Yo Ho, WeRCatz here!
This coming October 14th marks the 40th anniversary of Prince’s album Controversy from 1981. The album cover marks the first time Prince wears purple and would soon become the Purple One the year after with 1999.
In the fourth album he ever made, Prince critiques the human nature of curiosity and how people are focused on him as a person: everyone wants to know what kind of person Prince was at the time and he doesn’t understand why. Other topics of the album include politics, Prince’s sexuality and sexuality as a whole, religion, and a little poppy-pop on the side. Unlike his previous albums, Prince went all out with his explorations. However, Controversy became the eighth best album in 1981.
Let’s dive a little deep into Controversy:
The title song “Controversy” is exactly what Prince talks about and plays with blasphemy at the same time with the Lord’s Prayer in the middle of the song. There’s also a chant at the end about wishing for sexual freedom, no grey-area issues, and no rules.
“Sexuality” calls for complete freedom of sex as a way to desegregate the norms of human sexuality. The lyrics also tackle conservative social norms that prevent the growth of sexuality and the violent consequences for ignoring one’s sexual journey.
“Do Me, Baby” has a simple message: let’s not beat around the bush and hit the sheets! Prince hides nothing as the lyrics explain the message.
“Private Joy” talks about Prince and his secret lover. He indicates how much fun they enjoy with each other. However, Prince does mention a strangled “Valentino” and that his lover belongs to Prince and Prince alone.
The ending of “Private Joy” segues into “Ronnie, Talk to Russia.” It is a plea from Prince to President Ronald Reagan about talking to Russia about toning down the nuclear arms race before they decide to “blow up the world.”
“Let’s Work” is a tease about dancing and sex. There was a popular dance in Minneapolis called “The Rock” and the local kids were hip to it. So, Prince made “Let’s Work” as a dance song… with possible sex.
“Annie Christian” is almost a homophone to the term anti-christian. Here, “Annie” would be responsible for killing African American children and John Lennon; the lyrics indicate that the singer would be safe living in taxicabs until “Annie’s” crucifixion. Prince was describing the events of the time: the fallout of John Lennon’s murder by Mark David Chapman, ABSCAM, and the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-1981.
“Jack U Off” needs no comment.
Controversy gave Prince a breakthrough in Australia and was successful in other parts of the world. Prince also performed with most of the instruments himself. This album helped Prince explore synthesizers, funk, and rock while making it sound like pop. The lyrics, however, didn’t do that much for his success. But his work paid off as his fame would be achieved with the 1982 masterpiece 1999. Let it be known that the Purple One would not achieve this fame without a little Controversy.