Funk vs. Rock albums

One thing I’ve heard a million times among the Prince community can be summed up in one word:

FUNK

And 3 years later… I still don’t know what funk is. How do you define funk? What are the requirements a song must have to be considered funky?

When I think funk, the only thing I can think of is maybe… to throw out another name or two, Earth Wind & Fire and Rick James’ “Superfreak”

Prince doesn’t like categories and when it comes to him, I really don’t either. Because the lines are blurred incredibly. Its hard to determine what genre is what.

One thing I do know for sure about Prince’s funkiness.

His albums from For You going to most of 1999, and The Black Album are considered “funk albums”

The die-hard retro fans are the ones who constantly cry out for a return to funky form. There was even one person I remember on .org (just his posts, not so much his u/n lol) that said that Purple Rain and ATWIAD and Parade were the beginning of the end of his career because they weren’t funky enough. He sold out to the white listeners, blah blah blah…

Sorry… the really avid fans who have really biased points of view are still pretty fresh in my mind.

Check it out, though.

For You has more of a disco feel to it than funk, but songs like “Soft & Wet” do speak to the funky persusasion.
btw, is Sly & The Family Stone considered a funk band? Would their greatest hits be sufficient enough to school me to the ways of funk? I ain’t got the money to really afford a shopping spree in unknown territory

I can’t say much for his 2nd album cuz I don’t own it. “I wanna be your lover” feels disco to me as do “I feel for u” (though might be kinda funky, only heard Prince’s version once) and “Why you wanna treat me so bad?” I’m pretty sure has a little more of a rock edge to it than funk.

One of many age-old debates with Prince is whether you prefer his funkier albums or the ones where he rocks your socks off.

Me, I’m leaning more towards the rock side. Cuz check this out…
I give you the following pairings and are often put together because of chronlogical reasons and becuase their styles contrast so much.

1999 vs. Purple Rain
Come vs. The Gold Experience

The first of both pairs are the funkier albums and the latter halves are definitely closer to rock albums, though you get a whole mix of things in both. Purple Rain has several degrees of rock from the fun kind to the edgy, paranoid kind to the…. whatever Darling Nikki is… intense?! In the mix you get a little concert music for big audiences, ballads, love songs and the psychadelio of “When Doves Cry”

The Gold Experience has rock mostly on two tracks: Endorphinmachine & Gold… maybe a little of that on Dolphin as well. Then you get two or three ballads, and maybe a little funk for good measure in “We March” and “Now” (both towards the bottom of tracks on that album… my bottom)

Listening closer to 1999 these days, I do detect some funkiness in there. And its pretty easy to see the difference in Purple Rain. It has a rocker’s edge as a soundtrack for what would have been your run-of-the-mill rock-n-roll picture had it not been a Prince film 😉

But I’d have to hand it off to the rocker side. Those are the albums I tend to prefer, though there is a time for a variety and a time for one given genre for a particular mood.

Dirty Mind and Controversy are practically two sides of the same coin. One takes off where the other one left off, but takes things up a notch or two.
Definitely need to make a note of that…
I heard from someone that Dirty Mind was for the majority, random tracks Prince wrote and didnt intend to put into an album until one of his managers suggested otherwise. Therefore they have the feel of an independant artist trying to break out into the business. It definitely was enough to catch the attention of several music critics.
The other half of the audience, their attention was caught at the concerts.

Well, when you really think about it, the incidents at the Rolling Stone concerts is understandable. The crowd had no idea what they were in for when Prince burst onto the scene. They just wanted the artist they came for, so to hell with the opening act. So they said.
Despite encouragement from Dez, the morale of “the Prince camp” didn’t improve over the last couple appearances they had as the opening act. If they only knew what greatness Prince would gain with the years to come. You know someone’s got something going on when they come back from being booed off the stage of a Stones concert, turn around a year later and churn out a double-album with as much punch of 1999. That there is magic.

Somewhere along the way, Prince decided to, lack of a better phrase, put on more clothes when he came out on stage, so more attention was put on his music than him. In the end it was always about the music to him and he’d do whatever it took even if it meant designing some wacky flashy clothes just to keep the attention off his ambigiouity and on his music.
Dare I say that I’m glad for the change… but dude, his purple trenchcoat is in the Smithsonian. That’s how special it is. Its iconic. One of many things, but one of the first that comes to mind when his name is spoken.

So I was listening to 1999 today, only a couple songs from the album and Purple Rain later on. I listened to the lyrics, really close this time for 1999…

Prince wrote the song to tell people not to worry so much about the impending end of the world. You listen to the lyrics he has Lisa, Jill & Dez sing. You hear their concerns out loud (as he was with them when they saw this documentary on TV for this y2k thing). But his lyrics are nonchalant at first and then they go from so what to wake up people, ain’t nothing to worry about..

The sky was all purple there were people running everywhere
trying to run from the destruction you know I didn’t even care

War was all around us, my mind said prepare to fight
cuz if I gotta die I’m gonna listen to my body tonight

Make use of the time we have rather than wasting it worrying about the inevitable (death for instance) or the improbable (seeing the end of the world).

The tracks on the album stay in that train of thought.
“Little Red Corvette” is about making love last so its special and worth having
“Delirious,” “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “Automatic” are about his rush to get to the good part, but before getting to that destination, stuff happens. Between showcasing the symptoms and verbal foreplay. The first two are pleasurable experiences whereas Automatic seems the opposite. Comes off rather harsh when getting towards the end, though the climax in the bass suggests everything turned out okay.

One  thing Prince said in an interview the other day that just hit me… Tavis Smiley asked him about the lyrics for 1999. Prince said that when the sky is blood red, mixed with the blue color of the sky, you get purple…
its just one of those things I never thought of. I figured purple was the sign of apocalyse, but really its a bloodred sky (if in the morning then its a bad omen), comined with the blue sky, you get purple.
I realize its one of those “duh” moments, but you never think about this stuff, really.

Music’s the most important thing in the end. And every song is a little piece of who Prince is. From album to album you learn more about him.

Controversy, he says people ask him if he believes in God… not sure how to back that claim up
In “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” he answers the question they ask. His lyrics are vulgar but there are some religious tones, does he believe in God?

He answers and says yes and immediately follows up with why “He’s [God] the only way cuz you and I know we gotta die someday”

Then this train of thought is continued with the sermon opening of “Let’s go crazy”… why he believes in God, because he believes that there is a world beyond, a life after this one and through God, you are able to reach that next life as you entrust him with your soul when your body dies.

Now its getting late, but glad I was able to get all that out there. It’s been far too long for me.

 

 

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