Friday, January 31, 2020

"All for Fun and Fun for All" - "Crystal Ball" Challenge

     Photo by Rachel Kayla

"I could be singing a song any style, any way/Ain't nothing but a trick to me."

Last month, YouTube personality Prince's Friend put together a fun video. He condensed Prince's 1998 three-disc album, Crystal Ball, into one CD. His approach was very methodical; he kept the album under 60 minutes, eliminated remixes and honored the original combination of '80s and '90s music.

The only rule I adhered to was the number of tracks. Prince's Friend included 10 tracks, plus a bonus (thank you for that!). Beyond that, I was purely subjective. Crystal Ball is one of my least favorite Prince albums (Though bundled with the set, The Truth is its own masterpiece) and I skip around a lot. However, this challenge was more difficult than I imagined.

Related 'Playlist' Content
Seven Writers Cut Prince's 'Emancipation' Down to 45 Minutes
Favorite Prince Songs from the '90s 
Prince's Most Autobiographical Songs

I was very tempted to jettison all the '80s music. In my opinion, the newer content is much stronger. But because the title track--a standout song--was recorded in the '80s, I decided to keep two others from that period ("Movie Star" and "Cloreen Bacon Skin"), especially since they show off Prince's humor. Additionally, I felt like I had to keep in the nasty bass tracks ("What's My Name" and "Days of Wild"), as well as the blues workout "The Ride."

A couple years ago, I would have ignored "Acknowledge Me," but podcaster and purple enthusiast Darling Nisi made me see the light. We agree the song could have been a radio hit!

GIF by Darling Nisi

While Prince's Friend did an amazing job sequencing the album to tell a story, my project is more eclectic. I think it shows myriad sides of Prince's artistry. I'd give this playlist to someone who only knew Prince's hits from the '80s.

1. "Crystal Ball"
2. "What's My Name"
3. "Movie Star"
4. "Ripopgodazippa"
5. "Calhoun Square"
6. "Da Bang"
7. "Days of Wild"
8. "2morrow"
9. "The Ride"
10. "Acknowledge Me"
11. "Cloreen Bacon Skin"

Total run time: Approx. 70 minutes

P.S. "Crucial" isn't as good as y'all think it is.

Click here for my Spotify playlist.

Click here for Prince's Friend's Spotify playlist (renamed "Days of Wild").


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 24, 2020

"Welcome to the Dawn" - Reflecting on "The Gold Experience"

    Photo by Rachel Kayla

I didn't experience Prince's 1995 album, The Gold Experience, as a whole--in real time. God bless my mother; she was great about buying a lot of the latest music for the household throughout the '90s, but she'd gotten away from listening to entire Prince albums. Still, I have memories of a couple songs that were out.

Most of my engagement with The Gold Experience happened when I was an adult. I immediately connected with a couple songs, but it took me several years before I fully appreciated the album. Today, I believe it's one of Prince's strongest projects during the '90s. (In my opinion, "Shy" is one of the best songs he's ever written.)

I've been listening to the album lately and figured I'd share some personal reflections.


"Shhh"

Like a lot of folks my age, I first heard Tevin Campbell sing this song on his 1993 album, I'm Ready. I was not aware that it was a Prince song at the time. All I knew was the sexy tune made me uncomfortable. I was used to "Little Tevin Campbell" and I was still little myself.

Moving forward, my family and I only listened to the Campbell songs written by Babyface ("Can We Talk," "I'm Ready" and "Always in My Heart"). Only recently did I discover Prince wrote three other songs on Campbell's album: "Uncle Sam," "The Halls of Desire" and "Paris 1798430." The latter is my jam!


I heard Prince's version of "Shhh" as an adult. Honestly, it's not my favorite. I love Michael Bland's drumming, but I don't play it often. I'm a bit of an outlier; I'm not in love with a lot of Prince's classic, sexy songs ("Do Me, Baby," "Scandalous," "Insatiable," etc.). Don't get me wrong, they're great, but I have a stronger connection to other songs in his discography.

Related Content
How Prince helped Tevin Campbell Get Political on 'I'm Ready
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"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" 

Like 700,000 people at the time, my mother bought "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and played it over and over and over. It makes sense; it's a soulful throwback to the music she loved growing up. She also marveled at his wide vocal range on the song. However, the most tender memory I have is of her telling my sister and me that we were the most beautiful girls in the world. It's even more special because she got what Prince was trying to do--draw attention to the beauty within all women. (Be back later, crying.)


"Billy Jack Bitch"

It's no secret that Prince wrote this song about former Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist C.J., who nicknamed him "Symbolina." C.J. was one of my first interviews; I spoke with her back in 2012. She talked to me about the time they met in person. According to C.J., he said he didn't recognize her, and when she introduced herself, he replied, "Billy!"

