The Quest to fit Prince’s Emancipation album into one disc…

As a newbie to Prince’s music and all matters of his career, getting this particular album was my dream.
Not because it was a three-disc album that constituted of 36 songs (12 per album) and 3 hours (1 per album), but because it represented a significant part of his life/career.
He was happily married to Mayte, they were expecting a baby and he’d just fulfilled his contract with Warner Bros [who he’d spent the better part of the 90’s feuding with over control of his master recordings] and was now an independent artist.

Of course the die-hard fans like myself know how all of this panned out… and I’m not referring to the reported “decline” in quality of his music… that all depends on who you ask (I never really cared for much of that talk- but then again, I adore “Planet Earth”- which an album universally hated by his so-called “fan”base).

Yeah, to this day, I still ship for Prince and Mayte, but I accept that they can no longer be together as a couple. That in no way has detracted from my adoration of the music she inspired or this album (although some tracks are difficult to listen to).
After getting to know her through the VH1 series “Hollywood Exes” and her social media posts, I’ve since found other things to love and respect about her besides her amazing body of dance work… but back to the album.

Multiple times, I’ve thought about putting together a playlist of my favorite love songs by Prince, but have yet to get around to it… the dude has SO much music, you have no idea… the other day, I managed to list my absolute favorite Prince songs and came up with a list of 48… I still have dozens more that I love, but they aren’t all quite as strong.

But for as long as this album has been in existence (it turns 20 next year), Prince’s die-hard fans have taken turns putting together one disc playlists… so I figure, why not give it a try? I just went through a 3-part podcast where 4 Aussie fans talked about the albums and I usually have Disc II on rotation in July.

Yesterday [before jotting down those 48 songs], I went through the 36 tracks and starred the ones that I absolutely love and could not live without- supposing I only downloaded a few tracks to my iPod…
I only starred 4 songs 😛 So the next best option was going through all the songs on this blog [which I created originally because talking about Prince on online messageboards wasn’t enough].

DISC I

Jam Of The Year
-this is a great opening track, very upbeat, joyous, party atmosphere that sets the tone for the music to come
-if I were to rank this, it’d probably be in the middle the road- between the songs I don’t listen to as often and the ones I absolutely adore

Right Back Here in My Arms
-Straight up, while this isn’t among the strongest tracks on the album, it’s one of my personal favorites. I love the melancholy synth line so much. One of my favorite nuances in any Prince song.
-It wasn’t in my top 4, but because of my personal feelings for it, it could make it onto the final playlist

Somebody’s Somebody*
-This would also be among my favorite of his love songs. It’s atmospheric with the rain falling and thunder in the background, the lyrics how it’s 2 in the morning and he can’t sleep. I saw that I wrote in another entry how this showcases Prince’s regular singing voice really well. And by that, I mean non-falsetto. We all know Prince has a kick-ass falsetto thousands of artists would kill to have, but I like hearing more than just that.
-Probably what I love the most- I can get lost in this song and stay lost for ages 😎 I love a good musical escape. And this one takes me into a daydream of spending time relaxing in the arms of somebody I love

Get Your Groove On
-Another fun jam of a song that I flat-out enjoy. Makes me smile. Very groovy, especially in the latter portions with the sax and organ work. The spoken interludes are funny and tell something of a story
-It’s in the same boat as “Jam of the Year”- I enjoy it, but it’s not by no means exceptional
[I’m remembering the podcast commentary on this track and one of the guys asking why Prince kept bringing up “Juice” and asking if he’s talking about a juice box :P]

Courtin’ Time
-This one stands out because it’s a Big Band/Quickstep number that’s completely different from anything Prince has done before (or since)
-the podcast RAVED about this track. I enjoy it, but I’m not sure if I’d consider it among the VERY best on this album of 36 songs

Betcha By Golly Wow
-omg… this is a cover 😛 and I didn’t think I’d be putting any covers on this playlist, but I think I just got convinced
-it’s been a LONG time since I’ve heard this one and I just got swept away in the beauty of the melodies and the music. Great vocal work all around. The musical arrangement adds so much. And those moments that are spoken… I’m swooning.

