Saturday, February 22, 2020

"Sign 'O' the Times" by Prince

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3051
Date:  03/07/1987
Debut:  59
Peak:  3
Weeks:  14
Genre:  R&B

Pop Bits:  Although Prince's second film, Under a Cherry Moon, was a box office bomb, the associated soundtrack album titled Parade, did quite well reaching #3 and going platinum. It was boosted by the now-classic #1 hit "Kiss." After the LP's life was spent, Prince didn't waste much time and he got back in the studio during the summer and fall of '86. He could have had something to release before '86 was done, but the project went through various changes (see below). As the spring of '87 approached, he was finally ready to issue out a new double-LP titled Sign 'O' the Times. After four albums with his band the Revolution, the new effort was billed as a Prince solo project. It was introduced by this first title track single. The song would reach #1 at R&B and #2 at Dance while becoming his tenth Top 10 at Pop. After a couple of albums that received mixed critical reaction, the new set was universally hailed. It would peak at #4 R&B/#6 Pop and be a certified platinum seller.

ReduxReview:  Prince changed up things again with this song. The sparsely arranged track featured a more bluesy groove that was different from any of his previous singles. It was also a bit depressing if you really listen to the words. It brings up a lot of social and political issues and includes the real downer of a line "some say a man ain't happy unless a man truly dies." Geez. It does end with a little message that kind of tells you to not be swayed by all the bad stuff going on and live your life happily, but getting to that part of the song is a little rough. Still, it's a great song and one that I wasn't sure would hit or not. I didn't know if a mainstream audience would buy into the track, but they did. It's one of Prince's Top 10s that doesn't get played much anymore, which is too bad because (sadly) the lyrics are still relevant.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  Following Parade, Prince got back to the studio with his band the Revolution and started working on tracks for a new album. He sought more input from them than in his previous two albums with the Revolution and it proved fruitful. In the summer of '86, nineteen tracks were completed and compiled into the double-LP that was to be titled Dream Factory. But not long after, Prince decided to disband the Revolution. He then began work on a solo album where he experimented with altering his voice. He bumped it up to make it sound higher and more androgynous. Prince then dubbed the new voice Camille and began creating an alter-ego character. His intent was for the album to be a self-titled effort by "Camille." The LP cover would not feature an image of Prince. He also planned to distance himself from it and not claim it as his work. His label, Warner Bros., wasn't necessarily pleased with this, but the record was prepped for release and even some copies were pressed. But then Prince changed his mind once again. He decided to combine some tracks from both projects along with a few new tunes for a triple-LP released to be called Crystal Ball (not to be confused with his 1998 box set of the same name). Warner Bros. balked at releasing a three-disc set and pushed Prince to pare it back to a double album. Prince complied and Sign 'O' the Times became his next official release. Some of the tracks from the three cancelled projects that were not used on Sign 'O' the Times found their way on other releases while some still remain vaulted.


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