"He said that he thought I was one of his old girlfriends, and that the reason I wrote negative things about him is because he had broken my heart," C.J. told me. "I said to him, 'I don’t look like anybody you have ever dated.' I looked good at that time, but I don’t look like Mayte. I don’t look like Manuela. I know his type and it is not me."


The first person I told about the interview was Laila, one of my best friends. We could not stop laughing. From then on, we'd randomly text each other, "BILLY JACK BITCH!" or "Billy!" In fact, let me text her now...


For years I just dismissed "Billy Jack Bitch" as a silly song, but now I have a new appreciation for the music. It's incredibly funky, and I've sat in my car no less than 100 times rewinding the horn part at the end. If I'm ever able to interview arranger and musician Michael B. Nelson, I'm asking him about that section!

"Gold"

Before The Gold Experience came out, there were rumors going around that Prince had written a song as epic as "Purple Rain." When I played "Gold" for the first time, I was blown away. I had to talk to someone about it, and I made my boyfriend at the time listen to it with me. (He wasn't that impressed.)

Sure, you may not rank "Gold" as high as "Purple Rain," especially given your nostalgia or the fact that the earlier tune happened at the peak of Prince's popularity. But "Gold" is a beautiful song, and the vocal arrangement at the end still makes me tear up. Please stop sleeping on Prince's '90s output.

And please listen to this song again.



Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 17, 2020

"Check the Record" - "Ultimate Prince" Archive



Nearly two years ago, I was asked to contribute to Diffuser.fm's series, "365 Prince Songs in a Year." That partnership led to an opportunity to write for UltimatePrince.com, a website dedicated to the artist's life and career.

I'm keeping a running list of all my articles below.

(Some of my Prince-related work for Ultimate Prince's sister sites is included as well.)


Prince Makes 'Slow Love' with Carole R. Davis

Prince, Montalbo and Juice Get Their 'Groove On'

The Many Lives of 'Bambi'

Prince Becomes a Bass Hero on 'Shy'

Prince Ponders The Question of U

*Prince's Death Two Years Later: Our Writers Answer Five Lingering Questions 
(Ultimate Classic Rock)

*Prince's Milestone Birthdays: Charting His Life Decade By Decade (The Boombox)

Prince 'Batman' Roundtable: Our Writers Answer Five Big Questions

When Prince Gave Away '20Ten' And Went to 'Studio Rehab'

Prince Channels 'Caligula' for Status-Reclaiming 'Gett Off' Video

Seven Writers Cut Prince's 'Emancipation' Down to 45 Minutes

Beyond Prince: St. Paul Peterson on Working with Steve Miller, Peter Frampton

How Prince Helped Tevin Campbell Get Political on 'I'm Ready'

Was Prince's 'Graffiti Bridge' Movie Really That Bad?: Roundtable 

Why the Official Release of the 'Black Album' Agitated Prince

When Prince Showed Off Jazzy Side on 'One Nite Alone… Live!'

When Prince Showcased a Stable of Proteges on 'The Ryde Dyvine'

When Prince Launched the Short-Lived Website, 20Pr1nc3.com

Prince Strips Down on 'The Truth': A Track-by-Track Guide

A Look Back at Prince’s Valentine’s Day Wedding

The Long History of Prince’s 'If I Love U 2 Nite'

When Prince Previewed His ‘Act I’ Tour on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Friday, January 10, 2020

“A Little Bit of Pleasure for the Guilty Pain” – BDSM Lyrics in the Work of Prince


This post is brought to you by Darling Nisi, A Purple Day in December's first-ever guest writer. It's impossible to study Prince's spirituality without also studying his sexuality. - Erica 



“We don’t care about what you know, but what you’re willing to learn. You must surrender your expectations …” – Prince, Hamburg, Germany (2002)


What comes to mind when you think of BDSM? Something taboo? Something shameful? Something naughty?

It’s a term that brings out a lot of thoughts and a lifestyle that is misunderstood by many.

BDSM is an acronym that refers to a specific type of erotic behavior or play, that may involve any of the following: bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M).

But what does that really mean and how does all of this work?

Being intimate is always a vulnerable space to exist in, even more so when you’re operating outside of “common” rules. Those who seriously dabble in the kink lifestyle place high regard in trust, communication and enthusiastic consent when exploring emotional and physical boundaries with their partners. Despite what most think about BDSM, it’s much more than whips and chains! There are specific, agreed upon rules for the safety and comfort of participants, and the play is as much of a mental dance as it is a physical one. Sometimes, it isn’t physical at all! In a way, it can be a method for people to work through their anxieties in a safe space and to grow in confidence and in the expression of their authentic selves.

Imagine feeling free of judgement of your most closely held desires and fears. Imagine being totally open to experience all the sensations and emotions life has to offer. Imagine exploring the breadth of those human emotions, expressions and sensations within boundaries you’ve set with someone you trust with your body and mind.

