What’s in a name- how do Prince albums get their titles?

So this actually started in my head the other day… it’s funny, the end of September was the anniversary of several Prince albums- Plectrum Electrum, Art Official Age and the Indigo Nights book/aftershow CD. And I think I saw a comment on AOA from someone saying that it was one of his best albums in the later part of his life, a few people… I don’t know if it was me or someone else commenting, I think it was more my thought than someone else’s… it’s great up until after Way Back Home, then FunkNRoll gets thrown back into the mix, it drags towards the finish with “Time” and we have the final Affirmation.

The gears started turning in my head a bit more and Planet Earth came up somewhere in my head… and this leads to today.
(I also did a cool line-up of piano, ballad tracks leading up to ONA, which I didn’t enjoy as much as I had in the past… Into the light/I will, Slow Love, International Lover, Satisfied, Somewhere here on Earth… they almost fed into each other seamlessly. I also listened to Piano & Mic one more time this past weekend- I’m getting more out of it each time, but I think I get more out of the earlier tracks because later on, it’s getting later at night and my mind starts to wander… “Why the butterflies” is doing some cool piano tracks that’s going beyond a lot of what’s on the album)…

moving onto the real topic…
I was thinking about AOA and Planet Earth both being named after what became the first song- but the issue with both these albums is that they seem to be named with a concept in mind, but the albums don’t completely follow through with it. AOA gets really close to being a perfectly realized concept album… it just trips over the finish line… my thought is that FunkNRoll should be chucked out and 1-2 other songs get thrown in there, we have Time and then we have the final Affirmation. The album is all about escaping the pull of social media and trying to find human connection as well as finding oneself. I actually like the FunkNRoll remix better than the original, but it’s nothing but filler on that album, unfortunately.

Then with Planet Earth, this came up in the Peach & Black review where they were talking about him trying to talk about saving the planet, but the album really doesn’t do anything to support that. All we have is the first and last songs- which are both somewhat naïve attempts to get people to think about stopping the destructive patterns they’re in.

So my mind goes to the next stuff… taking into account what happened with Around the World in a Day… Duane Tudahl’s book goes into this a lot… Prince had just finished all the songs for Purple Rain and was desperately trying to move himself away from that sound and doing new material. Pop Life and Paisley Park, I think, were two songs that came out of that. Then David Coleman, Lisa’s brother, has some studio time, which Prince gives him. And in those sessions, he records that song. Wendy & Lisa gives the tape to Prince to listen to and he is so floored he asks if he can have the song. And the album was born out of that song- it was the missing piece that he rallied his other songs around.

And as much as I didn’t like Matt Thorne’s attitude in his book about Prince, I thought about some things he said as well… about how sometimes Prince will record a bunch of material after an album, but an album won’t result until later in the sessions… and it’s more likely he’ll write new songs to rally around the one that gave him the epiphany that it was the cornerstone of the album. Which explains why Gett Off and I wanna melt with u got on their respective albums- they were the last ones written during those sessions.

So I developed some theories why AOA and Planet Earth didn’t follow through…

with Planet Earth, I think he initially got the idea for it and he first hinted to the public at the NAACP awards when he received an award in 2007… but then along the way, he wrote so many other songs that the concept kinda got lost through the course of that… I’ll see if Princevault will back me up on this.

Then with AOA… the album is so tight but gets lost at the end… part of me thinks that he got scared it was starting to reveal too much so he threw in FunkNRoll right after Way Back Home to throw things off a bit. But then he did leave the final Affirmation in there. But I think it was a song he wrote earlier on.

let’s see… Planet Earth was actually recorded with the Power Trio in November 2004… holy crap! that was after the Musicology tour and that was the same session that led to the intro/outro of Lotusflow3r, 3121, Wall of Berlin, Colonized Mind, Love like Jazz… even Guitar…

I knew Prince worked with those guys and it led to those Lotusflow3r tracks, but it’s mind-blowing that he got title/opening tracks for his next 3 albums from that. It makes me wonder when he made the decision to take these songs out of the vault to put on these albums, and when that decision came about.

