Ruminations on TV Shows, Comics, And Music
While my conversation with Billy Tuggle inspired me to rethink which albums I held sacred, the post that got me to re-edit and post about my Reimagined Prince discography was Scott Woods ruminating on whether or not he would sacrifice the existence of Sign O' The Times so that the world could have had Prince's Camille album.
I am not trying to answer that hypothetical question. It just inspired me to think, "What would Sign O' The Times be if Camille already existed?"
Controversy is the name I've given the Camille album because it's Filthy. Not as Filthy as the early New Power Generation era Prince, but definitely more sexual than his previous albums, which were already mostly about sex. His actual Controversy album is good. I just didn't get to it early enough in my musical education to be enamored by it.
Most of this version of this album has Prince pitching up his voice. The idea is that it's more feminine? I don't hear that. It just sounds unnatural to me. I'm not a big fan of pitch correction, but the instrumentation on this album (which is not pitched up) and the writing is so good that I can get around the false eccentricity of the vocals. I get, artistically, why Prince made the decision but his voice is one of the best pop funk voices of all-time, and I would have rather had his natural voice. Still, as Scott Woods said, "The Camille album SLAPS HARD." And I'm here for it, though I've added some tracks that I thought fit on to the album, either because he used the same vocal trick, or because they're exactly the right kind of dirty for this album.
I also love the idea of a universe where this precise album is what he released as a follow up to Purple Rain.
You may have noticed with my Prince Reimaginings, and my U2 reimaginings that I like an album that builds slowly and then crashes into a banger, either part way through the first track, or in the transition to the second track. But there are certain albums that need to start with a bang, and this is one of them, so I'm keeping with the Camille track listing, and starting this with Rebirth Of The Flesh. In addition to the weird vocals, this album goes in with grungey funk starting with the very first chord. The song also includes what I consider the album's non-sexual thesis: We're not here for the money / We're here to play. He's Prince, man. He's using the royal we here.
I'm already diverging from Camille with the second track. The first Prince song I heard with the pitched up vocals was Crystal Ball. The song is the spiritual successor to "Computer Blue". It's super duper long. It's got some excellent guitar work. It's got spacey effects. It has unusual vocals. For some reason, whenever I hear, in my head, Expert lover / my baby / ya ever had a crystal ball, my brain follows it up with they call it Nutbush / oh Nutbush / Nutbush City limits. It's because of where the vocals fit on the track that it evokes Tina Turner's classic, but part of my brain deeply enjoys the testicular connection between "Crystal Ball" and "Nutbush". But, like, I hope to never experience a person with the combination of those two things.
Housequake is a high school marching band percussionist's dream. It's a hard dancey jam with silly lyrics. I enjoy playful Prince, and he is clearly having fun on this track.
It's not hard to imagine "Batdance" somewhere on this album. And while I loved that track when it came out, it's not quite what I'm looking for anywhere in this discography. On the other hand, Scandalous is a lovely cooling off song after the first three banger/steamers. It has Prince singing with falsetto instead of up-pitch but I think it provides a needed pause, and the drums are totally in-line with the percussion on the rest of this album. And when he dips out of falsetto for the super low baby, I get the damned chills.
Whipping out of that ballad is the upbeat Good Love. This almost feels like a dirty precursor to "Starfish & Coffee". Also, it's the best thing that includes in the heat of the night that doesn't involve Carroll O'Connor or Sidney Poitier. This is also some of his finest surreal imagery sex lyrics. Technicolor children in Picadilly Square / Whisper words, erotica, when you kiss me there / Gustav Mahler number three is jamming on the box / I'll have another glass of you, this time on the rocks is perfection.
Back to the grunge funk we go with If I Was Your Girlfriend. As someone who has had some terrible boyfriends, I would never want Prince as a boyfriend or girlfriend. Dude is textbook bad at relationships. The scenario he lays out in this song, that he wasn't a good boyfriend to this woman, so he'd rather be her close friend, but ponders what she would allow him to do if they were just girlfriends. He does dip back into his stalker mode in this song, but the way he approaches it, it's ... SLIGHTLY less creepy.
