Retroactive Review: Graffiti Bridge (1990)

That front cover is an early ’90s cluttered aesthetic that became popular with late ’90s Pen & Pixel southern gangsta rap album covers. I have no idea what’s going on, and it kind of sums up the record as a whole. That vaunted run I definitely include the Batman soundtrack a part of? That ended with the release of this album, so if I sound mean-spirited, it’s only because we’re coming off an entire decade of pure eminence.

Released on August 21st, 1990, Graffiti Bridge went gold the same day the accompanying film was premiered, November 1st, 1990. The film was released to theaters the next day, and it completely bombed, both critically and commercially. The album fared better, peaking at #6 on the Top 200, staying in the charts for 24 weeks. A new decade had begun, but higher-ups at Warner Bros. would soon have a set vision for how Prince’s career should unfurl in the ’90s.

After recording work had been completed for the Batman soundtrack and filming had wrapped, Prince’s relationship with Kim Basinger continued well into the latter months of 1989. That July, a month after the release of Batman, the pair reportedly wrote a revised script to Graffiti Bridge; something I believe Prince had always considered going back and working on once he decided upon going forward with Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic, before ultimately dropping that one as well when he decided to be a team player for Warner Bros. and joined the Batman production. It also gave him an opportunity to boost his sales, going at least double platinum for the first time since Purple Rain. That good karma was quickly turned into him tracking “Shake!,” and many other songs from June to September that were planned for a new Time album called Corporate World. Morris and Prince were speaking again, and several songs recorded during this time made their way onto Graffiti Bridge, but Corporate World was scrapped when Warner Bros. insisted on original members of the band making appearances, so we received Pandemonium instead, which had limited Prince input.

Recording sessions for the album officially began in the autumn of ’89 and lasted until February 1990, with the tracking of “Thieves in the Temple,” but context must be applied to these sessions. Five months of recording work would be a fairly lengthier time span spent dedicated to one album, but remember, he had already tracked ten songs from June 1989 until February 1990. However, the concept of the album and film had already been set in place from the previous year, so there was a multitude of songs saved in The Vault from just a few years prior intended for this very project that kept finding its way onto the back burner. Of course, four of those songs were intended for the aforementioned Prince and Morris Day-led version of The Time’s scrapped Corporate World, which is why the album officially begins in the autumn of ’89 with the complete overhaul of “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got” for the third time, the tracking of “New Power Generation,” its shorter reprise, the original version of “Round and Round,” as well as a re-recording of “Tick, Tick, Bang”; an old track from The Vault.

Where Batman began with the tracking of “The Question of U,” due to The Purple One’s ambitious desires of creating a form of musical presentation, Graffiti Bridge begins in the midst of recording sessions for Controversy. “Tick, Tick, Bang” was tracked at the old Purple House in May 1981; please understand the depth of work being done during Prince’s recording sessions. Some of my reviews go past 5,000 words and yet, even that cannot encapsulate the sheer totality of music being created by this man during just one set of recording sessions for one album. Always forward-thinking; part of Prince’s charm in later projects is finding how a particular track’s origin is built around the idea of how he was able to store certain tracks until he found a moment where he could use a song from nearly a decade ago, and use that to fit how he was feeling at that point in his life.

“Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got” was tracked during 1999 sessions, and then reworked at the old Washington Avenue Warehouse during a slow period between heavy recording work dates in June ’86. “We Can Fuck” was a jam from December 30th, 1983 with The Revolution that was tracked into the raunchy-titled track on December 31st, 1983; in the middle of Purple Rain. “We Can Fuck” was reworked into “We Can Funk” during the same day “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got” had additional recording work done, and a month later, on July 17th, 1986, Prince tracked “Joy in Repetition”; intended for the Crystal Ball album before being cut from Sign o’ the Times when Prince was given a double-album limit from the WB brass.