So Planet Earth- the title track (all but backing vocals, which came later) was done in 2004. The basic track for Guitar was done there as well.
Somewhere here on Earth- recorded at 3121 in march 2007
Mr. Goodnight was sometime after that, also at 3121
the One u wanna c, Future Baby Mama, all the midnights, Chelsea Rodgers, Lion of Judah, Resolution- sometime between 2006-2007

…the records of these songs are really not that great… which kinda sucks… but essentially, Planet Earth and Guitar came first… and all of these other songs came in closer to the year they were put on this album…

dang, I was going to do this whole thing about this song for my chapter on this album… but now I don’t think I can because there isn’t enough information available for me to even speculate… I have no idea when in these sessions Resolution came out… but I kinda wonder if he was so sure he wanted to put Planet Earth at the start of the album and to name it after that song… he wrote Resolution to kinda have a common link to that song. And he kinda realized that he’d moved away from that song with a lot of personal stuff going on (his divorce in may 2006- a couple months after 3121 was released) that may have inspired some subsequent tracks, so he put Resolution to bring it back to that. Either that or Resolution came first to follow through with that song… but then all those other relationship/I’m single and ready to settle down again tracks came about.

I’d say this is one of those things I’d have loved to ask him about if he was ok with going back to that time… but if I had the opportunity (via that probing question “if you could interview anyone living or dead, who would it be, why and what would you ask”), I’d have other things I’d rather ask him…

One thing that will stay when I go to write about this album, whenever that may be… I’d say that Somewhere here on Earth would be a better title for the album because most of the other songs seem to rally around that idea… that Prince is presenting himself as single again and wanting another serious relationship… at one point, I even referred to it as his eHarmony commercial or personal ad.
Somewhere here on earth, the one u wanna c, future baby mama, mr. goodnight, all the midnights fall in line with that.
The bookends are on the “heal the world” idea that may have started the album, but he kinda forgot about it amidst these sessions. Guitar, he’s pretty much choosing his music over this girl (who seems very similar to Lolita in her demeanor). Chelsea Rodgers is something else entirely. Lion of Judah kinda works, but maybe he comes off a little too strong.

So looking up Lion of Judah to find when it was recorded… I finally found out what the heck that was supposed to mean. I figured it was some religious reference I didn’t know because I didn’t go to church or anything, at least not enough to get there. Apparently, in some sects, it’s a metaphor for Jesus. And in the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan is actually supposed to be Jesus… which explains the scene where he sacrifices himself so the White Witch will release Edmund from her control and he comes back from the dead… I read that book and saw the movies, but I didn’t know that was a thing.
And supposedly the Lion of Judah comes in during the events of Revelation…
anyway, what I get from the song is that Prince thinks he’s nearing his expiration date :shudder: but he really likes this girl and wants to show he cares and he’s looking for the energy to keep up with her, but the press will turn it into a show… so this chorus is about him fighting back against critics and the media, trying to defend his feelings in this new relationship… and he’s waiting for a sign that someone will stand by him through the good and bad.
Thinking about what the song is about and the religious connotations in the chorus… it’s a bit of a headache, so I really like just listening to it and feeling that energy and not thinking about it. And usually I like listening to lyrics, but that takes me out of the song.

now for AOA… I gotta see when that song was recorded compared to everything else.

it looks like AOA might have been an ATWIAD situation… all of these songs were laying around as early as 2012 (the Andy Allo collaborations- this is what it feels like and time), Funknroll, Breakfast can wait, the gold standard, breakdown were 2013 and most of the others were all in spring/summer 2014…
it really sucks how incomplete these records are, just saying, Prince.

it seemed like in this past decade, Prince was pickier with when he put out albums because he kept waiting for songs that he could put together… he appeared on Arsenio in March 2014 when he made this comment. It makes me wonder how long before or after this he wrote Art Official Cage or Way Back Home… something must have happened around the time he did those songs and we now have the album where they all came together.
With Way Back Home in particular, I really do feel that’s one of those moments where he really bared his soul in the studio and a side of him we don’t often get to see comes out.

