Prince’s conceptually sound 1981 album Controversy - named after the titular track - is an under-valued classic. Whilst Prince’s well-known Purple Rain of 1984 came out only three years after Controversy, it’s important to acknowledge Controversy as not only a precursor but a masterpiece in its own right. Nieve O'Donnell delves into the album for The Mic's Classics Revisited series.
Prince’s contribution to pop music is as sass-centric as the knowledge that he and Madonna, after a brief fling and a fall-out, had an argument about each other’s shoes. Whilst Ego is clearly a part of Prince’s character and personality, his boundary-breaking music may not have made as much of an impact without it. In the bridge of Controversy, Prince spins the sexual to saintly, stating part of the Lord’s Prayer: "Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil / For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever". The second song on the album, Sexuality, is ostensibly a song about sex, as the title tends to indicate. However, Prince leans into liberation stating at once that whilst "Sexuality is all I’ll ever need", a person can "stand up and organise", harking back to protest.
Do Me, Baby is undoubtedly the longest song on the album, beating Purple Rain in length. Following, Private Joy and Ronnie, Talk to Russia tackle separate but valid issues, demonstrating Prince’s versatility and musical prowess. Let’s Work is a masterclass in Prince’s bouncy rhythm-making abilities and conceptually-speaking, Annie Christian resonates with the album artwork which states - on a background of newspaper headlines - Annie Christian Sentenced to Die! In classic Prince fashion, Jack U Off showcases Prince’s inability to compromise, showing himself unapologetically in all forms and intertwining himself with his music.
Following Prince’s trademark bouncy synth rhythms and sexual overtones, Controversy should be considered a staple of Prince’s wide-ranging discography.
Written by: Nieve O'Donnell
Edited by: Gemma Cockrell
In-article image courtesy of brett jordan via Flickr.