Shortly after “We Can Funk” was tracked, Micki Free1 was flown in to record lead vocals for the track, but nothing is yet known of what happened to that version, or if it was ultimately even recorded. I’ve already mentioned the tracking of “The Question of U” in this review and in better detail in my Batman review. Again, all these songs were tracked during recording sessions for other albums with different points of view and themes behind them, so the fact that he is able to hang onto tracks for years and then make the necessary adjustments to make them fit in a new context, regardless of critical opinion, is another character trait that Prince does not get the credit he deserves.

Fast-forward to April of ’87, before departing for the European-only Sign o’ the Times Tour, and “The Latest Fashion” is tracked; three months later, the original version of “Melody Cool” and “Graffiti Bridge,” but once again, I covered those songs in better detail in my Batman review. However, I did not state before that later in the year additional recording work was done on “The Question of U,” around the same time the initial script for Graffiti Bridge was completed and “When 2 R in Love” and “Scandalous” were tracked. The original Graffiti Bridge was shelved in October of ’88, but he already tracked three songs during that time intended for the album, so when Prince used four songs from the scrapped Corporate World album, he only needed ten more songs to fill out his fourth soundtrack album, and the third for his own film. The only film of Prince’s he didn’t direct, Purple Rain, was directed by Albert Magnoli, who, by this time, was Prince’s new manager.

The beginning of 19892 saw Prince fire his entire management team, with Albert Magnoli instated as the sole manager. Once you map everything out this way, it’s obvious Prince wanted to start the next decade recapturing his old magic; complete with the man who directed his last huge feature as the man in charge of management. After going double platinum being attached to a big movie, it must’ve been logical to Prince, and the WB brass, especially considering The Purple One’s track record with soundtracks, to finally go ahead and give him the green light to shoot and record another movie and accompanying soundtrack; especially with Magnoli in tow, even in a different position.

“Shake!” and “Release It” were tracked in June, with Prince playing backup to Morris Day, and then Morris returned the favor by doing co-lead overdubs to “The Latest Fashion” that same month. Candy Dulfer did saxophone overdubs to many songs for the scrapped Corporate World throughout July, and then Prince tracked “Love Machine” at the end of July, with Morris adding vocal overdubs in August. Recording work for that album ended in early September, and after a meeting with the record executives, and later, after another meeting with the original members of the band, The Time saved three of the proposed eleven songs from Corporate World for Pandemonium; “Donald Trump (Black Version),” “Data Bank,” and “My Summertime Thang.” Only two songs from that album remain unreleased.

The table had been set for over a year, so with all these tracks being pieced together, he could start official recordings for Graffiti Bridge. Five new songs were tracked right after it likely dawned on The Purple One that Corporate World was out of his hands at this point. These tracks were the ones I listed above, “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got,” “New Power Generation,” the shorter reprise, the original version of “Round and Round,” and “Tick, Tick Bang”; simultaneously going back to mess with the mixing on the four saved tracks from Corporate World. The other eight songs were re-edited at a leisurely pace, as the quantity of readily available tracks to add to the track list of a double album, or one CD, gave Prince the opportunity to take a quick break from recording to catch an easy payday by performing “Electric Chair” on Saturday Night Live, on September 24th, 1989. A second configuration of the album was assembled in late ’89, almost a year after the original configuration, and due to “Thieves in the Temple” not being recorded yet, “We Can Funk,” “Round and Round,” and “Melody Cool” not having their respective overdubs completed, “The Grand Progression” not yet being removed from the track list, and the fact that The Steeles hadn’t yet added vocal dubs to “Still Would Stand All Time,” which secured that track a spot on the later configuration just months later in early ’90, leads me to believe that all this work was completed in the span of a month, October of 1989. Vocal overdubs were also done on the title track during this time.

