The Black Album: basic reaction

I gave it a listen yesterday, but too much was going on in my head for me to ground myself. Right now, I’m just going to dip into today’s listen and go track by track. My reaction to the album today was a lot better than it was yesterday because my head wasn’t as clouded with information and I didn’t go overboard with perceving things certain ways on assumptions alone. I let the music tell me what was what during the listen just now.

I wasn’t digging Le Grind at all yesterday. Today, it was an improvement. Vocally, it’s a little odd because in some instances, it’s hard to recognize Prince. I was starting to believe all the theories and rumors I’ve come across and thinking, “maybe he was a different person when he wrote this.” This was one of the tracks for Sheila E’s birthday party. It’s supposed to be a relatively light-hearted dance track, but if you pay attention to the lyrics… not only very explicit… but I get imagery from the “Gett off” video coming to mind. Prince had one used the word “grind” before… and it was in “Darling Nikki”… get the picture?

Cindy C. I enjoy a lot more because musically, it has more variation and it seems like there’s a bit of a storyline going on. Prince trying to win the affections of little miss Cindy C. First he talks about who she is and he wants her. Then he gives her a bunch of reasons why she should “play with him.” In the end, he is clearly shot down. Musically, it makes me smile because so much is going on. It’s one of my top favorites on the album.

Dead on it, yesterday I started digging it because he was rapping with actual instruments but after a while, I got sick of it. This time, I just let him humor me throughout the whole song. People have said this is one of the weakest tracks on the album (not to mention the most ironic). Prince dropped the ball on purpose just to prove a point. Whether or not this was a wise move, I can’t say for sure. Part of me supports him making this a point (rappers not being real musicians and hip-hop is absolute ****), but part of me doesn’t condone hip-hop no matter who does it. The lyrics just border on ridiculous after he mentions the rappers being tone-deaf, which shows that he thinks that rappers themselves are lame (“gold tooth costs more than ur house…”) and their lyrics can hardly be called lyrics. He’s clearly annoyed with the impeding culture here, but at the same time, he makes it funny for himself.

When 2 r in Love was the last track added to the album and I think it serves a few purposes. For one, he wanted to put a riff between two tracks where he’s addressing people he’s angry with or annoyed by. Too much negativity doesn’t make for good karma. He might have wanted to put a lighter track in there to make it a little more even and since Camille is the “light” character, he needed something else to support that. As a song, though, it has got to be the last of its kind: the last Susannah love song he ever wrote. And he didn’t miss a trick with this one. It is gorgeous through and through… musically and vocally… and from there, I just let my mind wander.

Bob George, I’ve been seeing the humor in more and more. I’m still trying to figure out what he’s trying to prove. First I’ll address the musicality aspect. Uh… BRILLIANT… one of his minimalistic best and the progression of it has always impressed me. I listened to the guitar and I tell ya, it is angry! According to some sources, this was the part of the Lovesexy tour when Cat was cheating on Prince with this character and his angry dark side came out as a result of it. I suppose this is his way of making fun of Bob Cavallo & Nelson George, but if so, wouldn’t Bob George be the gangster? He was talking about being against rappers & hip-hop earlier, so he might have pictured Bob George as one of those guys… but the gangster (who I’ll call Spooky Electric from now on) sounds a lot worse than Bob does. What’s crazy is that the storyline can paint a picture in my mind and it’s totally nuts.

Superfunkycalifragisexy actually came off as a bit of an angry track to me. It’s very explicit, especially in the later stage of the song where he’s doing the heavy breathing and whatever comes with it. It’s a fun dance track that I can’t get over, I’m crazy about it. I could be wrong, but it just might be something he wrote after he and Susannah broke up and this was his reaction to that. “I’ll just find someone else,” he says. Trying to convince himself of something, maybe… then he adds “When 2 r in love” to add balance, to atone for being so angry and spiteful here.

West Compton is still a track I can’t read. So much is happening that it could just be organized chaos written by 2 musicians of the same race (as the title suggests). Supposedly this is one of the Spooky Electric tracks that are on the dark side, but I can’t tell that at all. It just can’t seem to keep my attention.

Rockhard in a Funky Place, yesterday I was actually thinking that when one track ended, this track would be next. I think I was just eager for more Camille since I spent a whole week with 3 of that album’s tracks. The title makes it pretty obvious where he’s going with this. Then he adds something very unusual for the black album because it hadn’t been mentioned earlier. “All you’re looking 4 is love or a reason 2 believe there’s a God above.” This seems to hint on what’s yet to come, although the Lovesexy concept hadn’t come along yet and he had done this for the Camille album. Sex & Lust are exploited throughout the album and here all the way at the end of the album (and spectrum) is a hint of religion. The music here is very interesting. It shows a lot more guitar here than any of the other tracks, though Bob George has quite a bit of it. I must saying I’m liking it a lot more than I did originally.

All right, I’ll spill about what went on yesterday. I had myself buried up to my neck in “literature” and information on The Black Album. I was googling and looking everywhere I could for more answers to some of the questions I’ve had about this particular project. I even started a thread on prince.org and it’s gotten some pretty interesting responses. I learned so much that at one point, I was having trouble retain the information and I had to stop myself before I did some damage. I had a major headache, but I was pleased with the results. I didn’t come to any sure-fire conclusions, though. I still got a mixture of theories on why he decided to make this album in the first place and also why he decided to pull it.

The scariest thing I came across was something I remember hearing a little while back. Prince feared that he was going to die soon and he didn’t want this album to be the remaining piece of his legacy. He could have had visions of God/Satan and that if he didn’t recall the album, there’d be disasterous consequences. He feared that his life would be taken if he didn’t keep the album from being released. Given how angry he was in some of the tracks, that might be part of the reason why he was a little against the album. But the key phrase I’ve heard a few times was that he was “spirituality against” its release. So that religious experience/epiphany had to have happened. Drug-induced or not. I’ll keep collecting facts and come to some conclusions, but I’m not going to dismiss any theories completely because anything’s possible in this otherwise mysterious time in his life. Had to have been a very troubling time for him. The thing is that it’s hard to keep that in mind while listening to the music or I won’t enjoy it quite as much.

One thing I did find on the thread, though, was all about what he did at the Lovesexy shows and how he incorporated Camille & Spooky Electric into it to create a storyline. Having done the research, I just want to listen to the next part of the story. Meaning that I’ll have to get Lovesexy soon.

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