LET’S GOOOOO!!!!! So, for those who don’t know, one of my favorite artists of all time is Prince. Prince was always different. He would stretch the limits of what could be done in fashion, in the entertainment industry (didn’t change his name for nothin!), and in music. Prince loved being controversial in his music, and truly was one of the first artists to buck censorship and do whatever he wanted. Doing what he wanted had him create Dirty Mind, one of the best albums of 1980.
One of the best albums of 1980, Dirty Mind was Prince at his… horniest. And I mean horniest. Like, my man has a song called, “Sister”, which is about… his sister… You make the conclusions on that one, but let’s talk about how groundbreaking this album is! Seriously, Prince decided to make this almost entirely by himself (two other writing credits on two other songs) in his own home! Mind you, this is not today, this was 41 years ago. 41 years ago, mixing and producing an album at your own crib and still getting label backing just didn’t happen (fact check me if I’m wrong, but I never am). He started to carve out the Minneapolis sound, which is basically Prince, The Time, and several others; and he embraced controversy. Prince was one of the only artists out there talking about sex in such a natural way (other than “Sister”… That song is so uncomfortable) and no one minded! Now, the one knock that Dirty Mind does have is how it was mixed. Mainly due to being produced in a garage, it sounds super quiet on streaming services. This is a problem that a few older albums have, but this is different.
What if an album was made in the studio and mixed a bit better? What if we take the raw, sexual energy of Prince, the rumors about him at the time, and the political landscape, and make an album? What if we had… Controversy?
Ok, what do you think I’m going to say? The music is phenomenal!! I think that a lot of it is very much a time capsule of the 80s. You hear the first note of the title track, and you have a jheri curl. Something I’ve talked about before is Prince’s talent in playing every instrument, and I think that it shines here as well! A lot of these feel like a precursor to what was coming, as more synths are used, but still sounds like a great continuation of Prince’s musical genius. “Do Me, Baby” is an example of this genius, as it is a beautiful love song that mixes the love songs of Prince with the musical precursors of 1999. Another fantastic thing about this album is the musical flexibility.
Controversy is musically flexible. For some songs, you have pop, others R&B, and even rockabilly! This flexibility adds to the controversial flavor of the album. My favorite song, however, is the rock-inspired “Private Joy”. Jesus Christ, this song is perfect. From the poppy start to the song teetering between tasteful and perverted, to the GUITAR SOLO at the very end!! This song is straight up perfect. With that being said, the album has other fantastic songs that ramp up the controversy. “Ronnie, Talk to Russia” is about Ronald Regan and him… talking to Russia, what y’all think? To keep with the political theme, “Annie Christian” is about how the anti-Christ is basically the force behind some of the worst parts of the time (Regan assassination attempt, John Lennon assassination, Atlanta Massacre of Black kids). While we tend to think of Prince’s controversy in the confines of sex, the man is no stranger to political controversy. Because of the musical flexibility and themes, I got to give a 5/5 for the musiq, and 5/5 for the flexibility.
Controversy. That’s the section.
Ok fine, I’ll keep going. Controversy aims to be as realistically controversial as possible. It isn’t an album that will have songs about incest, but it is an album that will revel in the truest controversies of the world and of the man himself. The title track asks all the controversial questions that the world had for Prince at the time. “Am I Black? Am I white? Am I straight? Am I gay? Do I believe in God? Or just myself?” This is Prince’s therapy. Talking about his own controversies and his own feelings about the world. “Sexuality” discusses how Prince wants the world to be a much more open place, and it makes perfect sense! He talks about how the world being too ingrained in pocket cameras and people being such squares that they don’t want to have fun. And where are we in 2021, 40 years later? Well, “WAP” caused a whole shitstorm last year because two women were being sexually liberated, and old squares didn’t want to have fun… Damn, not much has changed within 40 years. That’s… depressing
Prince was all about sexual liberation. For example, the rockabilly-inspired “Jack U Off” is about… Doing the macarena in a dance room, what do y’all think this is about?? Prince sings about mutual masturbation, and this is all the theme of the album: controversy and sexual freedom. Prince’s therapy is being free from constraints and to destroy the confines of what censorship said in the early 80s. 5/5 for the Therapy
Very few albums are perfect, and even perfect ones have problems. This album has one small, minute issue: the length of two songs. “Controversy” is about 7 and a half minutes, while “Do Me, Baby” is about the same length. Part of me feels like they could benefit from being a tad bit shorter, but honestly? That’s the only “problem”, and it’s not even that big of a deal.
This past October, Controversy had its 40th anniversary. This album has been in existence for 40 years, and it seems to always harbor importance. Controversy is about… Controversy, but it is also about the acceptance of controversial themes, and making those themes less controversial. Sexual liberation, political themes, and reveling in your own controversies. These are things that many albums today still strive to do in the present day. As a figure, Prince is beyond important within music, but Controversy might just be the most important album that he has made.
Now, getting rid of that importance, the album is just fantastic! 8 songs, each one that has something controversial about it, with more subtlety and nuance than Dirty Mind, but still enough edge so it isn’t too subtle, all while having musical flexibility? This shit right here is perfect.