I’m convinced of this timeline due to the fact that on November 15th, he made a guest appearance at Patty LaBelle’s show at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis, MN. During this same month, Prince and Albert Magnoli clashed over the direction of Graffiti Bridge and Prince’s future3, which should’ve been a surprise to no one. This is a low-level film director who was a first-time music manager, and this is one of the biggest pop stars of all time he’s managing. Of course he can’t tell Prince what to do with his career, and ultimately, his life; he’s just his manager, he’s fired three of them in one go already, and they actually helped him reach goals that he had aspired to achieve. You can’t replicate lightning in a bottle, it only happens in a total organic state of living, it can’t be manipulated into existence. Some never capture it; Purple Rain can never be recaptured. Magnoli should’ve directed Graffiti Bridge, and Prince should’ve entrusted a more credible source, or faced the initial hardships of self-management while still on ground zero of the CD explosion.

A new production team took over help with securing distribution with Warner Bros., who weren’t totally sold on the actual film yet. The men who represented Prince in these pitch meetings, Arnold Stiefel and Randy Phillips, were old managers of Rod Stewart as well, and would go on to manage Prince for the next year. They obviously pitched the film as a sequel to Purple Rain, which wasn’t exactly the truth, but it convinced Warner Bros. to give them the green light on production. A third draft of the film was completed on December 19th, 1989, with Kim Basinger and Jill Jones in leading roles.

Mixing was completed on “Tick, Tick, Bang” on January 9th, 1990, at Larrabee Sound Studios, but Prince’s relationship with Kim Basinger had also ended around this time. A fourth draft was quickly written to consolidate Kim and Jill’s characters into one new role. Jill Jones was then relegated to a minor role as “The Kid’s” girlfriend. Shortly after, on February 7th, Prince had a guest appearance for Dr. Mambo’s Combo at the Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis, MN, but that was likely later in the day, which matters, because on the same day, a revised fifth draft of Graffiti Bridge was completed, and was used as the shooting script going forward. Four days later, on February 11th, 1990, Prince tracked “Thieves in the Temple,” the 17th, and final, track for the soundtrack to Graffiti Bridge. Recording sessions ended there, with engineering work being handled by the same production team as on Batman, but in a reduced role, as Prince and Levi Seacer, Jr. oversaw production on the album, and likely the entire decision over the sound, despite what his engineers may have said.

Prince removed Femi Jiya from the production team, and I’m sure he’s really only credited on this one due to him being involved with the scrapped sessions for Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic, as Graffiti Bridge uses two tracks intended for that album at some point. Michael Koppelman took control as lead engineer for the next two albums, much like Jiya was on Batman. Koppelman also had a direct hand in remixing “The Latest Fashion” with Prince and Sylvia Massey during the recording and production work being done in October ’89; probably why he had such a prominent role in the next two albums. Prince also assembled a third configuration of Graffiti Bridge during this time, and largely remained the same, with only tweaks in production and arrangement choices.

Filming began on Graffiti Bridge just four days later, February 15th, 1990. Filming mostly stuck to the Paisley Park sound stage, with some indoor scenes filmed on sets in a rented New Hope, MN warehouse. Filming wrapped quickly, on March 23rd, 1990. Between these dates, orchestral work was done by Clare Fischer on “Graffiti Bridge” during February, and “The Question of U” during March, at Mad Hatter Studios, although none of his orchestral work was used on the album.

The film was quickly edited, and a first version was sent to Warner Bros. on April 19th, 1990. Later in the month, on April 30th, Prince had a benefit show for former bodyguard Chick Hunstberry, who died without life insurance a few weeks before the show. Meanwhile, test screenings were organized by Warner Bros., in the theatre that had the highest Purple Rain gross nonetheless, and reception wasn’t great. WB then decided to bring in their own editor, and as all this was going on, Prince performed a warm-up show on May 6th, 1990, at the St. Paul Civic Center Arena in Minneapolis, MN, for his first tour of the decade, The Nude Tour.

