Prince – 1980 – Dirty Mind
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Neither For You nor Prince was adequate preparation for the full-blown masterpiece of Prince’s third album, Dirty Mind. Recorded in his home studio, with Prince playing nearly every instrument, Dirty Mind is a stunning, audacious amalgam of funk, new wave, R&B, and pop, fueled by grinningly salacious sex and the desire to shock. Where other pop musicians suggested sex in lewd double-entendres, Prince left nothing to hide — before its release, no other rock or funk record was ever quite as explicit as Dirty Mind, with its gleeful tales of oral sex, threesomes, and even incest. Certainly, it opened the doors for countless sexually explicit albums, but to reduce its impact to mere profanity is too reductive — the music of Dirty Mind is as shocking as its graphic language, bending styles and breaking rules with little regard for fixed genres. Basing the album on a harder, rock-oriented beat more than before, Prince tries everything — there’s pure new wave pop (“When You Were Mine”), soulful crooning (“Gotta Broken Heart Again”), robotic funk (“Dirty Mind”), rock & roll (“Sister”), sultry funk (“Head,” “Do It All Night”), and relentless dance jams (“Uptown,” “Partyup”), all in the space of half an hour. It’s a breathtaking, visionary album, and its fusion of synthesizers, rock rhythms, and funk set the style for much of the urban soul and funk of the early ’80s.
A1 Dirty Mind 4:11
A2 When You Were Mine 3:44
A3 Do It All Night 3:42
A4 Gotta Broken Heart Again 2:13
B1 Uptown 5:30
B2 Head 4:40
B3 Sister 1:33
B4 Partyup 4:24
Review by asktheages
Artistic breakthroughs can often come from many places. Sudden strokes of genius do happen, but quite often, fluke decisions usually end up making for the best music. Such is the case with this album, which is one that I still believe to be one of the finest releases of Prince’s career, and a HUGE leap from his first two albums. I really don’t think anyone who had been following his career up to this point could have predicted this turn. The guy who openly admitted he was a virgin on his first album is suddenly doing it with his sister a mere two years later? Can I get a Stone Cold Steve Austin-esque WHAT?
It’s usually said that this is where Prince becomes PRINCE for the first time, which I wholeheartedly agree with – this is worlds away from the first two albums in terms of consistency and attitude. So I thought I’d take a little time to explain what exactly that consists of, in my opinion. This is one of my favorite albums of all time, so this might get long. You have been warned:
1. The very spare Prince funk sound is firmly established here for the first time. Yes, Prince grew to incorporate the sounds of psychedelia thanks to the influence of Wendy and Lisa, and incorporated more orchestration and horn charts as the years went by. However, the prototypical style that ended up being known as the so-called Minneapolis Sound is epitomized by something like “Kiss” – a very spare, dry sound, minimal instrumentation, and impassioned vocals. It may lack the ensemble party flavor of most of the great funk acts, but the Minneapolis Sound was just as influential in its own right, and it begins in earnest on this album. Considering how much I whined about his first two albums being overproduced, this album is almost a complete 180 in terms of style. There’s no wild James Brown-like horn charts here, no swirling Mayfield-esque orchestration – just one man, guitar, bass, drums, and synths. (Well, two men – Matt Fink plays a cool synth solo on “Head,” the first outside player on a Prince record to date.) I used to not get the “punk funk” label until I got older, because I initially took the term too literally. But if you take “punk” to refer to the DIY ethos, then this album almost certainly would classify as such. (And then there’s “Sister,” of course, which pretty IS much punk funk.)
2. The singing and lyrics. We saw hints of what was to come on the second album – “I wanna be the only one you come for,” courting a lesbian during “Bambi” – but I don’t think anyone could have been prepared for the lyrics on this one. From seducing a virgin on her way to be married in “Head“, to doing it with your sister on, well, “Sister“, to the casual line about having a threesome in “When You Were Mine“…this is a VERY different Prince than the first two albums. This is where R&B and soul began the journey to the more vulgar lyrical trends you see nowadays. Even the most aggressive of soul singers…say, Teddy Pendergrass, still attempted to romance a woman rather than just spell out explicitly what he wanted to do. But I guess we’re not so innocent anymore, are we? That being said, as many people smarter than myself have pointed out, though, his lewd lyrics are so wrapped in catchy vocal melodies that you honestly kinda don’t even pay that much attention to them. This is ultimately what I think a lot of Prince copycats neglected to consider.
3. The diversity of the album. For an album that is barely over a half hour long, there are a lot of different styles tackled here. This is something that would eventually become a hallmark of Prince’s career. Most of the songs are funky, yes, but you also have the odd, almost punkish “Sister“, the workout anthem title track (love the song, but let’s be real here. I’ve even seen a live video where he does jumping jacks during the performance), the vaguely country “Gotta (sic) Broken Heart Again” (can you not imagine some country slide being played on this one?), and the incredibly bouncy, New Wave-y “When You Were Mine“. The first two Prince albums seemed to come with a generic soul presetting with some occasional outside forays, whereas this one sees him stepping outside the box a little more.
4. Prince as a guitarist. And really, this mainly boils down to one song – “Uptown“. Mind you, this is not an album to hear Prince as guitar hero in the typical sense. (There are precious few Prince studio projects that are, sadly. Live is the way to go if that is what you seek.) There are no wild guitar leads on this album, no face-melting shredding solos to be found. But there is a lot of incredibly funky rhythm playing, and this is best exemplified by “Uptown.” For a lot of people, funk means different things, but the first thing I think of is a clean rhythm guitar playing tight chords, a la “Sex Machine” by James Brown. On “Uptown,” Prince expounds upon that by having a sort of “duel” between a guitar with no effects and one with a bit of distortion added. Both guitars are still playing funk rhythms off of each other, but the distortion adds a little more edge to the song. It’s a good example of a song that walks the middle line between James Brown and P-Funk, and illustrates why Prince was able to cross over so well (when he finally did, that is). It’s a shame the single flopped, however (top 5 R&B but didn’t even hit the pop charts).
In fact, despite being heralded as a brave new direction and receiving praise from most critics, the album as a whole essentially flopped, not going gold until after the success of Purple Rain. It’s easy to see why, too – the album cover, not too many ready-made single choices (although why in the WORLD “When You Were Mine” was not released as a single is beyond me), the lyrical content. Yet I maintain once more that this is one of the very best Prince albums, deserving of all the accolades it has received over the years, and is a couple of inches shy of being a total masterpiece (only let down by the fairly short length). And this from a guy who was still only 22 years old and doing mostly everything by himself, too. No wonder he’s so arrogant.