Prince - Sign 'o' The Times
I know people who idolise Prince. These people hold him in such a high regard that the man can do no wrong. These are the people who would go night after night to the O2 to watch him in one or more of his sixteen concerts there and come away singing his praises to the roof. I have to say I am certainly not one of them. His hits may be recognisable and he may have been responsible for some great tunes performed by other artists, but his music rarely spoke to me in a way which would make me want to go out and buy one of his albums.
That leads straight into the inevitable question - why oh why oh why do I own this? Well, to be honest, I know the answer. At the time it came out, I was in my period of closest flirtation with the mainstream. At that time, I loved the title track but could not get hold of the single. Like an idiot therefore I went out and bought the whole album. No way would I do that today. More money than sense if you ask me. As a result, this album is hardly ever played these days, and when it is, it comes off quickly after the end of the title track.
To make matters worse, this is not even Prince at his best. This is Prince going through the motions. A lot of the tracks on here - far too many - are album filler used to make a double album out of a single album when in reality there was barely enough quality material for two of the four sides. If ever there was an album by an artist trading solely on his reputation, this was probably it.
The difficulties I have with this album are far too many to enumerate, but let me have a go. (1) It is needlessly sex obsessed. (2) It sounds dated. (3) The lyrics are by and large trite, only occasionally rising to something like the standard Prince can achieve. (4) Why don't people use drummers instead of damned machines? (5) Prince's voice is at its most irritating on several of the tracks; he has used too much vocal production. (6) The album is far too long. (7) The majority of the tracks have no commitment to them by the artist. (8) Prince seems to be living on his reputation rather than trying to build on it. (9) I find the use of the "O'" instead of the full word a pretentious affectation. I could go on, but I won't. I think you get the picture by now.
Prince is one of those artists who went through a phase, contemporaneous with this album, where he took himself so seriously that he disappeared up his own arse. The fixation with purple was bad enough. The obsession with shagging anything which seemed remotely available and breathed was just as bad. But he changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol and most people started referring to him as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince", it all became a bit lame. Much of this was a reaction to the disputes he was having with his record company at the time which seemed to be a sort of bandwagon a lot of musicians jumped on around the same time. For me the final nail in his coffin was when he became Michael Jackson's son and got his dad to dangle him off a hotel balcony.
Suffice it to say that I find this album unworthy of much consideration except the title track and a couple of others, and even those very occasionally. Even the title track is beginning to sound dated now, the sentiments within being the only thing keeping it afloat. Needless to say, this has done nothing whatsoever to change my overall opinion of Prince.
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on 2011-07-21 dscanland Said:
You fail to mention the best Prince song ever crafted: Starfish and Coffee! Damn! Catchiest little track you've ever heard. Check it out if you've never heard it.
on 2011-07-09 RutherfordMarsh Said:
Never mind that Prince himself would later release an album called "The Black Album," this is the White Album of the 80s. A mammoth, sprawling, schizophrenic and sometimes hilarious creative explosion from one of the decade's biggest stars, "Sign 'O' the Times" reflects a musical mind at the peak of its skills as well as its autonomy. What makes these sort of wild endeavors work is their creator's willingness to risk absurdity, and Prince dives headfirst into his ideas with no less reckless abandon than the Beatles on their controversial 1968 masterpiece.
The double-album opens with the title track, a dark and somewhat conservative politicaly charged attack on drugs, poverty, nuclear politics, ect. It immediately establishes the minamalist pop that is to be utilised for the duration of the album. "Housequake" hits with a righteous funky crunch, featuring sped up vocals by Prince, an effect used several times on the record. One of the most fascinating moments on the album is "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker," a complex song with thick bass and stuttering drums which showcases Prince's incredible range as a vocalist. The slowest track on the record, "Slow Love," is a jazzy seduction tune. "If I Was Your Girlfriend," perhaps the most well-known song here, yearningly crawls along as Prince laments on a relationship without friendship. The euphoric pop epic "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" pulses behind anthemic electronic guitar and synths and "The Cross" is a religious folk song.
This, however, doesn't begin to demonstrate the versatility and sheer scope of the record. There is no central theme, no common ground, no narrative between these songs, breaking the rules of what makes a quality album. It is merely a collection of thoughts and ideas from a man letting go of guidlines and allowing his creativity to rule- and it also happens to be successfull at every mind-blowing turn. This is an artifact that demonstrates what can be accomplished when pop music is put into the hands of the courageous.