Junior Vasquez had finished remixing on “Round and Round” around this time, but Prince had flown overseas to start the first leg of The Nude Tour in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, at the Fayenoord Stadium. The whole concept of The Nude Tour was to take a “stripped-down” approach to live performances, and deliver a back-to-basics approach after the extravagant costs of The Sign o’ the Times Tour and The Lovesexy Tour had lost money for Warner Bros. Almost two months later, on July 29th, 1990, the first leg of The Nude Tour was completed after a show in La Coruña, Spain at the Estadio Santa María del Mar venue. The next day, July 30th, saw Prince fly back to the U.S. to oversee four days of editing to the film, as two different versions of the film proposed to the WB brass were rejected. This was likely the same time Prince heard the remixed version of “Round and Round,” and liked it so much he kept it as the official released version for the album.

The initial release date of August 7th, 1990 was pushed back, and Prince flew back out to Europe on August 4th, 1990; beginning the second leg of The Nude Tour in Werchter, Belgium, at the Festival Terrain. The second leg of the tour ended August 24th; three days after the USA release date of the Graffiti Bridge soundtrack. Six days later, on August 30th, the third leg of The Nude Tour began in Tokyo, Japan, at the Tokyo Dome. The third leg, and the whole tour as a result, ended just 11 days later on September 10th, 1990, with Prince flying back to Hollywood to reshoot some scenes on September 14th; editing and post-production wrapped on October 24th. Additional recording and remixing was done on “New Power Generation” for the maxi-single, but enough back story.

Dear dad, things didn’t turn out quite like I wanted them to. Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna explode.

The low drone at the end of “Positivity” from Lovesexy swells to start the opening track of Graffiti Bridge, and then the instrumentation erupts from the mix, much like Mia Wallace violently awaking from a heroin overdose once she had that adrenaline injected directly to her heart in Pulp Fiction. The guitar work is fantastic, with the fast, poppy riffs possessing a throwback ’70s twang to them, keeping pace with the excellent drum track and solid bass line that makes this song sound right at home as the energetic opening number to an early ’90s sitcom; in the best way possible. The keyboards hover in the background, above the guitar licks and riffs, and just to top it off, Prince brings the energy vocally; using his higher registers as backup, floating around in the lower registers of his voice as he croons on the back half of the song.

I can’t stop this feeling I got

I feel it right down to my toes

I can’t stop this feeling I got

My body got to have it you know

I can’t stop this feeling I got

I’ll write a letter to the whole word

I can’t stop this feeling I got

Every man, woman, boy and girl

It’s simple, but it sets the table and paints a picture, and along with the uplifting and energetic instrumentation, it makes you feel good. The second verse is where Prince really drops some gems.

I can’t stop this feeling I got

You know I can’t sleep at night

I can’t stop, you know I love you a lot

I’m taking about an everlasting life

There’s more to it, but the message is clear; believe in yourself and work towards something greater. There’s obviously things to worry about, but you don’t compromise your beliefs for someone else. You move outward and put out energy so others may also see their true potential. It’s the only way we can work together to change the world.

“New Power Generation” features Morris Day on drums, but I suspect this is one of those songs that Sheila E. would’ve questioned where the melody was4. The drums are heavy, pounding along like any early ’90s mainstream club or hip hop track, with an accompanying bass line to boot. The chorus chants are the main feature to the song, and if you like shouting “We are the new power generation, we’re here to change the world,” then this is the song for you. The background vocals and chants of various guests, the low-key rapping/spoken word verses from Prince, and what I swear sounds like a sample from either “Super Freak” or “Can’t Touch This,”5 in the form of additional background vocals that slide in at the tail end of the track, all contribute to making a club track that would become the standard ’90s club/poppy-hip hop composition for a portion of the decade.

I hate to revive a dead horse to simply put it back down, but “Release It” has a similar rhythm to “Tamborine,” but is done much better, and with a much more interesting new jack swing composition to the track. Prince sticks to the instrumentation, background vocals and a squeal of the song’s title as Morris Day comically “shows out” on an uptempo dance track that features sexy sax fills from Candy Dulfer as the track’s breakdown. It’s a funny song that keeps the energy up and shines the light on those around Prince, before the first side of the album ends with fan-favorite “The Question of U.” However, if I’m going to be honest, this song sounds like “Under the Cherry Moon” put through a flanger to sound more floppy and Elfman-like when the piano keys hover above the initial flanged keyboard. The guitar solo is admittedly pretty fucking amazing; echoing like a gorgeous siren through a cavern of melancholy, perfectly mixing with the breakdown of the track, and the heavily reverberated second set of snares snap away over the beefed-up guitar licks that fade this song out into a poetic ending.

