Prince – Controversy (Album Review)


Rating: 8/10

This album is actually more than just a sequel to previous year’s Dirty Mind. And even if it were just that, there’s no shame in repeating the formula of one of the decade’s greatest dance-funk records. But Controversy feels more like a natural update on that formula – the grooves are just as memorable and plus, a new element is emphasized: Prince’s life philosophy. What I mean by that is all the social and political commentary in the lyrics, perhaps best summed up in a line from the title track: “People call me rude, I wish we all were nude / I wish there was no black and white, I wish there were no rules”.

I must admit that I’m one of those people who got into The Purple One only after he died. His albums had been on my to-get list for ages, but reading so many tributes from people both famous and not whose life was changed by that music suddenly made them a priority. It felt like the right time to explore them, and boy was it just that. Even from the very first listens, Prince connected with parts of me that I didn’t even know were there before. I suddenly realized the importance of a solid rhythm, of a good groove. Sometimes a song that can get your whole body moving is just as emotionally compelling as one that stimulates your intellect, perhaps even more so. It made me get more funk/soul albums as well as listen with new ears to those I already knew, but never really felt. Lastly, it made me interested in the man himself, with all the enigma behind his music, the crazy stories, the stage persona, the interviews, the appearance, the clothing.

The title track which I’ve quoted before is a good representation of what Prince was about. He defiyngly answers the questions that people have been asking in the wake of his success with even more questions (“Am I straight or gay?”) – he knows that this type of ‘controversy’ should take second place to the actual quality of the music. And this track’s got plenty of that: the hooks are instantly memorable and the bass-synth-guitar groove could go on for hours as far as I’m concerned. Sexuality immerses us even more in the Prince world, one where people don’t need money, races don’t exist and children are not allowed to watch TV until they can read; but more importantly, one where sexuality is all one needs and letting your body be free is the answer. Were these just words written on a paper I would maybe have a hard time taking them seriously, but combined with that aggressive groove and the commanding vocals (love those screams and yelps), I’ll be damned if I’m not sold. Prince uses every trick in his book to push the idea forward and make the listener part of his world, with damn convincing and powerful results.

Things cool off then with Do Me, Baby – another sex song, but by all means the other side of the same coin. If Sexuality was aggressive then this is smooth and sensual to the core, proving that Prince can just as easily go to the other extreme. Rumor has it that he recorded it in an intimate-evening type of setting with candles and dim lights and his girlfriend by his side. I would not be surprised if this was true. The album never really lives up to this stunning 1-2-3 punch of the first side, but none of it is bad either. In fact, most of it tells you all you need to know about early-80s Prince, before he became a worldwide superstar. No matter how sexually explicit he got, it never, not even for a second, felt forced. Even the lyrics to Jack U Off, which no doubt shocked the audiences back then, now sound like the natural extension to that sexy, sweaty rhythm. It feels authentic man, none of that shock value type of crap. The controversy is the result, not the purpose, and that’s what makes Prince still stand out among so many imitators.


Categories: Album Reviews


20 replies

  1. Great writing, Ovidiu! I am almost persuaded to listen to more Prince…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. My wife and I both love Prince, but it seems he connects with women on a much more visceral level than we men. These songs are further evidence of his modus operandi. I was thrown for a loop many years ago when he was coming to Atlanta, where I worked at the time. A strong African-American female colleague, who could probably body slam Prince, was so very excited to go see his concert that night. When I inquired to which songs were her favorites, she shushed me and said rather directly, “I just want to f*** that man.” I was at a loss for words for a few seconds. I do not even recall my response. Let’s say her passion for Prince was a little stronger than mine.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Prince for me is not just about the music, though he is a superior songwriter. It’s a generational thing too. His sound felt truly unique, though it was a compilation of almost everything that had gone before. He rose so quickly. He changed things so quickly. All this on top of being immensely talented and prolific. I miss knowing he’s walking this earth.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. One of his many classic albums. He was incredible. I got into him back during Purple Rain, so have been a fan for a long while. Nice review!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great! R U going to do more on Prince? I’ve written a few Prince posts himself but the last one is my fave album

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome post, Ovidiu. You are so articulate, with a keen sense of observation and insight that is all the more remarkable, given that English is a second language for you. You write better than most Americans I know!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great post. I’m in that ‘only really scratching the surface’ phase when it comes to Prince. I never really connected with much of what I heard and I thought Purple Rain was a tad overrated. Possibly because I’m not of that Prince generation.

    His death resulted in a bit more listening. A revisit of some of the albums that I couldn’t connect with and those that were recommended. A real talent, but unfortunately I’ve yet to find an ‘in’.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Excellent review – I only truly realised the extent of his genius after his death. Also as someone who has prioritised how music makes me “feel”as opposed to the lyrical content, I am glad you too get that with Prince.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Haven’t got this album, but Purple Rain is a very firm favourite. The DSOTM of the 80s. Great review 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 1999, Purple Rain, Sign o’ the Times and Parade are my top four. Sign o’ the Times just about the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thank U very much for this post! Prince has been the soundtrack of my life since the 80s. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

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