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Prince’s “1999” reviewed

1999-prince-album-cover

There are two ways to look at  Prince’s fifth album, 1999, one is how it sounded in 1982, the other how it sounds in 2016.

In 1982, it sounded like “Little Red Corvette”, a sex driven in a different way sex pop smash crossover hit, with “1999” on one side of it and “Delirious” on the other side of it, and  of the side one, career charging superstar making absolutely unsurpassed threesome. All three songs would go top ten (as would the album) and for the white crossover audience witht he possible exception of “Let’s Pretend we’re Married” didn’t exist.

In 2016, it sounds like a bait and switch and a get way drug into synth and drums funk dance grooves that you could put on any dance floor. It was a door opening in creativity that would blossom loud and wide very soon.

But either way, you don’t go out humming “Free” -a pretty good song, or “International Lover”. The next three sides are more in keeping with Controversy, though better, with huge grooves, “DMSR”, “Automatic”, the hard thrusting “Lady Cab Driver” and the wiley  bass banger “All The Critics Love You In New York”.Today, there is a relentless charge to the album, you get past the pop songs and dig in deep to the dance grooves. And overlaying it is a world view a little smarter than Controversy. The title track might sound like an invitation to party but it is actually a no nukes manifesto, and “Little Red Corvette” is a different form of feminist manifesto, where the girl’s promiscuity has Prince wondering whether he “has enough class”. It respect the girl for her sexual power, it doesn’t condemn her at all. “Delirious” is a sexual roundelay and “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” more than just a come on.

It sounds better today than then because we are so used to electronic pop it doesn’t displace our ears any more, and we are used to remixes so “Automatic” -with that catchy synthline, can ride it for nine minutes and while in 1981 we might have mistaken it for “Thanks For The Pepperoni”, today it is magic funk workout with that “AUT omatic” both nonsense and filled with a promise.

Both crude and liberating, sex, war and sex is the story, or at least “Dance Music Sex Romance”, extended commentaries on each other. Meanwhile, in 1981 we didn’t quite get what we are hearing, the years deepened the innovative nature of his dance grooves, now and even today, people sound a lot like this. Yes, EDM stars have added to it, but they haven’t subtracted from it at all. This is the blueprint for modern pop.

Grade: A

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