Disclaimer: This review was written several months before Denise “Vanity” Matthews passed away. No disrespect was intended. It was just what came through at the time.
Just what the hell possessed me to review this album? Great question. It must have been because nothing was coming out of my desperate attempts to critique something better, so… I scraped the bottom of the barrel and here’s what ended up getting pulled out of my ever-growing record collection. Basically, this is the debut solo album from Prince’s former girlfriend and protege, whose real name is Denise Matthews. She used to front an all-girl trio named Vanity 6 in 1982, so-called because there were three women in the band who had six nipples between them. It was while Prince was filming “Purple Rain” that she decided to leave the Prince camp. She then released this particular album on Motown Records in 1984, followed by another one two years later named “Skin On Skin.” Meanwhile she starred in films like “Action Jackson” and unfortunately got herself addicted to drugs, which almost cost her life along with the partial loss of her hearing and sight. Eventually, she got herself cleaned up and became an Evangelist preacher. At this point the only way to get this album and its follow up (should that be its follow down?) is on vinyl, which means this review is coming at you LP style. Starting with…..
Flippin’ Out: Typical eighties sounding song with plenty of dated synthesisers and drum programming, which may or may not have come courtesy of a Linn drum machine. Lyrically cringeworthy with lines like: “Why don’t you come into my vampire boudoir?….. you can swallow me all in one bite. Cream de la cocoa is what I taste like.” What would she think of this song now in all its vampiric imagery? There’s also a backwards message, telling us to buy the new Vanity album “Wild Animal,” which comes with a pocket steamer. Was that guy high when he said that? He sure sounded it. The song concludes with “Vanity” saying “Kiss me, my fool,” followed by the sounds of a dungeon door slamming shut.
Pretty Mess: Just where do you start with this song? Again it’s another one of those sexually charged tunes, but now it just makes you want to slap your forehead in embarrassment, especially the lyric that says: “Well I think you’ve got what it takes to get me boiling like a kettle.” For real? I don’t think Prince would’ve made her say something as corny as that. As for the actual subject matter, Prince already did that about 4 years before….. Except Vanity took it to another level and actually described it: “He made such a pretty mess on my dress.” Charming.
Samuelle: Damn, this chick makes Yoko Ono sound like Pavarotti. Her vocals are SO BAD!!!! She asks, “If I sing to you, will you ring my doorbell?” As hot as she was, I would have been running, as it’s more like she shrieks! Obviously the song is dedicated to a fellow she’s trying to seduce…. Very badly. Talking about marrying him as well. Poor guy. Just playing! 🙂
Strap On “Robbie Baby:” This ear-splitting rock tune concludes the first side of the album and begins with Vanity asking, “You want some candy, little boy?,” which could imply that somebody is about to get butt fu….. okay, let’s keep it clean. Even though “Vanity” was no longer in the Prince camp by the time “Strap On Robbie” was released, it appeared on a list dubbed “The Filthy 15,” along with two other Prince songs: “Darling Nikki” from the “Purple Rain” album and “Sugar Walls,” which was written by Mr Nelson under the alias Joey Coco and performed by Sheena Easton. Thirty-one years later a song like this one probably wouldn’t even make anybody blink twice.
Wild Animal: Surely whoever wrote this song could have come up with a better comparison. Or was Vanity really into big, hairy apes with thick black hair all over their bodies, as she states in the lyrics? Maybe it was written just to shock, as she keeps referring to this guy as King Kong. Then again she appeared in a film earlier in her career, where she partook in some kind of “activity” with literally a big hairy ape. All righty then onto the next track.
Mechanical Emotion: Perhaps the album’s only saving grace is a duet with Morris Day, who’d also left the Prince camp around the same time. Unlike the rest of the album, this song has a much more Minneapolis Funk type of sound going for it, which is why it stands out so much. And yes, Vanity is clearly expressing her sexuality, she’s imitating orgasms and screeching all over the track. The latter of which can be excused….. for now. While it sounds like Moe Day is saying, “You keep me erect,” the allegedly correct lyric is, “You keep me a wreck.” Yeah, sure. Or rather as Morris would say… Yaiss!!! This song also has a great guitar solo towards the end…. and quite a dated synthesiser solo running all the way through.
Crazy Maybe: Not much to write home about, just another song filled with Vanity’s screeching about a man whom she describes as her captain. Couldn’t exactly sit all the way through this, as it became just a tad bit unbearable. It’s the last song on the record, so…. that’s good! It’s OVER.
Verdict: So what is this album like overall? Need it be spelt out? So bloody awful it’s great? Just plain horrendous? Atrocious? Dreadful? Yes, probably all of that and a whole lot more. This lady has most definitely changed a whole lot since her days as “Vanity.” In fact there was a point where she would say something to the affect of, “Vanity is equivalent to nothing” whenever she would be referred to by her old moniker. Perhaps if you’re a Prince collector or completest, you may want it in your collection. Otherwise, it’s probably best avoided!