The Artist Formerly Known As Prince (often abbreviated to TAFKAP) hasn’t wound up being the most musically consistent of his career. At the same time he was fighting Warner Bros for ownership of his master tapes as well as changing his name,he had inner daemons as well. Heart palpitations resulted in him having to start taking pain killers. The hip-hop genre he’d once looked down his nose on was by then becoming the mainstream of popular music. So now Prince was facing in the 90’s what Stevie Wonder had faced in the 80’s: still musically strong,but no quite as apt to amaze his listeners.
Happily 1996 proved a happy one for Prince. He ended up being released from his Warner Bros. contract. And now had the creative autonomy he desired. Plus he got married for the first time in his life to Mayte Garcia,one of his dancers of the last seven years. During this time he began recording his triple CD set Emancipation. This was as much a musical love letter to Mayte as it was a declaration of musical independence for him. Especially the second disc of the set. One of the songs on it came as a result of Mayte becoming pregnant with what would’ve been their first child. This song was called “Sex In The Summer”.
Prince starts the song out singing the chorus of the song acapella. After this,the round synth bass line and reggae like drum beat get the song started. This is accompanied by a soulful piano part and the percussive pulses of Prince sampling the ultrasound of he and Mayte’s son’s beating heart. The full chorus starts earnestly with ringing synths bringing the counter melody-and the synth bass/ultra sound derived bass line assisted by a bluesy wah wah guitar. The refrains strip the rhythm down to the drums,bass lines and a much lower and chunkier rhythm guitar tone.
The song itself contains two musical bridges. The first one consists of Prince duetting rather George Benson style with his wah wah guitar improvisations. After another chorus and refrain round,including one with Prince singing said chorus over the drum and ultra sound,the second bridge starts up. This is defined by the bluesy wah wah,low synth brass and a Ramsey Lewis like Chicago soul jazz piano solo over a bed of heavy rock guitar. This bluesy jazz flavor set up by the second bridge of the song keeps the song high on the groove until Prince closes it out with the title chorus just as he began it.
Seeing Prince and Mayte talking about the joyous experiencing of recording their unborn child’s ultra sound on the Oprah Winfrey show during this time was deep for me. Though sadly the child did not survive. The very best of music,especially rhythm based sounds,express the very essence of life itself. And Prince using that ultrasound as part of the bass line,the foundation of any strong groove, really bought out that creative spirit. By mixing reggae and soul jazz/hard bop styles,this song perhaps stood out most fully as a prime example of Prince liberating his own funk during the mid 1990’s.