Sign o' the Times

“My name is Prince, and I am funky” – The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

So I have to admit I was struggling for something to write about in this blog post.  I wasn’t really feeling this album, and other than the two albums with the New Power Generation in the 90s, I am not much of a Prince fan.  I was going to write something about how I think Prince may have invented text message language (“Nothing Compares 2 U”? Anyone?), but then I happened to be watching the original Batman movie the other night…no, not the 1960s Adam West farce, and not the sometimes-to-clever-its-own-good Christopher Nolan trilogy either, but the 1989 Batman movie directed by Tim Burton with Michael Keaton as the Batman (still the best actor ever to don the cowl) and Jack Nicholson as the Joker (I know Heath Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, but I’ll still take Jack Nicholson’s performance any day of the week)…and I realized that Prince did the entire soundtrack (not the orchestral score, which was done by long time Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman) for that movie.  And it’s largely terrible (the soundtrack, not the movie or the score), but it brought back some memories.  I was at that tender junior high school comic book reading age when that movie came out, and Batman was (and still is) by far my favorite super-hero.  No super powers, a tragic anti-hero, yada yada.  All the stuff a middle school aged boy loves.  So, anyway, the movie came out in the summer, and I remember mi madre driving me out to the little two-screen theater in Conneaut (I wonder why it wasn’t playing in Ashtabula?) so I could see the very first showing on the day it was released.  I was even wearing my Batman Chuck Taylors.  No lie.  And it may still be the best Batman movie ever made (I do like Batman Begins too though), and as for the Prince soundtrack, well I can’t imagine the Joker and his gang defacing art in a museum to any other artist.  And the “Batdance” video was all over MTV at the time too.  Apparently, Prince only did the soundtrack because his record label, Warner Bros., forced him to (later he would famously change his name and write “slave” on his face in an effort to break his contract with them) and as Batman is such a major property, he was forced to sign away all the rights to those songs.  But I guess it’s a neat little side story to the Batman movie mythos, and it all happened only two years after Sign o’ the Times.

I suppose I should say something about this album.  After all, the post is supposed to be about Sign o’ the Times.  Umm, well, I don’t really dig it.  Musically, Prince is a freak of nature.  He does the Trent Reznor thing (before Trent Reznor actually made it a thing) by playing pretty much every instrument on the record.  And he plays and sings in pretty much every popular music style imaginable, from rock to funk to R&B to soul to even a little gospel. He even invents a female alter ego, Camille, so he can sing a few songs from an, ahem, different perspective.  But the problem is he coats everything in this 80s pop veneer that makes it all sound very dated to my ears.  Let’s face it, the 80s was just not a good decade for music.  Great for action figures, cartoons, movies, and pretty much all aspects of pop culture…except for music.  I paid $8.58 for this 80s relic on Ebay.  It’s apparently completely out of print.

Other lists: Sign o’ the Times is #74 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1980s.  The song “Sign o’ the Times” is #304 on the list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  See the entry for Purple Rain (#76) for Prince’s other Rolling Stone accolades.

My favorite track: umm, well, if I have to pick one, it’s “U Got the Look” I guess

Honorable mention: [eyes closed, random finger lands on…] “Starfish and Coffee”

Quote: “There comes a road in every man’s journey that he’s afraid 2 walk on his own.  I’m here 2 tell u that I’m at that road, and I’d rather walk with u than walk it alone.”

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