I want to make it clear that I think “The Question of U” is a fantastic track, but when I first listened to it many years ago, I was always under the impression it sounded incredibly similar to “Under the Cherry Moon,” and when you know “The Question of U” was initially tracked during recording sessions for Parade, it makes the song feel more like a remix then an original song. Although this first side of music is nothing to complain about, as the opening track is amazing, and the energy is kept up with two very good songs before it slows down to an appropriately beautiful side-ender, but when that side-ender feels like an amped-up remix to a song from the one movie of the three you’ve done that doesn’t feature “The Kid,” I begin to question the concept behind the album, as it then begins to feel more like a series of good songs rather than a cohesive whole. There’s nothing wrong with that, but like I said earlier; entire decade of pure eminence. I also said earlier that Prince should get more credit for repurposing an older track to fit a new context, and “The Question of U” certainly does that, but he could’ve kept it around a bit longer and included it on another project if he was just going to throw it on an album without much context anyway.

Regardless, I’m glad “Elephants & Flowers” was kept from the scrapped Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic, as it brings the energy back into the room that dissipated with the previous side-ending track. The percussion work is accentuated by heavy drum machine snares and plodding drums, giving Prince an incredibly solid foundation to go to his higher registers and mess around with his pitch on this track. His raspy singing during the verses is offset by the pretty harmonizing of the chorus, all while more percussion work that sound like coils coming undone flails around in the back, slightly behind the percussion track, giving Prince’s guitar all the room to continue what he’s been doing; riffing and supplying throwback licks with his own flavor on them.

One of the catchier songs, “Round and Round,” has Tevin Campbell singing lead, with Prince relegated to backup, and if I must be honest, the track does sound slightly dated now. The synthesized bass and drum machine sound very much of their era, and one weakness of this LP really starts to reveal itself by this track. However, “Round and Round” is still an enjoyably fantastic pop song, and an interesting collaboration for younger audiences, as Tevin Campbell’s four-octave countertenor hasn’t been relevant since the new millennium began. Vazquez’s remix to the eventual second single found its way to the 12th spot on Billboard’s Top 100, almost nabbing Campbell another top-ten hit after debuting at number one as the feature on a Quincy Jones track that was the reworked vocal version of The Brothers Johnson 1976 song, “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me).” This was released the month prior to “Round and Round,” which is technically Campbell’s debut solo single, and all praise must go to his 14-year-old voice for mixing well with Prince’s flowery veteran vocals, as well as the introspective lyrics that were no doubt written by The Purple One himself.

I say, nothing comes from dreamers but dreams

I say, sitting idle in our boat while everyone else is down the stream

Nothing comes from talkers but sound

We can talk all we want to, but the world still goes around and round.

It’s poignant, unlike “We Can Funk,” which staggers fluidly around the room, or more appropriately, the party. What sounds like it would be a subdued version of the original title still brings the funk, which, of course, is helped by George Clinton’s raw presence. The instrumentation is Purple Rain meets Parliament, and it’s as great as you’d expect. The pair use the many background vocals from various artists, associates, and themselves to bring a live feel to the song. Even as the track begins its elongated breakdown, a tool in both of these artists’ wheelhouse, Prince harmonizes and sings all over the instrumentation; complete with eerie-sounding Worrell synths that hover just above the mix like a Prince mix would.

