On this week’s Monday Mixtape, Marco Cartolano pays tribute to Prince. You can listen on Spotify here.
[“I Wanna Be Your Lover” – Prince]
Hello everybody and welcome to Monday Mixtape. Last Saturday marked the two year anniversary of the death of Prince. Prince Rogers Nelson changed the face of R&B with a string of massive albums during the ‘80s. Prince was recognized for his brilliant songwriting, vocal range and mastery of multiple instruments. While I could fill ten of these mixtape with great Prince songs, I chose a few of his classic tracks to celebrate his legacy. Prince’s career kicked off with the single “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Lyrically, it’s a song about desiring someone and trying to show that person you are worth it. But, the line “I wanna be your brother / I wanna be your mother and your sister, too” hints at Prince’s freakier side.
That freaky side took over on his next album, Dirty Mind. The title track is built on a funky keyboard riff by Doctor Fink and rough drum machines. Prince’s music became less polished as he developed his original take on funk, known as the Minneapolis Sound. Dirty Mind the album crossed a lot the sexual taboos of the time and some of the songs are still very risqué. The title track explores Prince’s dirty thoughts when he spends time with his girl. Dirty Mind built Prince’s image as a provocative performer, but underneath the controversy are some great tunes.
[“Little Red Corvette”]
Now for the ultimate song about a one-night stand. “Little Red Corvette” comes off of Prince’s album 1999. The song is one of Prince’s most famous tracks, because it’s perfect in every way. It has this slow build of drum machines and synthesizers in the verses, and then a rock-music inspired chorus kicks in. By the time the song ends, you’ve heard a guitar solo, a breakdown and an epic finale. Prince’s lyrics and vocals also strike the right pitch of nervousness, excitement and sleaze for a song about two strangers hooking up. It’s also filled with plenty of suggestive car metaphors.
[“Let’s Go Crazy"]
Prince peaked commercially and artistically with Purple Rain. The soundtrack to a movie that he starred in, Purple Rain is now considered one of the best albums of all time. It’s filled with classics like “When Doves Cry” and the title song. For this mixtape, I chose the opening track “Let’s Go Crazy.” It starts with Prince doing his best preacher impression, highlighting his spiritual side. It then goes into a rolicking combination of Minneapolis funk and hard rock. It features riffs made by both synthesizer and guitar. The climax is a guitar solo that shows off Prince’s technical ability. Prince addresses his fear of death and rationalizes that he needs to have fun now before it’s too late. Now that he's gone, the sentiment feels more poignant.
After the success of Purple Rain, Prince’s next album took a left turn into psychedelia. “Raspberry Beret” incorporates elements of international music. It features Middle Eastern cymbals and a string section. “Raspberry Beret” is a tale of an adolescent’s first romantic encounter with a girl who wore the titular headgear. What really sells the chorus is the female backup vocals, which perfectly compliment Prince. The song embodies the warm feeling of nostalgia for youth.
[“Nothing Compares 2 U”]
Prince wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U” but he originally gave it to the band The Family. The song became famous when the Irish singer Sinead O’Connor covered it as a ballad.While Prince performed the song live, a studio version had never been released until last week. And my God, why didn’t he release it? This version is great. It’s a showcase of Prince’s rock side. It even has real drums. But, what I wasn’t expecting was the saxophone. The backing vocals are also spot on. Anyone familiar with the O’Connor version knows that it’s a song filled with sadness over a breakup, but Prince’s version feels so much more live and organic.
[“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”]
Finally, I’m going to leave you with a track from Prince’s ambitious double album Sign o' the Times. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” is another rock-tinged track. It mixes drum machines with live drums and features two guitar solos. The song descends into a bluesy coda that shows off Prince’s guitar chops. While it’s an upbeat track, it has really depressing lyrics about a woman Prince knows he can’t reach out to because she’s been burnt by her ex.
[Reprise –“I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man”]
And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist will be available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. Make sure to subscribe to Monday Mixtape on Apple Podcasts so you get a notification every time we post a new episode. Finally, rest in peace to the Purple One. Until next time, this has been Marco Cartolano for NBN Audio.