Prince - Sign O’ The Times
Prince was a singularity, with a voice that flew, an inviting and distant persona, an ambiguous sexuality, a scintillating charisma, but most of all his Swiss-Army Knife musicianship. Prince was unto himself in a way that few people will ever achieve, and he will be missed. For most, Sign o’ The Times, a double album he recorded almost entirely his own, is a testament to these strengths.
The opposite of love is indifference, not hate. Hate requires care and effort. It would honestly be easier for me hate this record and just be done with it. But I don’t. In fact, it’s impossible for me to hate this record. Too much works for me to write it off completely, from the genre-jumping synergy and honest observations of life in all its dark and light modalities to the luscious velvet electric guitar tone and bass work. The somber reviews of life—such as the hard-hitting titular track’s view of street life—mix with party-rock anthems like “Play in the Sunshine” and blurred sexuality “If I Was Your Girlfriend” in the way only Prince could get away with. The musicianship, largely the responsibility of Prince, is unimpeachable. The Linn LM-1 drum machine is top notch.
Yet, ultimately, the album does nothing for me.
The reasons I dislike it have nothing to do with the music. I wish I hated it for its music. Rather, there are three reasons that I dislike it: synesthesia, impatience, and narrative.
The ability to paint pictures in time and space benefits certain albums greatly: Electric Ladyland, Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon all become greater in the final analysis because of the picture they paint. But certain kinds of production paint a thin forgettable picture. Sign o’ The Times suffers this kind of production: anemic, subtle, and, for me, forgettable. The drums don’t hit; the bass doesn’t lay a foundation; the sounds come and go and leave nothing. I’ve listened to this album many times, and I never remember it afterwards. It just doesn’t stick with me.
The musicianship, largely the responsibility of Prince, is unimpeachable. The Linn LM-1 drum machine is top notch. Yet, ultimately, the album does nothing for me.
Worse, it’s a double album. When the picture is poorly drawn, 80 minutes of it doesn’t tighten the focus. It only tires and frustrates me.
But, most of all, the story of my own life makes it difficult to develop a relationship. I’m about as white as they come and was raised in suburbia. I have no idea the struggle Prince sings about when he talks about his friends catching the Bug and dying of Horse. I’m not into parties, and I’m single.
And so this album leaves me indifferent. I respect the hell out of it and admire it even more than that. But it does nothing for me.
Until I am your girlfriend,
P.S. R.I.P. Prince