We Gets Up
-I liked this a lot more than I remembered… I’m probably not going to include it because I’m a Grammar Nazi 😛 and the title isn’t proper grammar. It annoys me.
-It’s a great group number with a lot of band participation. A bit of an adrenaline rush too.
-the way the vocals rise faster like they’re in an elevator, it reminds me of another song, but I can’t remember which one. [Probably “Modernaire”]

White Mansion
-Another middle of the road R&B track. One I always enjoy, but there are stronger tracks on this album and others that have a stronger personal connection to.

Damned if I do
-Lyrically, it isn’t Prince’s most brilliant, but beyond that, it’s another of my personal favorites. Never fails to put a smile on my face with that beat.
-Jam of the Year and Get your groove on may be stronger, but I have the most fun with this one.

I can’t make you love me
-another cover, but another one I’ve always loved listening to. Prince’s vocals on this… just wow… this is why he’s one of the best vocalists ever. If I was in a situation where we were fighting and I wasn’t talking to him, this performance would win me back immediately 😛 Some of the vocal moments remind me of what he did in “Adore” and are examples of why so many girls have fallen in love with him

Mr. Happy
-Between this and “We Gets Up,” this is the one that I usually skip 😛 and the other one has bad grammar. Listening to it again, it’s not as bad as I remember, but I’m also not crazy about it. It’s like a lot of his band-oriented NPG numbers where it’s about the killer beat and not so much what the lyrics are saying. And as someone who likes lyrics, they don’t do much for me.

In This Bed I Scream*
-This playlist ought to be called “the top 12 Emancipation tracks I look forward to”… because of songs like this and “Somebody’s Somebody”. Granted, some of my love for this might displaced. The album booklet has a note next to this one, saying it was Lisa, Wendy and Susannah, who he was very close with in the 80’s. Like they almost shared a brain because they were musically on the same page. I just heard from the podcast that he sent an early version of this track to them and asked for input. There’s no word officially if any of their suggestions were used, but supposedly they never heard back for him. I guess this just fulfills me as someone who has nostalgia for his time with The Revolution
-This would have been a great single for the radio because the melody is super catchy and the lyrics flow so easy. Within my first two listens, I was already singing along to this one.

So at the end of Disc I, I have two definite tracks (Somebody’s Somebody, In this Bed I scream) and two strong possibilities for additions (Betcha By Golly Wow, Right Back Here in My Arms).

DISC II

Sex In the Summer
-This song always reminds me of summertime, soaking up the rays. It’s a point of contention for a lot of fans because you can hear a heartbeat from an ultrasound in the background and it belongs to someone that wasn’t with us very long… so that makes this song sad for some to listen to
-that aside, I always look forward to hearing this one. Not the deepest or most thought-provoking track Prince had written, but I really don’t care. It’s among my personal favorites

One Kiss at Time
-the common compliant against this track is that musically, it’s too perfectly executed/over produced 😛 again, I don’t care
-one of Prince’s steamiest ballads EVER and I love every moment of it of his vocal performance
[two songs in, I already kinda want to add them both… but this disc is also VERY strong]

Soul Sanctuary
-and the strong streak ends with this track… many of the lyrics aren’t written by Prince, so I can’t completely fault him for their cheesiness and being oversweet… but later portions of his vocal performance make me cringe- they’re unpleasant. Just have never been a big fan of this one

Emale
-Maybe not the strongest track here, but one I’ve enjoyed a lot. Great R&B beat. Intriguing lyrics. Tons of fascinating nuances

Curious Child
-Another one that’s very atmospheric. It paints a beautiful picture and tells a great story. A tender vocal performance with some great musical moments with piano and harpsichord.
-The only way I could rationalize adding this one to a 12-track playlist if it goes along with the following track because I see them as a two-part masterpiece

