On Second Thought
Prince - LoveSexy






for better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.

"The reason why my voice is so clear is because there’s no smack in my brain.”

So Prince begins on “Eye No” (picture an eye symbol rather than the word—a play on “I know”). Perhaps there was no smack in Prince’s brain, but LoveSexy isn’t the result of a totally together mind...often it’s the work of genius, especially Prince genius. Not only is LoveSexy one of the most unusual pop albums ever recorded, it had an even more unusual genesis. It all started in the mid-1980s, when Prince created an alter ego for himself named “Camille”. By recording his vocals at a slow-speed and then adjusting them to the higher pitch of the music, he brought his range up—giving him a more feminine and funkier voice (a trick George Clinton previously used for his Lollipop Man persona and later used by Ween on numerous songs). This higher Prince was Camille and Camille was going to have a solo album released sometime in 1986. This never happened, along with many other scrapped projects (e.g. Dream Factory, Crystal Ball); most of the Camille tunes were used on 1987’s Sign Of The Times (e.g. “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, “Strange Relationship”). Although Prince referred to Camille as a “boy” and “he”, due to the highness of the voice as well as the androgynous theme of “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, many have theorized that Camille was Prince’s female side. Prince is an admitted “Gemini” when it comes to this matter and there was that whole business with dubbing himself an androgynous symbol, so it’s quite possible that Prince was being coy when associating Camille with the masculine. Anyway, Sign Of The Times was a critical and commercial success—considered a classic to this day—so the partnership of Prince and Camille seemed to be going fine. That is...until Camille started having some ideas of his/her own!—that’s the problem when creating an alter ego for yourself, there’s always the inevitable alter-ego clash.

Even though the public for the most part dug Sign Of The Times and Prince’s music in general, there was some criticism from black urbanites. In addition to mixing a lot of white sounds into his music, Prince was also dating exclusively white women...and there was talk of “selling out”. This didn’t bother Prince too much—being an open-minded mulatto and all—but apparently the funkier Camille took the above criticism hard and was determined to make an album that would be down with the brown. So, Camille took total control of Prince’s body and recorded one of the funkiest albums ever recorded: The Black Album. Warner Brothers was set to release it, when Prince reclaimed control of his body and recalled all copies of the albums (he missed a few, which became the seeds for many bootlegs). When offering the press an explanation for this last-minute recall, Prince confessed about the Camille identity and explained that Camille was under the influence of “Spooky Electric” when recording the record and that it was a work of evil (I suppose Spooky Electric is like the Dark Side of the Funk). Overall, The Black Album (eventually released in the 1990s) is just a really great party album filled with dawn breaking jams; however, it does have its darker moments: “Bob George” is a portrait of ghetto violence and misogyny (though it’s satirical commentary more than endorsing celebration) and “Superfunkycalifraisexy” has a few lyrics that are even x-rated and perverted by Prince’s Dirty Mind standards. Prince---now free from the disruptive forces of Camille and Spooky Electric—went quickly to work on a replacement album: LoveSexy. Furthermore, LoveSexy would be the lightness to the darkness of The Black Album. Most critics stateside, prefer The Black Album to LoveSexy, usually praising the former for its rawness and jeering the later for its...well, personally, I think they just can’t get past the cover: Prince naked upon a giant flower. A big hit in Europe, LoveSexy only had moderate success in the States and was viewed by many as a pretentious and unworthy follow-up to Sign Of The Times. I read one Rolling Stone review, complaining that the album was just “too weird”. Once upon a time, artists were supposed to make “weird” music—it was considered experimental, artistic, challenging, etcetera—but this being the end of the 1980s, we were entering a new era of conservatism within the media...one which we, unfortunately, are still bogged down in.

LoveSexy is sublime—a work of utter beauty—Prince’s most distinct and fluid statement. The fact that the CD has the album all on one track is frustrating at times, but one has to get a kick out of Prince’s sentiment: This was the closest the Purple One ever came to a concept album and he was clearly passionate about listeners taking it in as one giant whole. As opposed to the style hopping of Sign Of The Times or the simply down-&-dirty funk of The Black Album, LoveSexy can only be described as LoveSexy. It’s LoveSexy music; Prince music in the purest and least compromising sense. It’s pretty funky—and sexy—but it’s also rocking and spiritual—spiritual in the best way possible: euphoric not pious. Prince proved himself a master of the beat and hook on previous albums, but here he reaches another level by enriching his grooves with stronger and more intricate harmonies. More than any other Prince album, LoveSexy is a vocal playground and there’s true joy in the singing. For an artist who had already broken many clichés, LoveSexy was the consummation of everything Prince was suggesting in the 1980s. Yes—it’s indulgent, but never in a boring or contrived manner; it’s always engaging; always honest. I could get on the traditional tip and attempt to describe each track, but hey—there’s only one track! One track. One LoveSexy. One Prince. And this is his Number One album in my book.


By: Edwin Faust
Published on: 2003-09-01
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