Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
My first exposure to Prince was in my rich-ass uncle's third or fourth house. It was on Cape Cod. He had helicoptered in from somewhere, and a couple of my cousins and I each got a chance to take a ride in the helicopter. It was overfuckenwhelming. And hot. It was scorching hot. Very similar to today.
My cousins, who are about a decade older than me, were laying on the carpet in the basement, listening to music. Specifically "Raspberry Beret" and "1999" which they kept rewinding to listen to again. And I know they were talking to me about what the songs meant, but I don't remember anything they said. I just remember the music. I had only hear snippets of it before. And it would be another decade before I owned a Prince album, but I knew something about his music was important. Like a helicopter ride.
A piano flutters. Nothing 70s AM radio here. This could be now. The vocals hit, and it's unmistakably Prince, somewhere between crooning and croaking his heartbreak in Condition Of The Heart. He's no longer faking poverty. He's got some serious cash now, but it hasn't got him the love he's searching for. So he's going to duet with himself, like two Broadway actors lamenting being left by the same person. It's excellent harmonic work.
The drums kick in. 1. 2. 1. 2. 3. Paisley Park is mostly vocal doubling and sparse guitar. It's a place to go to overcome heartbreak. And it's ... in your heart. These lyrics would be garbage with 70s Prince. But 80s Prince has a soft steel saber where you and I have a larynx. There is nothing weak about his falsetto bursts.
Summer synths in. Younger Prince would be thrilled that he had a woman who's loving him back. But this slightly more mature Prince feels like his love is moving too fast in Little Red Corvette. Oh shit, what if this love he's been searching for is too much for him? The build to the you must be a limousine screech is a perfect pop moment in any decade.
Oh, is the new Prince trope going to be that love is not enough for him? She's Always In My Hair suggests no. His love doesn't give him any breathing room, but her presence is good for him, and he knows it. This is a massive step forward for The Purple One. A lot of personal growth. A filthy little bass line. Synth pushed to the background.
Don't worry / Prince won't hurt you / He only wants you / to have some fun. If you don't want to dance along with 1999. I can't help you. Dez Dickerson, Lisa Coleman, and Jill Jones join a deliberately disjointed vocal split. This song would go on to chart twice for Prince. Once in the early 80s, and again on the eve of 1999. It is both one of his peak hits, and his final big hit. The transition from chanting party to mommy / why does everybody have a bomb is one very few artists could or would ever try to pull off.
A filthy guitar lick. A falsetto scat. Temptation. This little Prince thinks a lot about you, see? He's gone from being a creepy youngin trying to get your number to the guy on stage, spitting fire. Effortlessly bouncing from classic rock vocals to talking to screeching falsetto to the low timbres of a laugh. Holy fuck does he sing the hell into this song, and the guitar is scorching right there with him. The piano and saxophone at the end aren't even fair. You have to want it for the right reasons / I do / You don't / Now die. And let's screech the hell out of here with some piano flourishes. Now I understand . love is more important than sex. Bite your tongue, mature Prince.
Everybody is looking for The Ladder. The classic R&B formula of a low voice talking over a trio of female background singers that soars into the lead singer and the trio echoing the lyrics off each other works beautifully here. It's somehow very 1950s, 1970s, 1980s, and right now.
Pop Life funks in on a slick bass. Mature Prince has some questions for Young Prince. I think it's the first time he plainly uses the term addiction to describe his lifestyle. Something he's going to struggle with in his lyrics for decades to come. We're going to let this track fade out naturally.
Tinkle of funk. Drum machine beat. Falsetto. Kiss. A list of things you don't have to be for Prince to love you. He's all about just spending time and kissing you right now. If you don't love this song, I'm not sure why you're reading anything that even contains the word Prince. Even disgraced royalty sing this song in the shower.
Marching feet stomp us into more falsetto and soap opera intro piano. An anthem about being glad you're Free is a tough sell these days when mostly old, mostly white Americans and British people shout about freedom while being racist as fuck, and trying to limit the rights of anyone not in their tax bracket. This song could be a hella dog whistle.
And now some lovely revisionist history. A song about Young Prince losing his virginity and being great at it. A lot of string instruments and a drum machine serve as the background to the featured player, the Raspberry Beret. I like this version of Prince, so hot that when an amazing looking woman comes in, she trows herself at him for consensual sex, more than the whiney wannabe rape machine of the previous album.
A metronome bass continues Prince's crooning about fucking portion of the album. While "Raspberry Beret" is an entirely different approach to singing about fucking than Prince used on the first album, Girl is the same methodology and images he used on the first album but the creepiness is toned way down. Oh, it's still there, but it's at Well Intended Member Of The Patriarchy Creepy not Standing Outside Your House With A Boombox And A Machete Creepy.
Is Prince qualified to be singing all these songs about how great at teh sex he is? Well he is a certified International Lover, according to himself. A 1950s style chorus announces that he's going to buy her diamonds and pearls, even though he hasn't even written that album yet. What a swell, guy. What a constantly swelled guy. When I say his voice is pure sex on this song, I mean he is definitely doing his damnedest to sound like he's getting his freak on while he was recording this song. The pilot announcement portion of the song is so over-the-top, it should be a space shuttle pilot announcement.
Picking things back up is the relentless drum and sparse synth of Something In The Water (Does Not Compute) rolls us back to Prince being super sad that not every girl he wants to put his penis in wants his penis. It's better produced and catchier than the attempts from the first album but he does finally come out and call a woman a bitch for not bowing down to his purple cock. If "Free" could be a white Supremacist anthem, this could definitely have Mens' Rights Activists standing up and holding their MAGA hats over their hearts.
Let's get the fuck out of that and have some peppy Hellos sprinkled around us. Keyboards abound. Prince wants you to know he is Capital F FAMOUS but wants to help others and make the world a better place. These lyrics could have been written by Bono. But the music is good god damn.
The drumbeats roll us right into Automatic. He's still an addict. He's still in love. He still wants to kiss you. And wants to kiss you. And forgive you. And kiss you. You ask me if I'll kiss you, it's automatic / And if you cry, me cry, boo-hoo, that's automatic too, ooh may be his worst lyrics in the 1980s, and fuck him for pulling it off.
Creeping out beneath the synths is a piano riff and drum machine beat that could only mean we're going Under The Cherry Moon. Poor unloved Prince is now going to just die because he's so special and loves you so much that he's like a hero for wanting to kiss you a special way. The piano is the real hero in this song. I would let it kiss me. But no tongue. I know where Prince's fingers have been.
Back to keyboards! And funk! DMSR gives us a great slut shaming sexy dance song. I may have put this on the album by accident. I thought it was gonna be one of those Youtube videos where somebody slowly pulls things out of their purse, or slows a belch down so that a two second clip takes nine minutes. Turns out that's ASMR. My bad. "DMSR" is Dance Music Sexy Romance. Prince ... Prince ... I'd say he was better than this, but it's not too long before he names an entire album Lovesexy. The drum / synth combination into the funk riff near the end make this track worthwhile.
Time to get weeeeeeeepy, y'all. Sometimes It Snows In April is just a straight up beautiful ballad. It has to be the final track because, my god, what do you follow this up with?