Dreamin’ about you
-same as above… I get this two tracks together or neither… again, another of those tracks that exemplifies why I love Prince… if not the singing on this track, the saxophone chiming in the background, the dreamy atmosphere I get swept away in, it’s the moments where he’s speaking normally. With that naturally deep voice. I swoon every time
-The first time I heard this disc and came across these two tracks together, it was one of those wonderful surprises I always cherish. Just when I think Prince can’t make me fall anymore in love with him, he proves me wrong 😉

Joint 2 Joint*
-This is one of the few dance tracks on this particular disc, so maybe that’s why it stands out.
-There is so much going on in this song, it evolves every couple minutes and I love all the different changes it goes through. It’s a straight up raunchy track and I love every moment of it. [Although I personally wish there were a few more organ solos between passages of lyrics- my favorite nuance]
-so crazy it’s almost 8 minutes long, but it goes by SO fast 😉

The Holy River
-I discount this song A LOT, mostly because Prince had attempted multiple versions of “Purple Rain” since the song itself and most of them tend not to work out.
-I love that this one takes you on a journey as it tells the story being told. It was truly inspired at the time it was being written and 100% genuine. Probably the only letdown about it is that these feelings dissipated a couple years later
-amazing live guitar work in the latter portions!

Let’s Have a Baby
-For multiple reasons, I have trouble with this particular track. It’s VERY personal. The story is that after Prince and Mayte got married, he took her to the bedroom where there was a crib and played this song for her. Prince has written about sex for so many years, but in this case, he’s really talking about the intended purpose, which is procreation. So right now I almost feel like I’m intruding on a personal moment, but I can’t help picturing Mayte’s reaction. Not just Prince writing this for her, but any man pouring their heart out in a song like this
-the lyrics are a little too sugary sweet at times for my personal tastes
-and it’s also hard because of what happened. That they experienced this loss. I just heard Mayte say in an interview that there was a miscarriage as well. This is probably what broke their marriage apart, all the heartbreak over this. I’m happy for her now because after all the fertility difficulties, she decided to adopt and finally got to fulfill that dream to become a mom. In addition to her causes for shelter animals, that’s something she’s very passionate about.
I know I went long on this one, but this song would be too difficult to listen to repeatedly as part of a mix/playlist.

[Coincidentally, this is around the part of the album where I mentally check out, but I still manage to stay engaged for one more song… the rest kind blur past]
Saviour
-in some ways, this reminds me of “3 chains o’ gold” but it’s much less chaotic and happier.
-I’ve always enjoyed this track… although right now, I’m kinda unenthused. Maybe it’s been a long night or I just get much more excited by some other songs. The guitar work is amazing and I love the lyrics in the chorus and how real the feeling behind it all is.

The Plan
-not much to say on this one, it’s an instrumental track that doesn’t last all that long. It just serves as a transition between these two songs… which to me feel very similar and I happen to be crazy about one more than the other

Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife
-And this feels like an updated version of “Adore”- simply based on the vocal performance. A lot of similarities. And oddly enough, I recently heard “Adore” and actually connected with it. And that’s what happened here. The one nitpick I have is that this song gets repetitive and goes on a little too long.
-Supposedly this was the song that played at Prince and Mayte’s wedding reception

So at the end of this disc, I have plenty of choices for this “dream” playlist I’m trying to put together for this album. Most likely, there will be nothing beyond “The Holy River”… unless I have a sudden change of heart about Saviour or the last track. But either way, they weren’t the tracks I can’t wait to get to.

Sex in the Summer, One Kiss at a Time, Curious Child/Dreamin’ about you, Joint 2 Joint… even The Holy River is a viable candidate.

I guess the real question is: do I want a balance of tracks from all three discs or do I just want to go with my favorites?
I could always refuse to compromise and do two playlists 😛

DISC III

Slave
-I’ve always liked this song and really found no fault in it. But hearing it in a commonplace setting instead of in the circumstances I usually do… there really isn’t anything extraordinary about it 😛
-The first few times I came across this track, it was pouring outside/thunderstorming… it’s GREAT with the percussion and beats and such in a thunderstorm. But on a clear sunny day… not so much

New World
-A great techno sound with lots of intriguing lyrics, like surprises waiting around every corner. It feels like a combination of some techno tracks he did in the later 90’s and certain bits remind me of his work on Lovesexy. It has that sense of theatricality and otherworldliness about it.