so I thought about all of his albums and the title tracks and the titles…
some were more obvious than others… but for some, I think I read that they were recorded later in the sessions…

For You came later on, I think, because it wasn’t on the demo tape Owen Husney was taking to record labels… actually, Princevault said it was maybe the first song Prince recorded that went on to be on an album- ‘wouldn’t you love to love me’ was on the same cassette… so maybe he had it in mind from the beginning, considering what a genius he was even at that age… that’s mindblowing 😛
Prince makes sense as an album title. Usually when artists do their first album, it’s self-titled. But by choosing it to be this for the second album, he wanted to set himself apart from the first effort, which burned him out from working too much on it. He wanted to say this album was more of what he’s like as an artist.
Dirty Mind… all of the songs were recorded around the same time, May-June 1980 after he came off the tour where he opened for Rick James- I just remember reading in the Per Nilsen book that Steve Fargnoli visited Prince at home and Prince showed him what he had been working on and he told Prince that this was his next album.
Controversy- some of the songs were older and had been around a few years. But as far as recordings for this album, Controversy was the first song and Jack U off and Private Joy were among the last. I had thought he wrote the song in response to what happened at the Rolling Stones concert, but that was actually part of the Controversy tour… I think it was more in response to the response he got for Dirty Mind, the songs and his look at the time and his cryptic interviews.
1999- I think I read was the last song written in those sessions, I know the story that brought him to write it, but I also read it might have been requested he write a hit song or a theme to tie it all together.
Purple Rain- the song came about and it was suggested by Al Magnoli that it’d be the song the movie would lead up to and Prince agreed with that so the album was constructed around that.
ATWIAD- I already went into
Parade- I’m not sure, I know an earlier version of this song existed, but it does kinda sum up the album where Christopher Tracy believes life is a parade
Sign o’ the times- the song had been in a configuration for Crystal Ball and when it was cut down to 2 discs, he decided to make it the title track… actually, it was in the Dream Factory configuration as well.
[I’m sure Duane Tudahl’s next book will clear some of this up… I’m still not sure how the album and the movie came into fruition, how intertwined they were, what came about first… and of course, how Sign o’ the times became the title track of that album. Matt Thorne said how Dream Factory and Crystal Ball weren’t albums, but just the first song on the tapes he had with him at the time… I really want that to be cleared up.]
the Black album- the name was unofficial, supposedly it was to win back the black audience
Lovesexy- the concept came out from the ashes of the black album
Batman- obviously the whole soundtrack came about as a whole entity, so it’s different from these
Graffiti Bridge- princevault says that the idea behind the song came before the movie was imagined
Diamonds & Pearls- I don’t think the title was given to this album with any real purpose… it was just a big song off the album, but it’s not indicative of the material within the album. And I’m sure it’s not the first or last song recorded for the album.
Symbol- part of me wonders if he was thinking about the name change during the recording of the album. He didn’t change it until the following June. But I think it’s meant to symbolize the union of male and female and it’s about finding a soul mate
Come- considering the version of the song that wound up on the album, I’m sure this was him flipping off WB, giving them an album of older material opposed to the shiny new stuff on Gold
Gold- I think he was leading up to that song as his way of redoing purple rain.
Chaos & Disorder- seems to symbolize what was going on in his life at that point with all the contract disputes
Emancipation- goes without saying that it was to symbolize his freedom from his contract because he had just given WB the final album.
The Truth- I don’t think this song title was indicative of the material, but the way the song is put together sets the trend of the album
New Power Soul- I’m sure was named as such because that’s the type of music on the album. Soul music by the NPG
Crystal Ball- got its name cuz he wanted to do a three disc album called Crystal Ball, it has some songs from that, but not quite the same as what he intended
Rave- he brought back this old song to indicate his joy, maybe of the new millennium or his contract finally expiring. (Rave In2 is a remix album)
The Vault- these songs were from the vault, so it makes sense
The Rainbow Children- it’s a near perfect concept album and he probably had the idea from the start, as soon as he wrote the first song.
One night alone- like with The truth, the song isn’t indicative of the material that follows, but the music follows a similar theme.
Musicology- this song was the first he wrote and he put songs around it to embody that concept
3121- it’s named for where he was having his residency, but otherwise there doesn’t seem to be much of a theme
20TEN- it was released that year, but there’s no theme
Lotusflow3r- I think I read somewhere that this album is going into an alternate universe, in and out of the Lotus…
MPLSound- this album is going back to the MPLS but attempting to update it
Plectrum Electrum- Donna wrote that song and all of the songs on the album are similarly put together, live band sound
Hitnrun- this was in cross promotion with his touring style at the time.