“We Can Funk” dissipates much like “Release It” does on the previous side, but this time it’s into conversation, the same from the Lovesexy album, and yes, Andre Crabtree III shows up again. “Joy in Repetition” invokes quiet storm, and does it beautifully. Lyrically, this song is on a completely different spectrum, as Prince tells an insanely intricate and compelling tale that ends with him running through the back door of a club with an apathetic singer who can only repeat two words; love me. He does, ending the verse stating that there’s “joy in repetition,” and without confirmation of the meaning behind these lyrics from The Purple One himself, fans have naturally speculated on the meaning. I personally think it’s an intricate tale used to express a simple concept, that the idea of love boils down to the simple fact you have to wake up next to one person for the rest of your life and dedicate yourself to your future together, and for some, that’s comforting. That’s joy in repetition, but however you perceive the meaning, it’s safe for us all to agree that the guitar solo that compromises the second half of the track is one of the best of his career, and a satisfying side-ender, both for the individual side of music, and side one of the record.

The sugary sweet vocals of Elisa on the chorus put “Love Machine” over-the-top, as this heavy emphasis on bass, snares, and drums creates another solid foundation to groove on and let Prince hit his falsetto as Morris coolly speaks his way through the song in the way only he can. However, as good as this song is, it’s followed by “Tick, Tick, Bang,” a song that I don’t care for, but one that also fails to really continue any underlying themes this album may have been going for. “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got” and “New Power Generation” establish a sentiment I can get behind, to change the world you have to first believe in yourself, and then work together with others to bring about that change. “Round and Round” further pushes that concept, and “Joy in Repetition” even proposes an interesting angle on falling in love; something that requires communication and expressing emotions with another individual. “Tick, Tick, Bang” however, sounds much less polished than any other song on the album, and could’ve been cut. “Release It,” “The Question of U,” “We Can Funk,” and the song preceding “Tick, Tick, Bang,” “Love Machine,” also contribute to the other obvious flaw of this album; a lack of cohesion. It’s obvious once I mapped out the history of the entire project that there was just too much standing in the way of this working. I give Prince all the credit in the world for at least assembling an entertaining track list of enjoyable unrelated songs, but “Tick, Tick, Bang” is where I have to pause and take aim at the apparent flaws of the record.

“Tick, Tick, Bang” itself sounds like Prince dusted off the old ’81 drum loop and put in then current DJ scratches from a sampler, and then left some of his older, grainier vocals in to bounce off his 23-year-old self with prettier background vocals. Either way, the song doesn’t do much for me, and it really only gets in the way of “Shake!,” which actually continues the earlier theme of album; getting up and doing something, making a change. On the surface level it’s just another solid groove by The Time, regardless of which version, but when put next to the three songs from earlier about making changes to your life and bettering life around you, the message holds up.

The twangy guitar echoes in its own piece of the stereo space, allowing the solid percussion to bounce. Morris appropriately hops along with it, never overwhelming the track with his presence, allowing it the space necessary to let the audience groove along. The keyboard synth shines above the mix, as to be expected. Another lively song gives way to “Thieves in the Temple,” officially creating a motif for the album, but an opaque one at best. There’s a definite album structure, with the more uplifting, energetic tracks taking up the first third of a side of music, and then letting a ballad, or a more intense song, close out that side.

“Thieves in the Temple” is a fantastic track, even if the drum programming does sound a little dated now, but nonetheless, it was deserving of its lead single position; peaking at #6 on the Hot 100, and leaving the charts five weeks before “Round and Round” entered the same chart. The minimalistic intro has a reggae-influenced keyboard, with some quiet percussion before the early ’90s drum kit sampler kicks in. After a minute, the chorus erupts and the energy brims; threatening to spill over before a short harmonica fill leads a gorgeous breakdown that slows down for a briefly, before quickly picking back up. Prince is given plenty of room to get some sexy licks in with the harmonica player as his sideman. It’s a gorgeous track, and once again, we get another appropriate side-ending song.

