1999 – Prince

“1999” was Prince’s fifth album, originally released as a double LP in the US. However, in other parts of the world, such as Europe, his record label, Warner Brothers feared that it wouldn’t move any units, so it was trimmed down to just one single LP on its own. Eventually, the album was globally reissued as intended. Problems arose for the second time, with the omission of the song “D.M.S.R” on early CD pressings due to time constrains. The problem was rectified on later editions.

The “1999” album was produced, arranged, composed & performed by Prince, much in the same way his previous efforts were. Though, he also received a helping hand from other musicians such as: Lisa Coleman, Jill Jones, André Cymone, Matt Fink, Brown Mark and Bobby Z, most of whom would become a part of his backing band, The Revolution…. who were ever so slyly credited in the album’s artwork. Here’s a review of the album, originally written in 2007 and slightly altered ten years later:

1999: “Don’t worry. I won’t hurt you. I only want you to have some fun.” Those opening, slowed down vocals must have tripped a lot of people out when they first heard them, but hey, that was Prince for ya. One hell of a quirky genius. “1999” became one of his most iconic hits and one of the most recognised party anthems, yet it was lyrically dark, as it spoke about the fear of an ending world. Prince’s solution was to have a big party and dance before passing away. The last thing you hear is a very loud, programmed hand clap and a cymbal, followed by the sound of Prince moaning ever so discreetly.

Little Red Corvette: Quite a metaphoric tune from Prince, in which he compares his partner’s raging libido to that of a very fast sports car: “Little red corvette, baby you’re much too fast… you need a love that’s going to last.” Along with “1999,” “Little Red Corvette” was one of the first songs that brought Prince into the limelight, yet he was painting quite a disgusting and graphic picture when he sang: “You had a pocketful of horses, Trojan and some of them used.” Trojan of course being a brand of condoms. The extended version featured the little Prince laying down some incredibly funky chicken scratch guitar & hollering, “May Day!” Surely, that would’ve thrown a lot of people for a loop.

Delirious: Certainly not the first time Prince had combined eighties pop with fifties rockabilly. In essence he’s singing about how his lover makes him act all kinds of crazy just because she has that kind of affect on him: “I get delirious whenever you’re near. I lose all self control baby just can’t steer.” Though the song never really became a hit, he still included it as a part of his live set back in the ‘80s and of course it became a fan favourite. Especially when he would hump the piano, as he did in the late ’90s on the American TV show, “Vibe.”

Let’s Pretend We’re Married: Musically, quite a quirky song from Prince that sounds as though there are two drum kits playing at the same time, with one one of those drum kits somewhat lagging behind. On top of that there’s a synthesiser that sounds as though it’s from another planet. Lyrically, it’s about Prince wanting to have sex with his girlfriend to the point where they can pretend to be married. Prince gets quite explicit towards the end of this track: “I wanna fuck you so bad it hurts…. I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth.” And he even gets deep as the song draws to a close: “I’m in love with God, He’s the only way, cuz U & I know we’re gonna die someday…. I’m going 2 another life, how ‘bout U?” Interesting that he was so concerned about death throughout his career.

D.M.S.R: Straight-up Minneapolis Funk with totally kick ass opening lyrics: “Everybody! Get on the floor! What the hell did you come here for? Girl it ain’t no use You might as well get loose Work your body like a whore.” Prince was most definitely a very pissed off young buck. He eventually gave up cursing on stage and changed those lyrics to: “Tell me what you came here for” and “We’re going to show you people (as opposed to “You mothers,” certainly not of the nurturing kind) how to scream.” “Dance, Music, Sex Romance,” or “D.M.S.R.,” as it’s listed on the album cover, can also be heard in the Tom Cruise movie “Risky Business” from 1983. And it concludes with Lisa very bizarrely calling out for a doctor to help her.

Automatic: If anything, the songs on the “1999” album prove that Prince was incredibly horny, especially “Automatic,” which features the line, “I’ll go down on you every night.” Interestingly, the album never carried a warning label until its re-release on CD in 2011. That said, “Automatic” is classic Prince, with some really awesome Linn Drums and synths, which sound even cooler when you play it loud. Though the song was only released as a single in Australia, Prince & the band still made a video, in which he was being tied up in an S&M style. Quite risqué for its time. “A-U-T-O Matic” was even quoted by rapper Ice Cube on his album, “War & Peace” in 1998.

Something In The Water (Does Not Compute): What a classic! Of course, it has absolutely nothing to do with computers. Rather, it’s Prince not understanding the fact that he gets told that he has great legs and that he gets mistreated by his women. “You think you’re special? Well so do I,” he tells this one particular girl, before giving the mic stand in the studio few slaps. Prince was not having it! Again it has somewhat of a quirky programmed beat, but that’s what makes it so unique! “Something In The Water” was performed in concert many years after its release… and of course, all the hardcore Prince heads lost their minds as soon as they recognised it.

Free: Arguably the prototype for “Purple Rain,” this brilliant rock ballad speaks of how some people in the world are not as free to do as they please. Hence, we should all be glad that we have such choices in life. “Don’t cry unless you’re happy, don’t smile unless you’re blue. Never let that lonely monster take control of you.” Brilliant. Prince’s screams in this song are absolutely mind-blowing. In fact, it kind of makes you wonder why it was never his theme song after freeing himself from his Warner Brothers contract in the ‘90s. Although, he later sang it, ever-so-briefly on the “One Nite Alone” tour and included the phrase: “B glad that U R FREE” on the cover of the “1999 The New Master” single.

Lady Cab Driver: Yet another hot slice of Minneapolis Funk. Prince is riding around in a taxi with a female driver and then halfway through the journey… he decides to “drive” something else into her: ”This is ’cause I wasn’t born like my brother handsome & tall!” “That’s for the politicians bored who wanna start war.” “That’s for Yosemite Sam!” Why he would dedicate a pelvic thrust to a drawing is most definitely beyond this listener. About six minutes or so into this track, it sounds as though he’s inhaling something.…and it’s quite weird. Most of this album features drum machines. However, on this track he’s combined them with a live drum kit. Very cool.

All The Critics Love U In New York: One of the many Prince songs in which he was purely boasting about how great he was and all of the critics loving him regardless. Most interestingly, it was one of the first times (Probably the second time, counting the title track “1999) where Prince mentioned the colour purple and even referred to his music as such: “Fourth day of November & we need a purple high. Purple love amour is what they’re in for….” He would occasionally throw this one into the setlist and replace New York with the name of the city in which he was playing.

International Lover: The closer for the album relies heavily on metaphors, just as “Little Red Corvette” did. This time around he’s comparing, well… sex (AGAIN) to riding on an aeroplane, conveniently tited: “Prince International.” Just as a plane glides through the sky, Prince sings the song as seductively as he possibly can. “International Lover” could also be categorised as a funk ballad, as there are plenty of slapped bass lines featured throughout the song. Musically, it harks back to the sounds of “Still Waiting” from his second album, as opposed to say, “Do Me Baby.” Still a great ballad though.

Verdict: The “1999” album is essential listening and is a huge part of the Prince legacy. It may not necessarily sound timeless, given that it was so heavily programmed with Linn drums and synthesisers, but it’s most definitely going to be discovered for many generations to come. As a very well-known Australian music journalist and critic would say: “Do yourself a favour!”