A couple of times this past week, I’ve listened to Disc I of Emancipation. I’m pretty sure I have a more cohesive summary of this disc somewhere, but I’m starting to see a few things now that I’ve been listening to it in its entirity. “Mr. Happy,” which I’m not really cool with, I kept in for the hell of it.
This disc by itself could stand alone as an album because it has just about everything a good album should. It has fast songs, slow songs, falsetto and regular vocals… love songs, dance songs. It has a solid beginning AND finish too.
Disc II is supposed to be the “love disc” for Mayte and his dream of a big family. (By the way, Prince, what happened to that, exactly? You said you wanted a lot of kids starting with this one… and you just gave everything up? Well, I guess I understand. I apologize for bringing this up).
Then Disc III is supposedly a mix of all elements with a little more emphasis on the journey from being a “slave” to an emancipated man free of a record label.
In Disc I, you have the rise and fall of the relationship between Prince and Mayte, somewhat telling the story of how they got to be where they are. Each song could be based on emotions or actual events that either tore them apart or kept them together.
“Jam of the Year” is meant to begin the album in terms of the first disc and the entire package. You can easily feel the joyous vibe with the horns (from now on, I think Prince relies on them more than the whole “Minneapolis sound” relying on the layering of Synthesizers… for which he gets a bit of criticism… not from me, mind you). Jam of the Year is probably talking about a jam session, but the fact he’s been waiting for it says that he’s been waiting to celebrate for a long time. He’s wanted this feeling for a long time and had recently achieved it.
Music tells a lot of the story in this album because it gives you the vibe that symbolizes Prince’s emotional mindset at the time.
The fact Rosie Gaines appears here adds another subtle theme to this disc. Making up for wrongs committed in the past. They might have had a little friction because she left the NPG a little into O(+>’s inception… creative differences and such. I don’t think she was too bitter about the falling out or whatever happened because she agreed to appear here. He also gave her a boost to her career, so there can’t be too many hard feelings. Then again, in comparison to the trio written about in the last song, the relationship between Prince and Rosie couldn’t have been that rocky.
“Right back in here my arms” has the whole mainstream R&B vibe going for it with the back-up vocals and bassline in the verses. The synths are what make this track work and also give Prince some artistic merit (as he doesn’t get too much of it in this album for whatever reason… for not being too original, I guess).
The synths bring forth a feeling of loss and fleeting despair. A soul crying out because of loneliness. I don’t know what Prince does to his vocals in this one, but they feel a little “heavier” than what his voice sounds like when its naturally. Maybe its to give the sensation of walking through mud that comes from the sorrow.
“Somebody’s Somebody” has a guitar-line that follows throughout the piece. To me, it says loneliness. I’ve always had a soft spot for this one with the lyrics and the overall sound of it. It’s so pretty and so full of emotion. Also one of Prince’s best vocal performances NOT in falsetto. Just an opinion. In the previous song, he and Mayte are supposedly on hiatus and here, it might be in the middle of the hiatus where he feels this way or chronologically, it actually fits between the first two songs. Musically, though, the second song fits well right where it is. Horns followed by the synthesizers connected to the “Minneapolis sound”
“Getcha Groove on” brings back “Jam of the Year,” but improves on it. It changes over to Prince’s routine “song to bring everyone on their feet and throw away their cares for one moment of their time.” The first three songs sounded more modern, of the time period of the mid 90’s. Here, we jump back to the 70’s in the time of Earth Wind and Fire.
“Courtin’ Time,” the lyrics I’m still getting into, so I don’t quite know where they’re going. Musically, we jump even further back in time to the 40’s or whenever the Quickstep and Big Band was huge. If I had any choreographing talent at all and knew anything about the Quickstep, I could put a dance to this song. The lyrics probably talk about his current situation with friends and such. Then there’s somewhat of a hurry to “court” a girl in hopes of settling down with her in the realm of marriage.
The backtracking through time these two songs do is probably all the better to set up for his cover of “Betcha by Golly Wow.” A song he grew up listening it and really felt like it framed in this moment in time better than any song he could have written. The spoken section says it all, his reasoning behind putting this song on this special album. Then the way he says “I love you” in the end sounds more genuine than any other time he’d said/sung those words in a song… a beautiful moment captured in this album.
“We gets up” is about independant artists being able to get up on their own without the help of a record label and the executives. This and “White Mansion” reference the WB executives and talking down to them as a way of proving them wrong. There’s no need for the middle man when you’re capable of taking care of so much on your own. When your own studio like Paisley Park, of course, its a whole lot easier to do things on your own. More tempting at least.
The music in this song is more NPG-oriented, the sound they promote at this time. I’m not huge on this song for a number of reasons, but I like the way its put together.
“White Mansion” could be about a number of things. The record execs appear in the last verse, but I don’t understand the deal with the girl that leaves in the beginning. Could be about his latest break up and then he meets a girl at a club. Who the people are, I can’t say, which brings some confusion. My only compliant in the song in the samplings heard in the beginning and end of the song. There is no need for them at all, seriously. They don’t even have a point that I can see.
“Damned if I do” is a song, for some reason, I tend to forget about. It’s between White Mansion and I can’t make you love me… but I’m always under the impression that “I can’t make you love me” comes right after “White Mansion.”… Why this is, I still haven’t figured it out. Maybe in 20 more listens, it’ll finally sink in.
The song is catchy as hell lyrically… the NPG-vibe comes about here, but its a little more “tasteful” to me in particular. I can get into it more. The piano is a good instrument in this track. I also like the last minute or so with the instrumental solo and the ending is just right. The lyrics talk about a crazy relationship where there never seems to be a right way of doing things. The feeling that you can’t do anything right and you’re scewed/damned if you do or don’t do whatever.
“I can’t make you love me” is another cover on this album. I’m not too crazy about the original, but he makes it work. Whether or not it fits in the overall scheme, I can’t say. I guess we needed another song about the crumbling of a relationship. The falsetto is very emotional and heartfelt, genuine, but not quite as much as “Betcha by Golly Wow”… maybe because I don’t buy this song being directed at Mayte during one of their “break-ups”
“Mr. Happy” has a lot of rapping in it, which is why I cut it a lot of the time. Then when I look at the raps, I hear some old song titles and lyrics being thrown around. Including something about an elevator falling, I can’t love you because I hate you among other things. I don’t know the lyrics quite that well yet, so I don’t know who its about or for that matter, what its about in general. The “theme park” sound effects that end this song help lead into the last.
“In this bed I scream,” the album insert says, is directed to Wendy, Lisa and Susannah. Wendy & Lisa in particular, are well known for working with him because of their place in Purple Rain. Only the people who’ve listened to his 80’s albums know how much input he had in his music. Here, he’s trying to make an amends for how they fell out of touch. They used to be so close in the way that they knew each other to the point that they were on the same page, musically, about a lot of things. The synthesizers help start this song well and the funky bass helps finish it. What really makes the song work are the lyrics and the notes they’re sung in. Not only are they catchy, but they even sound pretty and precise.
It also gives you the sensation that you want more afterwards. The whole affair this album’s about isn’t ended. In fact, it leaves the listener with more questions than answers. Does he get the girl in the end? What happens to them if they do end up together?
Maybe that’s why this disc was put first, to give you a taste of what’s to come and a desire for more music.
I’ll see about doing Disc I and II back to back either tonight or tomorrow night to see where this goes.