Sunday, October 13, 2019

Certain Songs #1655: Prince – “Sign ‘O’ The Times” | Medialoper

Album: Sign ‘O’ The Times
Year: 1987

. . .

It is, of course, a sucker’s game to choose Prince’s best album: some folks like the new wave feel and the fucksongs of Dirty Mind, others the dance dance revolution of 1999 or the rock ‘n’ roll of Purple Rain. And hell, I prefer the psychedelic baroque soul of Parade and the gloss of The Gold Experience.

But then again, there’s Sign ‘O’ The Times, his 1987 double album, which may or may not be the best Prince album, but is absolutely the most Prince album, covering everything he did well: hard funk, swirling pop, glossy ballads, and even added gospel indie rock to his canon in the form of “The Cross.”

And he almost immediately threw the gauntlet down with the chittering, off-kilter drum machine pattern of the title track and lead single, which addressed the state of the world in a way he really hadn’t since 1999 or even Controversy.

Turns out that he was worried about AIDS, gangs, nukes and drugs, the last one caused him to sound maybe too much like Nancy Reagan, warning us all about marijuana as a dread gateway drug.

In September, my cousin tried reefer for the very first time
Now he’s doing horse, it’s June, unh

In 1987, I found that verse to be overtly silly — “reefer” and “horse” felt like drug terms used by somebody who had never used drugs — and all these years later, all I can do is hope that his “cousin” found the help that they needed.

But, once again, it doesn’t matter, because the sparse hip-hop influenced beat — augmented by occasional synth bleats and some super funky rhythm guitar, combined with bluesy leads — felt so deep in the pocket that “Sign ‘O’ The Times” was utterly captivating on a purely musical level.

And of course, his singing and melodic gifts didn’t hurt either, and so “Sign ‘O’ The Times” became a massive world-wide smash, not quite as massive as “Kiss” or “Purple Rain,” but massive enough to make it all the way to #3 on the Billboard charts, and for those of us who bought the album, just whetting our appetite for the rest of the record.

“Sign ‘O’ The Times”

“Sign ‘O’ The Times” Official Music Video

“Sign ‘O’ The Times” Live from the Sign ‘O’ The Times Video

“Sign ‘O’ The Times / Play in The Sunshine” live from the 1987 VMAs

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