Friday, June 21, 2013

93. Sign O the Times (1987) Prince



Tracks

Disc 1

1. "Sign o' the Times"   4:57
2. "Play in the Sunshine"   5:05
3. "Housequake"   4:42
4. "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker"   4:01
5. "It"   5:09
6. "Starfish and Coffee" 2:50
7. "Slow Love" 4:22
8. "Hot Thing"   5:39
9. "Forever in My Life"   3:30

Disc 2

1. "U Got the Look" 3:47
2. "If I Was Your Girlfriend"   5:01
3. "Strange Relationship"   4:01
4. "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"   6:29
5. "The Cross"   4:48
6. "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" 9:01
7. "Adore"  6:30

I don't like Prince. I really don't like him. It's not just that I don't like his music, there are quite a few people on this countdown whose music I'm not a fan of, but I don't like the man himself. He's arrogant and annoying and what we at school used to describe as "A wanker". Seriously, Prince is a total and utter wanker. He's convinced of his own importance and self-obsessed in a way that only a true wanker can manage. I mean the man tried to change his name to an intelligible symbol for goodness sake. Even die-hard fans have a hard time justifying that sort of behaviour. The man is a tiny, shouty tool of the first order and seems to have had all the humility sucked out of him and replaced by a strange variety of narcissistic cynicism which is impossible to forgive.

When it comes to reviewing a Prince album I have to overlook my personal distaste for the guy and try and judge the music entirely on its own merits. I have to put aside my preconceptions and judge the art and not the artist; The music and not the musician; the wank and not the wanker.

And that's the problem. Sign O the Times is a massive eighties wank-fest full of lifeless drum machines, crap syths and over production. It's one of those double albums which should have been a single album and even then would have felt bloated. It's an album of tedious pop that people have tried to elevate far above its station and worth.

People keep trying to claim this is funk. These people have clearly never heard James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, or any record the Funk Brothers played on. Funk is live, funk is groovy and funk has soul. Funk is not, I repeat not, played by a machine. Most of the drumming on Sign is played by a small box that Prince programmed to produce sounds which sound nothing like an actual drum. It's got rhythm but no soul and might as well be a shoe left in a clothes dryer for all the feeling it gives the music. I can hit the "funk" setting on a casio keyboard, does that make me a musical genius too?

I've also read people who've tried to claim Sign contains social commentary and eloquent statements on contemporary American society. Seriously? My favourite lyrics from the title track are

"Sister killed her baby cuz she couldn't afford 2 feed it
And we're sending people 2 the moon"

Sending people to the moon? In 1987? No, no we weren't. America stopped sending people to the moon in 1972 presumably because they'd stopped finding things to do. (I imagine the last guy who went up there just wandered about aimlessly for a bit kicking at stones and trying not to trip over the golf-balls his predecessors had left lying around). If anyone is looking to Prince for their biting social commentary that might want to reconsider their world-view.

Sign O The Times just heaps irritation on irritation. If Was Your Girlfriend features Prince's in character as Camille, his female persona. Prince affects a total transformation when singing as Camille by speeding his voice up in an attempt to sound like a female. The end result transforms him from small annoying egotist with a passable voice into a small annoying egotist who sounds like the chipmunk that wasn't talented enough to hang with Simon, Alvin and Theodore. Prince uses this character to sing a song called If I was Your Girlfriend which it's incredibly hard not to laugh at. At least the chipmunks knew they were a bit daft but Prince takes himself way too seriously and singing a love song in a weird high-pitched voice is impossible not to find amusing. When he sings "And would u, would u let me kiss u there, You know down there where it counts, Ill do it so good I swear I'll drink every ounce" it sounds like a small woodland creature offering to perform oral sex. Who can take that seriously?

Prince is a massive tool and far and away the most over-rated performer on this countdown. I have one more album of his to listen to and once that's done I will never voluntarily hear another note of his as long as I live.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "I couldn't then nor can I now get past the image of a guy sitting in front a bunch of machines/computers producing music in the vein of JB,Sly etc... those were bands and when hearing that music it was SO much fun imaging the incredible interplay and tightness of those musicians.... that lustre is gone in this release...."

So are you a fan of Sign O the Times and if so which other chipmunks albums did you find emotionally involving? Let me know below


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