We don’t have to imagine too much; this exploration is peppered throughout Prince’s discography. Over the years he has dabbled in BDSM ideas, maturing in the depiction of its concepts as he aged.

Below are some examples.

(Note: The year listed is when the song appears on an official album or release.)

“We’re going to do things a little different tonight. You don’t like it the same, do you? You want surprises, right? You want surprises in your love life. ... I love you. Do you love me?” – Prince, Louisville, Kentucky (2002)

Sadism: the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting pain, suffering or humiliation on others.

Soft and Wet (1978)

Hey, lover, I got a sugarcane 
That I want to lose in you 
Baby, can you stand the pain?

Automatic (1982) 

Yes, I’m addicted to your pleasure 
Yes, I’m addicted to your pain

Strange Relationship (1987) 

I guess you know me well, I don’t like winter 
But I seem to get a kick out of doing you cold

Elixer (2009) 

You can fight in vain 
I'm gonna have my way all night and all day 
Seven tears fall like rain in between the joy and pain 
Oowie, baby

Pheromone (1994) 
*This whole song is a fully thought out BDSM scene

I can feel the tension through the crack in the door 
He begs for love, while she's disgusted more 
And I'm on fire, 'cause I've never seen her nude before 
I wanna save her 
I want to watch 
All my vital signs go up a couple of notches 
When he unties her and she runs for the open door 
He trips and grinds her 
Right there all on the floor 
She's so close I can touch her

Sensation play: pushing sensory limits, thus exploring texture and sensory deprivation through whips, flagellation and edgeplay (a more extreme form of BDSM).

Sister (1980) 

I was only 16 and only half a man 
My sister didn’t give a goddamn 
She only wanted to turn me out 
She took a whip to me until I shout 
Oh, motherfuckers just a motherfucker, can’t you understand?

Automatic (1982)



Ripopgodazippa (1998) 

Instead of walking inside I just knock on the door 
I take a look around until she beggin’ me more, more, more 
When I finally come inside I’m standin’ perfectly still 
"I can’t take no more"
Pump you then I will

Breathe (2002)

Passionate fashion of tongue that keeps lashing 
On skin like a whip, ooh breathe in, breathe out 
Slowly, slowly, ooh

Bondage: The practice of tying, binding or restraining a partner for erotic, aesthetic or somatosensory stimulation--with consent. 

Superfunkycalifragisexy (1988)

If you do too much, your skin will be sensitive to touch 
The first person to touch you, you want to fuck 
You take them to your crib and you tie them to a chair 
And you make funny faces ‘til they get real scared 
Then you turn on the neon, then you play with yourself 
‘Til you turn them on

Sexy MF (1992) 

We need to talk about things, tell me what ya do 
Tell me what ya eat, I might cook for you 
See it really don’t matter ‘cause it’s all about me and you 
Ain’t no one else around 
I’m even with the blindfold, gagged and bound 
I don’t mind, see this ain’t about sex
It’s all about love being in charge of this life and the next

Eye Hate U (1995) 

I’d like to have the defendant place her hands behind her back 
So I can tie her up tight and get into the act 
The act of showing her how good it used to be 
I want it to be so good, she falls back in love with me

1000 X’s and O’s (2015) 

I wanna hold you, tie you up in lace 
I wanna kiss you, kiss you all over your face 
I wanna love you all up and down 
Give you love like you never had
Blindfold, gagged and bound

Dominance and Submission: a set of behaviors, customs and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle.

The Continental (1992) 

Shall I write the alphabet?
Or shall I just write my name? Why?
You tell me, you're the ruler in this telephone game 
I could be a slave when it comes down to you 
I'll do any and everything you want me to do 
U know why? 
'Cause I want you to have fun 
So how you wanna be done?

Sexmesexmenot (2004)

Black pepper, grind you please 
Make a brother happy 
Where? 
On your knees 
Ho ho ho ho
Sex me
Hold me tight, choke the bird 
Sex me 
Choke it

Kept Woman – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)

Was it his cologne or the style of his hair 
They told me I should stay away and not go there 
Sometimes I'm all alone and don't see him 
I wish it was different but I don't care 
I'm a kept woman 
He don't see nobody but me 
We got a pretty little house 
And only me and him got the key 
A kept woman 
Sometimes I don't know why 
A kept woman 
Sometimes I cry

He likes it when I dance for no reason 
He likes it when I dance 
But he doesn't like it when I raise my voice to him 
I try to stop but I can't …

He's the hotness in my fire
I give him anything he desires 
It may sound crazy but it suits me fine 
'Cause ain't nobody ever take away what’s mine 
'Cause I'm a kept woman 
'Cause he's every single thing I need 
Spiritual, physical 
Kept woman 
Chemical, emotional 
And everything in between 
Don't you know that I’m a kept woman 
Ooh, loves me like no other 
A love you never seen
I'm a kept woman 
And I'm his queen

Gun Play: the act of using either a loaded or unloaded firearm during BDSM and sexual play. 

