Weird at Times
But fantastically so, with the hits far outweighing the strange.
Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #72/100
I’m a Prince fan, but I know some of his stuff can get down right weird. Part of that is him, willing to take chances and do whatever the hell he wants. The other part is a product of the time of his ascent — the 80s — where you could get away with all sorts of synth wailing. I found Purple Rain a complete listen, even if there are some treks across uncharted, psychedelic lands.
Actually a soundtrack to a film of the same name, Purple Rain is not just a one man show: Prince’s backing band The Revolution gets credit, and you can hear the difference from his earlier material as many of the songs have deeper layering with a variety of instruments. The material ranges in style, including a little bit of every genre.
It was a big hit of 1984. It stayed as the number one album for 22 weeks and spawned five singles. Its popularity also had its detractors, particularly Tipper Gore (Al Gore’s wife) who found the lyrics in “Darling Nikki” so offensive (I knew a girl named Nikki/Guess you could say she was a sex fiend/I met her in a hotel lobby/Masturbating with a magazine) that it led to the Parental Advisory labels on CDs.
- Let’s Go Crazy (Prince)
- Take Me With You (Prince)
- The Beautiful Ones (Prince)
- Computer Blue (Prince, J. Nelson)
- Darling Nicky (Prince)
- When Doves Cry (Prince)
- I Would Die For you (Prince)
- Baby I’m a Star (Prince)
- Purple Rain (Prince)
[best track.] When Doves Cry
Somehow the best track is also the most odd. There is a certain hollowness to this song, sparse and lacking bass. The looped drum tracks and keyboards are so methodical, though, you quickly become hypnotized. Not fast enough to be a dance song and definitely not a slow jam, When Doves Cry has a majestic canter that is worth multiple listens.
“Maybe I’m just like my father: too bold.
Maybe you’re just like my mother.
She’s never satisfied.
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like,
When doves cry”
[best track – runner up.] I Would Die For U
Prince started using texting shorthand before the form existed, “I Would Die For U” is a particular favorite of mine beating out “Let’s Go Crazy” and “Purple Rain,” more well known singles from this album. The song is similar to “When Doves Cry” for its sparseness; the song isn’t particular diverse, but somehow Prince punches home with just a few changes between stanzas.
Sometimes it is simple as changing the cadence of the lyrics — once we get lulled to the repeated rhythm, he changes to a staccato machine gun. Or maybe, he removes the lyrics, having just the back music playing without competition. Regardless, the song to me encapsulates the 80s sound: synth, drum loops, techno.
“I’m not your lover
I’m not your friend
I am something that you’ll never comprehend.”
[best hidden gem.] Take Me With U
Released as a single, I have never heard this song on any greatest hit albums or on the radio (even after Prince’s death!). “Take Me With U” shows Prince’s range of talent. The power behind this song is a string section that accents the lyrics at the end of the chorus. The song is the most organic of the entire album, forgoing the abundance of synth and drum machines found elsewhere. It gives the song a nice touch, and it’s catchy to boot.
“I can’t disguise the pounding of my heart
It beats so strong
It’s in your eyes, what can I say
They turn me on.”
If you are just looking for hits, “Purple Rain” has you covered: it has four well known singles that make the bulk of any golden oldies station dedicated to 80s or rock. The rest of the material is very much a product of its time, and depending on your tastes and preferences, you might be turned off by some of the synth-wave songs. I found it all to be just right and pure — Prince did whatever he wanted, and thank goodness for that.
Other People’s Take:
- Classic Rock Review: “Prince reached the pinnacle of his success in 1984, with the release of the musically potent Purple Rain to accompany the major motion picture of the same name.”
- Snippets: “There’s not a single song you’ll want to skip, and the music is so varied- from poppy dance tracks and sultry numbers, to power ballads- that there’s something for any kind.”
- Basementality: “Prince’s 1984 release Purple Rain was one of extravagance, emotional authenticity, and ornate sexuality.”