Prince’s thematic persona was always about freedom of expression-especially on the sexual side. This was in fact what attracted me to his music from the outset. The man viewed physical intimacy as a loving,even spiritual act. With his bold musical and lyrical frankness,Prince created a distinctive persona that opened the door for the liberating attitude of the sexual evolution as he was funking up the post disco American musical landscape of the early 80’s. He would wiggle and wobble in and out of his own concept throughout his career. But it never stopped being there.
This afternoon while doing errands with my mom, I was playing Prince’s fourth album Controversy in the car CD player. It was actually one of my favorite pre-superstar Princ albums. Especially the way it really pushed Prince’s budding sociopolitical agenda. Even if the concept was hit or miss on the album,one song on the album actually revealed itself to be an anthem for Prince’s entire musical and thematic persona from a bit earlier even then “DMSR” from a bit later. And it’s one that I’ve been loving for just as long a time as well. This jam is called “Sexuality”.
Prince’s high pitched variation of the James Brown screech begins the album-providing an accessory rhythm to the rumbling gated drums. That screech is re-sampled as a siren like echo into the brittle bass synthesizer,which is accented by breezy synth orchestrations. After that Prince’s high on the neck rhythm guitar chug moves in. This is the main body of the song. On the choruses,the synthesizer is in a higher key. On the latter part of the song,the strong strips back down to the pounding drums under Prince’s spoken word rap. By the end of the song,Prince is whispering the chorus over his own rhythm. guitar.
Instrumentally speaking,this song almost perfectly blends the brittle new wave/synth pop and Prince’s Minneapolis naked funk sound. Much of the song finds Prince taking on what amounts to the funk/soul equivalent of the socially rebellious punk attitude. Lyrically speaking,I now read this song as a dog whistle metaphor regarding a racially bias media and educational system. He referred to such people as “tourists”-teaching children to “cuss,fight and breed”. These would be themes Prince would elaborate on for the rest of his career. And he delivered it hear with some of his most explosively purple punk-funk.