Artist takes different road to success after Purple Rain
Writer’s note: Prince died suddenly last month and left fans a diverse avant garde library of music. One of his most unusual works was 1985’s Around the World in a Day. His death came on the 30th anniversary of the album’s release.
The year was 1985 and Prince was on top of the music and motion picture world. He made his major film debut in Purple Rain and the movie’s accompanying soundtrack shot up the charts and was a critically acclaimed smash that also mesmerized fans.
He replaced Michael Jackson as the day’s cultural pop icon. Although his rough edge, ambiguous sexuality and sometimes raunchy and unapologetic lyrics made him Public Enemy No.1 of the Christian Fundamentalist movement in much the same vain as Elvis Presley in the 1950s, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones a decade later, and Kiss in the 1970s.
After achieving stardom with 1999 and mega-superstardom with its successor, Prince went into semi-seclusion as he and the Revolution returned to the studio and began recording Around the World in a Day, an album that was released (at Prince’s request) without the hoopla. In the meantime, Madonna emerged as the next flavor of the month (or year) among teenagers and Top-40 musical sheep. She would eventually have to share the limelight with Bruce Springsteen, who released Born in the USA in 1983 and had a breakthrough, with that record and subsequent world tour that lasted more than two years.
Prince’s seventh studio album emerged without hype. It drew comparison to The Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
The 1985 release drew critical acclaim as Prince went psychedelic and experimented with new sounds. Despite not having the pre-release publicity, the LP eventually went double-platinum and spawned a pair of Top-10 singles in “Pop Life” and “Raspberry Beret,” a mega-hit that remains a signature tune on classic hits radio.
Prince and the Revolution broke new ground musically but the controversy that surrounded the outlandish lyrical work on 1999 and Purple Rain remained as the band composed and played songs like “America,” which appears to either support or lampoon the Better Dead than Red Movement, which was prevalent in the US during the era.
The other songs are sexually explicit, enigmatic and sometimes downright perverse and disturbing. Of the nine songs on the LP, only “Beret,” echoes the tunes that made Prince the pop star he became.
The album has plenty of high points and is a must for Prince fans — at least those who have the discriminating taste to appreciate a musician in a state of flux. While it falls short of the genius of Sgt. Pepper’s, it is an admirable piece in which Prince does exactly what he sets out to do. He proves that he is a superb musician, composer and songwriter (there wasn’t much doubt about that anyway) and not just some brash crush in a schoolgirl’s eye.