I tried to organize my thoughts on these albums, but I can’t, not in the same way I did last month. And that’s okay. When I decided on this project I didn’t want to hold myself to some standard of having the same mental or emotional reaction for each artist. My reaction to listening to Prince’s music is very different than it was with Lana Del Rey last month. One is not better or worse than the other; they’re just different.
I don’t know how to explain this difference though because saying, “I didn’t get any brain tingles with Prince’s music, but I still wanted to keep listening to more, and my mind keeps wanting to hear more of his songs and different songs” probably doesn’t help explain it. Or maybe it does. Last month I wrote how I could picture different scenes and things when listening to Lana Del Rey’s music, despite how I have difficulty with visualizations. This month I’m not picturing anything listening to Prince’s music. But then again when I hear songs like “Paisley Park” or “I Wanna Be Your Lover” I can’t help but move, whereas I didn’t get that dancing kind of feeling last month.
As well last month I wanted to learn as little as possible about the albums/songs I was listening to, trying to come up with my own interpretations as much as possible. This month is different because I keep going to Prince Vault to learn little facts about different songs I’m listening to this month. Also, there is a paper called Pop Life: Prince in the Recording Studio written by Susan Rogers, who worked with Prince as a studio engineer on several of his albums. And I’ve been very tempted to read this paper (the abstract is quite intriguing to me), but it’s $44US for the PDF, so I’ll probably hold off. I would like to point out this isn’t the only academic paper I’ve seen on Prince. That’s the kind of musical genius we’re talking about here.
So that’s kind of the musical journey I’ve gone on this month. One where I am thinking and going down a rabbit hole of reading about Prince’s songs and albums, rather than just listening and “feeling the music” (yeah vague hippie term I know). And I’m not saying this is how everyone should approach Prince’s music, but this is how I’ve naturally approached the Prince songs I’ve been listening to. I’m enjoying this month’s musical journey in a different way than I did the previous month. The only thing I believe about this project is that my experience in the following months won’t be exactly like this month’s, or the month before.
For this month instead of writing something about the albums I’ve been listening to, and then analyzing a couple of songs from each album, I’m just writing about the albums. This is because I can’t seem to repeat a couple of songs from each album; the more I try to repeat a couple of songs the more I just want to listen to more songs. To be fair I’ve feature notes/impressions about several songs from each album. Since I’ve written quite a bit so far I’ll be featuring the first three albums (Prince, Dirty Mind, and Controversy) on this post and the last four (1999, Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, and Sign ‘O’ The Times) on the next post.
- Starting with a fun and funky sound. This has a bit of a 70s sound to it (or what I assume is a 70s sound cause I was born in 1984). There’s some funk, some disco, some pop/rock numbers, and a couple of ballads.
- The ballads/slow jams are probably my least favourite like “With You” and “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow.” To be fair love ballads have never been my thing, and if I had to listen to a ballad then a Prince ballad stands above a lot of other artists.
- Just complained about ballads in general, but I thought the outro for “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow” is fantastic and kind of spacey. All those synths sound like space lasers or something. And I’m not saying this happened, but I hope Prince was like super excited to put those in.
- Hell yes to the way Prince wails out “Bambi!” It’s interesting because this album is a little different than the Prince sound of the 80s with “Purple Rain” and “Little Red Corvette” but yet you can totally hear that this is the precursor to all of that. There are some fun guitar licks in this song too.
- “Still Waiting” the opening few bars of this song sound like it could be the theme song for a 70s sitcom. I know it’s not, but it has that sound. This is a ballad as well, but it’s a bit more mid-tempo than the two previous ones and I do like it a bit better than those two.
- “With You” might be the cheesiest song I’ve ever heard. Love songs are so weird to listen to when you’re aromantic.
Dirty Mind (1980)
- This album has more of the 80s feel to it – according to Prince Vault it was recorded between May and June 1980, so technically it’s the first of Prince’s 80s albums. It still has lots of funk and R&B like his first two albums (I’m not writing about his first album For You, though I did listen to it), but the sound on Dirty Mind is a bit different than those two albums.