Pheromone (1994) 

I can see the curtain wrestled from the wall 
I can see her hands tied, I can see it all 
He pulls a gat 
This is how they play the game 
And I'll 'round the back 
'Cause curiosity, it knows no shame

Her eyes are closed but there's no penetration 
He just makes her point the pistol to his nose while he masturbates 
And now I see a tear heading down towards her smile 
What happens next, it all depends upon your style

Honorable mentions:

S&M Groove (2004) 

Sadomasochistic groove 
Freaks gonna bob 2 this 

Here Eye Come – Bria Valente, written by Prince (2009)

Don't ever stop what you're doin' 
Oh, I feel like that dirty blonde girl in "9½ Weeks"* 

*9½ Weeks is a 1986 film starring Kim Basinger that depicts a sadomasochistc affair 

“Feel ashamed and ordained …” – Prince, "When Eye Lay My Hands on U" (2004)

Prince once noted that his most erotic material was in his vault, but we see that he shared quite a few special moments over the course of his career. There is sometimes an assumption that sexuality presented in these taboo ways is shameful or not becoming of what Prince represented. However, looking past BDSM stereotypes, one can see that this lifestyle is very much about the freedom to explore the limits of human expression without judgement. It’s an opportunity for people to be their whole selves with people they trust, and that can be a spiritually ecstatic and deeply intimate experience no matter how sexuality is expressed.

These BDSM themes and other erotic and fetishistic explorations quite literally span from Prince’s very first album, 1978's For You, to his last, 2015's HitnRun Phase Two. They even still show up during his spiritual walk in the Jehovah's Witness faith. Check the last bit of "Mellow" from The Rainbow Children for his offer of musical accompaniment for your “personal time;" or the bridge of "Incense and Candles" from 3121 for what he wants to smother you with; or what’s buried in the mix in the bridge of "This Could Be Us" from Art Official Age for what he would like to clean, how he would do it and what you can look for in your gratitude for said cleaning; or "Xtraloveable" from HitnRun Phase Two for how he'd like you to dress while dancing. Perhaps it is worth considering that even his most “taboo” songs are not out of character for his creative expression at all. Instead, they are examples of how Prince’s work documents the full range of human intimacy.


Keep up with Darling Nisi 

Podcast: Muse 2 the Pharaoh
Tumblr: darlingnisi.tumblr.com
Twitter: @darlingnisi
Instagram: @darlingnisi

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Friday, January 3, 2020

"Will Anybody See the Dawn?" - "Signs of the Times" Magazine

Image of "Signs of the Times" magazine
March 1987 issue of Signs of the Times magazine.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Press Publishing Association. 

Rule #1: Never assume Prince read something.

Rule #2: Never assume Prince didn't read something.

Rule #3: Never assume what Prince read had an impact on his music.

Rule #4: Never assume what Prince read didn't have an impact on his music.

All of that is to say this post is all in good fun. The above is a screenshot of the March 1987 issue of Signs of the Times, a monthly Seventh-day Adventist magazine. The publication has been around in different formats since 1874.

Prince grew up attending Seventh-day Adventist church services, and he released his Sign O' the Times album in March 1987.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at the issue of Signs of the Times that came out at that time to see if there was any coincidental overlap in subject matter. After examining the titles of the feature articles--"How would the Founding Fathers feel about the trend of religious and political leaders switching roles today?"; "Solving the Problem of Heartache;" The Menace of Midtown Memphis"--I didn't find any common ground. But then again, I don't know anything about the actual content of the pieces.

I can, however, hear Prince imitating Thomas Jefferson in my head.

Of course, I know Prince completed the album before this magazine issue came out, and I wouldn't guess he was reading the publication at the height of his superstardom in the 1980s.

But I think it's reasonable to speculate that Prince was exposed to Signs of the Times as a child. I might reach out to the church he attended to see if they were passed around in the '60s. I know the "signs" of end times is a subject found in the Bible and the phrase "sign of the times" is common in American language, so I'm not implying Prince got his album title from a niche publication.

But you have to admit, it's an interesting little ripple in the deep well of Prince's spiritual world.

Now, the Jehovah's Witnesses' Watchtower magazines have had an obvious impact on Prince. We'll get to those before long.


Subscribe to my newsletter for updates on my book on Prince's spiritual journey. Click here.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

"The Year is 2020" - New Podcast with Scott Woods

Writer and Prince scholar Scott Woods and I finally decided to record one of our Prince conversations. We figured New Year's Day was a great time because Prince recorded a song called "2020" in 1995. On this first episode of "The Purple Canon," we discuss the song and other themes, like Prince's spirituality and use of space in his music. Enjoy!







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