Saturday, May 13, 2017

"Pretty Mess" by Vanity

Song#:  2038
Date:  09/08/1984
Debut:  87
Peak:  75
Weeks:  7
Genre:  R&B, Dance-Pop

Pop Bits:  Initially, Vanity had some success as a Prince protege. She was a part of the vocal trio Vanity 6 that Prince assembled. He mostly wrote and produced their 1982 self-title debut album. It spawned the #1 Dance/#7 R&B hit "Nasty Girl," which failed to cross over to the Pop chart. Next up, Vanity was supposed to co-star with Prince in his upcoming film Purple Rain, but things happened and Vanity dropped out of the movie and separated herself from Prince. Now on her own, she looked to continue her career as a solo artist and got signed to Motown Records. She wrote a set of songs and proceeded to record them with musician/producer Bill Wolfer. With her solo debut album, Wild Animal, completed, this first single was issued. It saw a little action at Dance (#13) and R&B (#15), but Pop was less enthusiastic and the tune got locked in the bottom quarter of the chart. A second single, "Mechanical Emotion," could only manage a #23 showing at R&B.

ReduxReview:  Okay, so here is the thing with Vanity. She's is barely a passable singer. So when an artist doesn't have that great of a voice, the songs and everything else have to be spot on in order to make it work. As much as I worship and adore Madonna, she is not a great singer. However, she had everything else in spades and that made her voice seem better than it was. Unfortunately, Vanity didn't have the whole package. She might have had a far better chance had Prince still been in control, but without him, it wasn't gonna happen. If you take this song down to its bare bones, it's really not bad at all. Vanity came up with a pretty good tune. But the thin 80s production combined with her little girl voice making all these goofy inflections sink the song. Imagine if someone like Sheila E sang and produced this. I think it would have been a hit. It just wasn't gonna happen with Vanity at the helm.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  Although she had left Prince behind, his influence was apparent on her debut album. With producer Bill Wolfer playing practically all the instrument and Vanity writing most all the material, it was nearly a two-artist affair, as it was with Prince and Vanity 6. She also introduced her own brand of Prince's sexy/naughty side, which ended up getting her called out for obscene material in the same way that Prince was. Vanity's song "Strap On 'Robbie Baby'" joined Prince's "Darling Nikki" on the PMRC's "Filthy Fifteen" list. "Strap On" was written by Vanity's then-boyfriend Robbie Bruce and was basically an ode to dildo play. The PMRC was less than thrilled with the song and tagged it as filthy.


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