Erotic City was the b-side to "Let's Go Crazy" from Purple Rain. I think it's the earliest incarnation of his Camille character. It's interesting to hear this character playing with The Revolution. It's not too different from the music he recorded mostly by himself. It is, of course, filthy. More synthy than any of the previous songs, but I still think it fits.
The title track, Controversy bubbles out of "Erotic City". But I don't just include it because it's eponymous to this album. It's part of my "If this album dropped immediately after Purple Rain, how would people react?" theory. He'd need this song as a bit of an explanation. And a second single. It almost doesn't matter what the first single would be, but this would have to be the follow up. I mean, did he seriously just work The Lord's Prayer into THIS song? O........k. And is it followed up by a rap where he wishes to be nude, and that all people were food? So, like, we are our own daily bread? Eat of my body, bitches, because every human is delicious? Ok, Prince. Pass the salt you purple weirdo.
Ooooh, we're back to the Batman soundtrack. Partyman has the up-pitch vocals that are so familiar on this album. And it has a similar message to Controversy (apart from the sexual cannibalism suggestion). It's a nice, short, little bridge from "Controversy" to
Shockadelica, which comes in on the drums and sexual howling tip. Are the lyrics to the chorus seriously Doo-bee-doo-bee, yeah, Shockadelica / Shockadelica / Doo-bee-doo-bee, Shockadelica? Is this a dream or is this real?
Another earlier track, Do Me Baby is falsettotown. with a wicked spare flick of the funk guitar. I like this song, but the title always makes me want to listen to some Bell Biv Devoe. What can I say? I like to do the wild thing.
Prince is not, and has never been a very good rapper. Now, there are going to be some tracks with rapping two albums later in the discography, but rapping will be handled by New Power Generation's Tony M, who is much better at it. The thing is, Prince is a phenomenal singer, but his rapping is completely forgettable. Irresistable Bitch is pretty much the only example of his rapping that I can listen to. It is absolutely, in no way, Woke. It is, in fact, super misogynist. But, I like to imagine he's using "bitch" like a catty 90s homosexual sitcom character. I mean, he sort of is a catty 90s homosexual xharacter. Fun fact: when I heard this song as a kid I thought his muttering of everybody / everybody was saying I farted . I farted. I thought that was very brave of him.
While we're in the super misogynist Prince mode, here's Scarlet Pussey, in which the pitching of the narration makes him sound like Anthony Bourdain for some reason. I'm sure someone has already mashed this up with the visuals from that awful Cats trailer that's been making the rounds this week. It syncs up beautifully.
When I was eleven, one of my neighbors was a slightly younger kid who was constantly, literally showing me his ass. A dude who totally grew up to be straight. A straight wrestling fan who hosts gossipy celebrity tv shows and podcasts, and does red carpet interviews where he frequently says "Meeeeeee-ow" (no, he's not actually famous). TOTALLY STRAIGHT. He used to always sing parts of Strange Relationship after exposing himself to me. And I had no context for it. I don't think I heard the song until the 21st century. But I can't hear the song without thinking of his face, now, and Baby I just can't stand to see you happy / More than that I hate to see you sad.
Feel U Up has a great funk riff. It makes up for the sort of limp sexuality to this song. Like "I want to feel you up" is for eight graders and incels. It should be way beneath Prince, based on all of his other songs. I think I would like this song more if it were instrumental, but I'll take it as is. But if you sang this to me, sincerley asking let me feel your body baby / let me feel you up, the answer is a definitive Hell No.
Girls & Boys is another song that features The Revolution, and wildly predates this album, but Prince often went back to the vault for later albums, and the vocals on this have the up-pitch quality, and it's too weird a song for any other of his albums in this discography.
Closing out the album is actually the closing track from the Camille album, Rockhard In A Funky Place. It starts pop funky with the up-pitch vocals, and ends with the very appropriate fade in question What the fuck kind of ending was that?