…keep in mind that a lot of this is speculation and I don’t know a lot of this for sure.

Last night after going through half of the albums, I was really disappointed to find it wasn’t as cut and dry as I thought it was going to be.
And I think I was getting vibes from Prince, I think half scoffing at my naivety at thinking it’d be easy to solve and there was an explanation for all of it.
But then he said something like “I can’t choose when inspiration comes. But it’s up to us as artists to recognize when it does and to take full advantage of the opportunity”… I mean, he does make a good point.
And I’m sure he had something like this like in some interview he did.

With my project, I haven’t been trying to force a lot of activity. If I’m feeling the vibe from a certain album and stuff is coming up that I can write in cohesive sentences, I know I’m on the right track.

And I really had had a really good track record going… I started to do something on Musicology where I was talking about my own experiences with it as my first album… but I don’t know if anyone would be interested in reading all that. It’s almost like I’m trying to explain why I said what I said about certain songs.
I think I might be better off with just the summation of the tracks. I think I have 5 pages written.

The funny thing listening to Planet Earth today… I was thinking about things that I really hadn’t before with this album.
I think it was caused a bit by Duane Tudahl’s book where he was trying to piece the songs together into a puzzle with a narrative behind it.

I thought about the actual song and the songs he was recording at the time: Colonized Mind in particular. He was just in this mood at the time where he was reflecting on a lot of things, looking at the world and through the scope of his religion, and maybe trying to heal the world or getting people to put more good back into the world. In some 1999 interview, he was talking about entropy and trying to counteract that.
Resolution is like that too… but Planet Earth is so epic and huge sounding that even if the lyrics are a bit silly and naïve in places, you can’t help but be swept up in the idea of it. Resolution doesn’t read well on paper or on sheet music, which is unfortunate.

Another thought I had with Planet Earth… Guitar came from those sessions in 2004… which means it might be older than Lolita. there’s indications it was recorded in 2005, which would make Guitar older than Lolita… that’s kinda funny cuz I always thought of the two songs in the same school of thought, but Guitar is another version of the same story.
It made me wonder if Prince had been eyed by younger women and he was writing about that or he was just having that fantasy. And he was on that train of thought for a while and these two songs came out of that or were the commonalities between them purely coincidence.
Then I was going line by line through Guitar… it seems like he’s choosing concerts over this one girl.
“you’re high enough to call me, but can’t reach the bar”… means she’s crazy enough to think of getting with him, but she doesn’t meet whatever standards he has… kinda like saying, she’s cute, but she doesn’t have that spark that really gets him wanting to spend more than a one night stand with her.
“I tried to warn you it’s hard to be a star, when you’re driving other people’s cars”… it makes it sound like she’s pursing stardom and he took her there, but she’s not getting everything she wants out of it.

maybe I’m thinking too much about this song 😛

Somewhere here on earth… it made me think about Mayte, actually.
I remember in her book that she said she went to see him at his 3121 residency and they had a brief embrace while he was performing. So I thought that maybe somehow this song came out of that. The song was written March 2007 (as guesstimated by princevault) and she saw him on her birthday, November 2006… 4 months later… so it is a little bit much to think that maybe she somehow inspired this song…
but I feel like there was something in there that has her in it… and even though he is ready to love again and find someone else, when I hear him say “you’re somewhere here on Earth”… it makes me think about her and him thinking how happy he is to know she is somewhere here, even if they’re not together.