- The song “When You Were Mine” sounded really familiar to me, and it is really catchy. Then I realized I heard this song before when watching the episode “Prince” on the series New Girl (the episode had Prince in it as himself – good episode).
- “Uptown” ends with this effect and then the next song “Head” starts with it. I call it psychedelic yet 80s space laser. It might have another/better name.
- Apparently, the song “Head” was a bit controversial at the time. I can only imagine what people thought when they got the album and listened to the song after that one “Sister.” Definitely not touching that song. Musically it’s super catchy, but listening to the lyrics I’m feeling a bit uncomfortable.
- I tend to do this thing where I put two different songs together in my head or parts of different songs in my head. So for “Head” after each line in the verse (doesn’t work for the chorus) I combine it with Prince singing ‘partyup, got to partyup’ from the song “Partyup” (also on this album). I kind of have to slightly slow down the tempo for the ‘partyup, got to partyup’ part to make it work, in my brain, but to me, it flows well. You may not think so, or probably think I’m really weird.
- “Got a Broken Heart Again” is a fucking bop (well a semi-sad mid-tempo bop). Why is this song not used in more TV shows and films? It’s perfect for the start of the rom-com when the main character finds their significant other is a jerk/has been cheating on them, and they’re wandering around the city wondering if they’ll ever fall in love again. And then how the song ends right after the line “and there’s nothing left to say” but yet quietly kind of continues until the 2:09 mark when you hear that one effect. I imagine it’s a door closing like we’re hearing literal closure on the relationship/song (the sound effect was probably a drum machine or something).
- The slide down on the keyboard/synth for “Do It All Night” is a mood, and it’s a mood I love. And the baseline in this song is great. And then the spacy synth laser sound comes on and you can tell it was kind of a new thing and Prince was just going for it. I don’t know how Prince was as a person, but musically he’s quite bold in trying new things and experimenting with different sounds and musical ideas.
- I understand there was speculation about who Prince was as a person during his life (and even now), and I feel like the song “Controversy” addresses this idea, but I’m certainly not going to say it’s some definite anthem of his or anything like that. Also, the chorus for this song is super catchy, and yes I’m just referring to the word “controversy.”
- The start of “Controversy” (first song on the album) and the end of “Jack U Off” (last song) have a similar sound (it might be the same note). Basically, this makes this album perfect to listen to on a loop.
- “Jack U” Off is such a catchy song, it’s like a weird, sexually charged, funk version of a 50’s rockabilly song. It’s also one of many songs by Prince where I think “well I’ll never hear this song on the radio or at work.” And that ending, how it sort of starts to sound like the song is ending, but it doesn’t and then they go hard, that’s a yes from me.
- “Annie Christian” is one of the most unexpected sounding Prince songs I’ve come across. I always find it interesting when an artist throws a curveball like that on an album. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite song, but I appreciate it.
- There’s a movie I made up in my head. It takes place at an office in the 1980s. In one scene there’s a big company party and while everyone is dancing in their 1980’s brightest dresses and suits, bluest eye shadows, and biggest hair “Private Joy” is playing. And there’s nothing more 1980s in my mind than this. Also apparently this song was covered by LaToya Jackson and released as a single, but only in Japan. What is the world? Also, fuck yes to that weird guitar feedback at the end.
- “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” is a song telling Ronald Reagan to talk to Russia (very much a song of the Cold War). But what this song really reminds me of is “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones. Not because they sound exactly the same, but because they both feel like an updated version (for their respective times) of the 1950s “Let’s Go to the Hop” kind of songs (not saying this was the intention, but it’s certainly what I think of when I hear these songs). Plus, they’re both relatively short songs and have pretty fast tempos.
- Never really considered Prince as being a politically focused musician before this project, but songs like “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” from this album and “Partyup” from Dirty Mind changed my opinion on that.
- “Let’s Work” is a funky jam I can groove to any day.
What’s your favourite Prince album?
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