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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Honestly, back in 1992, we weren't prepared for something like this coming from Prince, our little horny bastard. A total shift on his career which by then was already in a good shape: He finished the 80's decade with a string of brilliant albums: Lovesexy, Batman and Graffitti Bridge; dominated the rankings all over the world, and each new single was better than the previous one. He was on a roll. His album Diamonds and Pearls from 1991 put him on the peak of his artistry.

Then, on a totally unexpected move, announces that his new album's title will be... a symbol. A mixture of man and woman icons with a whirl on the left. Beautiful symbol, indeed. Interesting. I'm sure record executives at Warner Brothers hung their heads with their hands. Led Zeppelin already played that trick in 1971 with their fourth album (the one with the four symbols as title), but this time, Prince wasn't on the rise, but on a steady string of hits. Having an album named like something unpronunceable would be a catastrophe. People wouldn't know how to ask for it at a record store or order it online -in the future-. There was a marketing challenge for the distributors but they decided to go forward. Anyway, at that time, Prince had one of the most profitable record deals any musician could ask for.

The symbol album (copyrighted as Love Symbol #2) came out in late 1992 and His Purple Majesty's fans were delighted. There was funk, soul, rap, dialogues, amazing horn riffs, monstruous bass lines, all of it seasoned with sex and dance lyrics, enough to put the famous "Parental Advisory" label on the cover. Maybe, this was Prince's more liberating album, even thought it wasn't as good and cohesive as, say, Batman or Sign O' The Times. The New Power Generation group band gave prince that freedom he needed to pursue the hard-core funk in songs like "The Maxx" and "Sexy MF"; and soulfulness in tunes like "Morning Papers" and "Damn U." Prince, beyond his appearance, and influence, of Little Richard, Duke Ellington and Jimi Hendrix, was becoming a new James Brown on a viagra 0verdose. NPG would be his own JB Horn Section.

He didn't have to complain, but this was the beginning of the end of Prince's 15 year relationship with Warner Brothers Records, and it was described as Prince alienating himself from fans and media, leaving his sex partners as his closest confidants. The record is about that: Somebody who's obsessed with sex and ego and ends up just like that: alone. Prince was never publicly open about his personal life but we know about his arrogance and his bad attitude towards the press (which now I find understandeable.) and we know about his past thanks to the movie Purple Rain. We know in 1996 he married Mayte Garcia, a very talented belly dancer who was Prince's muse since the early days of the Symbol (the entire 3-CD album Emancipation is dedicated to his brand new wife), but their newborn child died a few days after birth because of Pfeiffer's syndrome and their relationship tanked after that, the marriage being anulled in 1999.

Prince went reclusive and mysterious, became a Jehova Witness in 2001 and decided not to curse and sing any more raunchy stuff and around 2002 he became more open with the media and got a sweet deal with BMG. Nowadays, his albums are getting better and better since the recovery of that downfall experienced after the symbol saga.

This year, Prince turns 50. And this album is just a little piece of his diverse work


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