Believe it or not, there used to be this ridiculous notion that Prince was “white boy music”, so if you were a Black fan, you considered hiding your allegiance if only to avoid alienating yourself even further from the mainstream.
That was too personal. You could tell I was talking about myself, couldn’t you?
Thing is, everybody loved Purple Rain, so I don’t know if niggas suddenly became ashamed of themselves, their homophobic attraction to Prince kicked in, or they decided that Hip Hop was going to be the music they aligned their masculinity with, but there were very good albums, including Around the World in a Day that went sailing by as some of the young dudes I knew kept a stiff upper lip and pretended to have no interest.
Then Sign ‘O the Times came out.
I was at my HBCU by then and I remember the absolutely most pro-Black, Back-to-Africa, red-black-n-green dude at the school walked by one day singing “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker.”
What a sigh of relief!
That summer, I was standing outside the old Latin Quarter, you know, the one where Wilt and then-Lew Alcindor once double-dated and a straight hood chick was standing at the corner when a car pulled up bumping “Adore”.
The girl literally swooned. At that moment, a light went on in my mind. And I’ve never been without “Adore” on any mix or slowjam tape ever since.
And it works like a charm.
And sure, Purple Rain is the safe pick. Purple Rain‘s the album he based a movie off of, it’s got almost nothing but hit songs, including, of course, “When Doves Cry” which is perhaps the iconic Prince song, but when I think about Sign O’ the Times, I’m reminded about the time when the late Malik Sealy played against Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway when Sealy was at St. John’s and Hardaway was at Memphis.
Hardaway would go on to be the much better pro, but at the time he was a freshman and Sealy was a senior. And Sealy was schooling young Penny with such a variety of moves and abilities that I’ll never forget how the announcer described it.
The announcer said that Malik was, “Showing (Penny) the whole game.”
That’s what Sign O’ of the Times is to me. Prince literally makes every kind of both genre and mood of music on that one album. It’s like he decided to demonstrate his entire range.
The title cut, “Sign O’ the Times” is political,
“Play in the Sunshine” gives you what’s considered the traditional Prince sound.
He’s actually rapping on “Housequake” the party jam.
On “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” jazz and funk collide.
“It” is an orgy theme song.
On “Starfish and Coffee”, as you can imagine from the title, Prince goes lyrically psychedelic.
“Slow Love” is more like the appetizer slow jam with, of course, the main course to follow.
“Hot Thing” sounds like a lost track from a late 70’s Rolling Stones album.
“Forever in My Life” is a straight interpolation of Ike and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary“.
You can clearly hear the influence of the insurgent Madonna on “U Got the Look”.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend” completely defies description,
“Strange Relationship” works perfectly because even the music seems unable to decide what tone it wants to take on.
“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” let’s you know it’s just a one-night stand.
God gets involved on “The Cross”.
“It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” is the last dance.
Then there’s “Adore”.
Goodnight, Sweet Prince.