Human Body
-The techno beats continue and it doesn’t just stop at the music. It’s a polarizing track- you either like it or hate it just because on the vocal sound effects that repeat throughout. Truth is they sound like sex noises and probably are, so it’s not the type of track you can play in mixed company… or really in anyone’s company but your own, I think.
-These first three songs- heard them all on the same rainy day… and having dark clouds overhead, in my head, it feels like they enhance the music so the nuances stand out more in that context.

Facedown
-the Aussie podcasters called this one of Prince’s notorious “kiss my ass” tracks
-I’m not a fan of Prince rapping or trying to be a rapper, but if the beat is good, that doesn’t bother me so much… but I do take issue with the “Dead like Elvis” sample that repeats CONSTANTLY… not that it isn’t relevant to what the song’s about, but I just find it ANNOYING. So I’m always kinda at odds with this track

La La Means I love You
-Another cover… and unlike with Betcha By Golly Wow, I don’t fall head over heels in love. To me, this feels like Prince emulating a lot of the great falsetto voices in the 70’s- Marvin Gaye and The Bee Gees. It doesn’t feel nearly as genuine and the lyrics are a little too cheesy and mundane for my tastes. Good but not great.
-although the final 10 seconds give me major goosebumps 😛

Style*
-the only track on this album that stuck out enough to me that I remember it and look forward to it every time. It’s a great group number. Like I said with another track, the lyrics are like surprises around every corner. I never really know what to expect and I enjoy every moment of it. It’s just a very cool, groovy track 😎

Sleep Around
-I know this is another cover and it exhibits most of the same things I faulted the previous cover for 😛 but I REALLY like this one :D………. I just looked online, and this is an original :facepalm:
I still enjoy it so much. The beat is ridiculously danceable and the vocals are very commercial- in that you could hear it on the radio and you’ll be singing along to them 10 minutes after the song ended. Great horn section too.
-the only negative is that it runs REALLY long and starts to get tiresome in the final 3 minutes

Da Da Da
-plain and simple, I never liked this track. The beat in the background is cool, but it’s all rap. The tile is the stupidest song title EVER. And Prince takes a back seat to this other dude who raps through 90% of the track and Prince gets one verse. Not worth my time.

My Computer
-I’ve always kinda liked this one. Sounds like Prince trying some online dating or at least some Internet chatting… it also harkens back to an old time- AOL dial-up. It’s not extraordinary, but it’s a nice listen

One of Us
-The live electric guitar is the greatest highlight in this cover… I think I saw a live performance of this online and it was pretty amazing… he elevates it a little bit on that alone, but it doesn’t always grab me as strongly as some of the other cover attempts.
-Another great ending… like it was something he did at a concert and it was the end of it.

The Love We Make
-Musically, it’s very cool and atmospheric… but I’ve yet to hear this song and REALLY listened to the lyrics. It’s universally loved by his fan-base and I feel like that’s the one thing I’m missing- having the lyrics in front of me while listening so I really know what it’s all about.

Emancipation
-The opening has this really epic feel to it and considering how Prince had the blueprint for this picked out for a while… or rather, it’s a formula that has worked well for him in the past. But when you compare it to Purple Rain and Gold, it just doesn’t have the same impact. And since this whole album has built up to this track, it’s kind of a letdown. I like it, but I really don’t love it.

So comparatively, this disc has the fewest highlights, but the highlights are very strong ones.
Style & Sleep Around I really like a lot

Right Back Here in My Arms
Somebody’s Somebody
Betcha By Golly Wow
In This Bed I scream
Sex in the Summer
One Kiss at a Time
Curious Child
Dreamin’ about you
Joint 2 Joint
New World
Style
Sleep Around

I think that’s what I’ll stick with for now… that’s 4 for Disc I, 5 for Disc II and 3 for Disc III
I might sequence them differently to improve upon the overall effect, but all of these I really do love.
Which was the whole point of this exercise 😉 Three Days in the making, finally finished.

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