Perhaps he was aware of the potential concern over cohesion, as side four definitely attempts to connect the themes that haven’t been fully established throughout the record. “The Latest Fashion” starts off the proceedings with a vibe incredibly similar to “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night,” complete with a pseudo-live crowd and a fast, goofy rap. The percussion work is interesting, Dulfer’s sax is slick, the chants pump up the hype, and the singing is perfectly in key; much care went into this track. It still doesn’t carry much of a meaning to the album as a whole, but “Melody Cool” attempts to mend that lingering issue. Mavis Staples croons in her angelic voice all over the lively instrumentation, under the guise of the character Melody Cool, an influential older woman to an impressionable young man. Different perspectives are welcome to any potential three-dimensional thinker, so when Mavis belts out in her gospel-suited voice that “she’s been here before you,” your ears perk up. The bouncy instrumentation syncopates perfectly with Mavis’ heavier vocals; continuing the energy from the previous track, as well as continuing the themes of a “new power generation” working towards something greater.

Much like “The Beautiful Ones,” “Condition of the Heart,” and “The Arms of Orion,” “Still Would Stand All Time” acts as the emotional anchor of this side of music, and actually furthers the gospel-like feeling of Mavis Staples’ voice by slowing down the tempo to the track, allowing The Steeles plenty of background space to play backup choir. The music swells to dramatic heights as Prince barks and howls about waiting for the perfect love. The title track is the penultimate song, but acts as the official album-ender; continuing the themes of “Still Would Stand All Time,” and even some production choices. The heavenly choir of stacked vocals carries over to “Graffiti Bridge”; picking up the tempo and adding a melody to the composition differentiates the song from “Still Would Stand All Time,” but more importantly, it continues the theme of believing in yourself, working with others, and believing in love. Everybody’s looking for Graffiti Bridge, but who’s to say that it doesn’t represent something different for everyone, which I think is the point anyway.

The album ends on a short reprise of “New Power Generation,” but the majority of this track comprises of a rap by T.C. Elliot before the song ends with the water and drone from the end of “Positivity” on Lovesexy. A modulated-deep voice proclaims “The New Power Generation has just taken control,” a fitting end to the album, as well a proper introduction into what would become the second backing band of Prince’s studio album output. The biggest, and what I would argue is the only theme of the record, is teamwork, but yet, on this album, Prince still handles most of the instrumentation, singing, and production; not unusual, but when you realize how busy he was at the time, it does raise an eyebrow. This simply has to be a case of biting off more than you can chew, as it is incredibly difficult for one man to oversee every area of production. It’s a testament to Prince’s talents that the album is enjoyable, but when he’s also touring, overseeing the film, producing, shooting music videos, and just generally being one of the biggest celebrities in the world, it may water down the standard, even if just a little bit.

Other people were brought into the fold to add intrigue to the album, and by using older tracks from The Vault, it assured The Purple One that at the least, the album would be good. There’s truly only one song on this album I do not care for, and it hardly does anything to harm to the record as a whole. Where this album fails is the numerous points in this review where I was forced to point out the lack of cohesion and dated production choices, which makes the album sound much more like an album that was lost in the midst of early-to-mid-’90s pop albums. Brit Pop became prominent again around ’93, and the majority of these commercial guitar riffs created by a genuine love of ’70s funk and The Purple One’s ear for catchy chords doesn’t help this album stand out from anything significant released during this time period, and Prince is better than that. The tracks that don’t fit into this box don’t add much value to the record, and only look to provide entertainment as a series of unrelated tracks, and once again, Prince is just simply better than this.

Editor’s Notes

  1. Chappelle’s Show True Hollywood Stories
  2. L.A. Times – 1/7/1989 – “Prince Fires Management, Legal Teams”
  3. Entertainment Weekly – 2/22/1991 – “Trouble for Prince”
  4. Billboard – 4/26/2016 – Sheila E. Looks Back on Prince: Their Collaborations, Engagement & Lifelong Love
  5. “U Can’t Touch This” sampled “Super Freak” of course, but since Rick James and Prince hated each other, going back a decade ago when Prince opened for Rick and his band, is it not more likely he actually took a brief sample of “U Can’t Touch This”? Maybe he just recreated it?

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