version of "Virus" later appeared as a bonus track on a Japanese release of Astronaut).
A remix of "Sunrise" by Jason Nevins was included on the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy soundtrack in February; it received a warm reception by DJs anticipating new work from Duran Duran, but the song was not released as a single from the soundtrack. The band always plays the Jason Nevins version live in concert. The main version off the CD incorporates tracks from Jason Nevins production, to which he is credited on the album's liner notes.
In March, the band donated "Beautiful Colours" to FIFA, the international governing body for football, to use as its Centennial song. At the awards ceremony for the FIFA 100, honouring the top living footballers, a video of top moments in the sport was accompanied by the song. However, the song would not be one of those that made the final version of the album.
Finally, after lengthy negotiations, the band signed a four-album deal with Epic Records (a subsidiary of Sony BMG Music Entertainment) in June 2004. The songs were given a final polishing with producer Don Gilmore at Sphere Studios in London, and then mixed by Jeremy Wheatley throughout June and July 2004. R&B producer Dallas Austin produced three tracks on the album, and Nile Rodgers' early production work remains on another three.
Limited copies of the new album were released with a bonus DVD which included 45 minutes of live and behind-the-scenes footage from Wembley Arena, recorded in April 2004. The CD/DVD set came in DVD-sized packaging and European copies bore copy protection, a holdover from the BMG days.
A worldwide media tour accompanied the September 2004 release of the first single, "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise", with more surrounding the release of Astronaut in October. The pace became too hectic for guitarist Andy Taylor, and in November Duran Duran announced he was suffering from exhaustion and flu, and would not be participating in band promotion until January 2005. The remaining four members continued with television appearances, and a stand-in guitarist (Dominic Brown) was hired for the scheduled radio station Christmas concerts in December. Subsequently, January concert dates in Japan had to be postponed until the summer, after drummer Roger Taylor broke a bone in his right foot in December.
Astronaut debuted at No. 3 in the UK album chart, and at No. 17 in the US Billboard 200 album chart, with similar Top 20 debuts elsewhere in the world. Meanwhile, the CD/DVD set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Music Video chart. The album peaked at No. 29 in Japan.
The first single, "(Reach Up For The) Sunrise" debuted at No. 5 in the UK singles chart. In late November, it reached No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Chart.
The second single, "What Happens Tomorrow" was released on 31 January 2005 and entered the UK chart at No. 11 (where it peaked). It slowly gained radio play in the US, supported by a nearly sold-out tour of North American arenas and stadiums, touted as the band's "largest tour ever". Later in 2005, "What Happens Tomorrow" was used in a promotional spot for the U.S. digital cable network Fox Soccer Channel; Simon Le Bon and John Taylor had also appeared in a separate spot for the network. Andy Taylor missed several American dates in February and March to visit his ill father and the subsequent funeral.
Live favourite "Nice" was announced to be the next single in Europe to coincide with the band's tour there. It was believed that the single would not have a commercial release or music video, but would be downloadable. However, "Nice" was only released to radio in Europe, was promoted poorly, and disappeared quickly from the airwaves.
Astronaut has been certified "Gold" in the UK for sales of over 100,000 copies. As of 2008, it has sold around 260,000 units in the U.S. It has so far sold around 1 million copies around the world.
On 29 March 2005 (2005-03-29), Sony BMG reissued Astronaut on the DualDisc format. This double sided disc included the CD version on one side and a remixed 5.1 DVD-Audio surround mix of the album on the other side. The DVD side also included a 25-minute program with new behind-the-scenes footage.
On 20 December 2005 (2005-12-20), Astronaut was released on the SACD format. Similar to DualDisc, this release featured the album in three formats — multichannel SACD, stereo SACD and stereo CD.
All tracks written by Duran Duran.
Notes^[a] signifies a vocal producer
^[b] signifies an additional producer
^[c] signifies a pre-production