I’d spent so much time thinking about myself with this song… I mean, I became a fan officially that February. The crazy part of me wants to fantasize he saw some of my posts and he really liked them… although if he really wanted to get in touch with me, he would have found some way to do so. He’s Prince, he can score anything.
I was so prolific with my writing, on .org and this blog, he had to have come across some of it at some point…

I think Prince as he was in 2006-2007… that’s my ultimate fantasy, that version of him, how he looked, the songs he was writing… and the fact he was writing all these songs to flatter and impress whoever his next serious relationship would be. And he was so sure of himself and confident… it’s not just the fame and fortune, but just having someone to take care of me like that…
and I’d continue writing my stories and he’d get me connections somehow to get published… I don’t know… so much possibility.
Unfortunately, we both aged and he no longer was that person. He became a mentor to younger musicians and wanted to pass on his experiences. He was no longer that sex symbol and he was not putting out as many love songs and ballads as he used to.

beyond that… not many epiphanies and thoughts really came from listening… I was just enjoying myself so much…

I actually just looked up the term “baby mama”… just cuz I never had before… I always thought it meant the same as “boo”- like, black slang for a girlfriend… or a companion you want to marry and have children with…
supposedly it means a woman who has a child out of wedlock, or a single mom.
I don’t know if Prince had any idea what that term meant. I think he’d heard the term mentioned, but he took it to a different place than the commonplace definition.

Anyway, the song made me think Prince was looking for someone new to have a family with… but the chorus goes on about “bend but don’t break to keep your man”… it’s hard not to think about Mayte in this equation, how their children didn’t survive and she really wanted to hold onto their marriage, but he didn’t seem to want anything to do with her. At least not to the same degree they were an item before the JW thing happened.
But that lyric almost feels like a slap in the face to her because he was the one who really gave up on them and she told them to get the divorce because she was unhappy waiting around their house in Spain for him to come join her.
But it’s such a good song except for the damn title… Wikipedia says that it was first coined in 1989, but it sounds like he’s trying to use slang to appeal to a younger audience.

then the whole fantasy of Mr. Goodnight came on and damn… I know it’s very cheesy for him to do this rap and try to be like all those other R&B artists… but damn… love this song for the whole fantasy of it… and I’ll just leave it there.
It’s also kinda funny to read it being the last song recorded for the album… meaning that “all the midnights” had been around for a little while before that and he somehow got the idea to connect the two… not to mention having this new song in between two songs that were recorded around the same time.
I also think how Somewhere here on earth was a later addition… maybe he was working on putting the album together and realized he needed a ballad… and maybe he realized he needed a song like this to add another to the tracklist or he needed a song to fit this genre for a certain audience… it really doesn’t matter cuz both are my highlights for the album…

Chelsea Rodgers, I think I like a bit more with each listen… I was so mad at it when I first heard it… there was so much I was liking on the album and this was something completely different. I know he likes to occasionally change things up on the albums, but I would have been happier if it stayed within the eHarmony personal ad realm. There are a lot of funny lyrics in this song, though… no diamonds or designer shoes cuz she’s too original from her head down to her feet.

…and that’s as far as I got…

there’s so many ways to go about the album… I don’t think I’m ready to start on that chapter just yet.

I’d like to do it at some point, but I need to have a clear idea of where I want to go with it before I do…
and it’s important I know because I really like this album. It’s important to me personally cuz it was my first new Prince album that I was getting at the same time as everyone else would and we were sharing those experiences at the same time. Well, experiencing them at the same time, not really discussing them… I don’t really remember discussing Planet Earth with anyone for some time. At the time it came out, I hadn’t been on the site in a while, I don’t think…

I’d like to be able to sell people on this album, but there are some shortcomings that need to be addressed too. So I think it’ll be more of an editorial/opinion chapter than facts…

I think this is good for now… sorry if this meandered a bit, but anyone familiar with my posts knows I tend to do that a lot

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