Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No. 204: Dirty Mind

Band: Prince
Album: Dirty Mind
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: "Dirty Mind" is influential, if only for one of the first real dirt-bag filthy records to have any success. In 1980, a song like "Slob On My Knob" was 20 years away, but it couldn't have happened without "Head." Still, it's a remarkably underrated Prince record, due to his usual genre-bending, epitomized on the ten-types-of-wrong "Sister." His keyboard work is amazing, if nothing.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It is dirt bag filthy. "Head" isn't subtle and "Sister" is just wrong. It's not a fully realized album, though, with songs like "Gotta Broken Heart Again" mostly mediocre.
Best song: The title track is a fun little romp.
Worst song: "Gotta Broken Heart Again" isn't good.
Is it awesome?: Yeah, it is.

Prince, like Michael Jackson, is a wildly important artist, someone who has influenced countless musicians. It goes without saying that his straightforward sex crooning is evident in today's Akons, T-Pains, R. Kellys and the like, but musically, he did as much as anyone to merge so-called black and white music. "Dirty Mind" was his first album to do so.

His use of keyboards as the centerpiece of his music was something innovative, though that was likely a function of the decade in which he operated. Still, he created something of a signature sound; Both synthetic and organic, Prince's use of electronic sound was something copied by about a million people during that decade, Prince himself included.

"Dirty Mind" is Prince's first foray into adding rock and roll into his arsenal. While mostly a falsetto upbeat R&B guy on his first two records, "Dirty Mind" sets the stage with the title track; A romp of sex over guitars and keyboards. "Uptown" is the other highlight of the record, using a Sly Stone-ish message of racial harmony to get everyone to party.

"Head" is controversial in how up-front it is, but "Sister" is the most striking. In just 94 seconds, Prince recounts having sex with his sibling, which is shocking no matter who you are. Also, this sister is 16 years his senior, more fuel to the "Prince is insane" fire.

Also amazing is the way "Sister" sounds; It could easily be an Elvis Costello or Joe Jackson song in its pure New Wave palm mutes and start-stop drums. Prince's crossover into rock didn't just pick up from the Beatles and Hendrix; He was hitting current music styles as well.

"Dirty Mind" is Prince's first great album. It's not on the same level as "Purple Rain," but it holds its own with "Sign 'O' The Times" and "1999."

1 comment:

kellydwyer said...

Maybe not EC or Jackson; but the song does remind of the whiter elements of that era. Like some of Queen's new wavey stuff, or Greg Kihn. There's another band I'm thinking of, an MTV favorite back when the channel had all of 12 videos to choose from, but I'm spacing on the name.