Sunday, May 23, 2021

"Alphabet St." by Prince

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  3502
Date:  04/30/1988
Debut:  62
Peak:  8
Weeks:  13
Genre:  R&B, Funk

Pop Bits:  After his critically hailed 1987 double-LP Sign o' the Times, Prince didn't waste any time basking in its success and quickly got back to work in the studio. He recorded an album that was set for released in early December of '87, but at the last minute killed it (see below) and decided to replace it with something else. In a quick seven-week sprint, Prince recorded his tenth studio album Lovesexy. With the exception of one full band track and a few musicians on others, the bulk of the LP was fully done by Prince. This first single was pushed out a few weeks ahead of the LP's release. It ended up doing well getting to #3 at R&B and becoming his thirteenth Pop Top 10. It also got to #22 at Dance. It was a good start, but things went downhill quickly. The next two singles failed to make the Pop chart and couldn't crack the R&B Top 10. Reviews were also mixed and the album's continuous sequencing (bleeding song to song without any break) didn't seem to work well for many listeners. As a result, the album stopped short of the Pop Top 10 at #11. It was his first album to miss the Top 10 since 1981's Controversy. It did better at R&B getting to #5. The album would be certified gold and not get to the platinum level sales he had been used to. His last album to only reach gold level sales was 1980's Dirty Mind. No one knows if the album he intended to release would have fared better at the time, but Lovesexy would go down as one of Prince's least successful and least popular LPs of his prime era.

ReduxReview:  Although Prince would have a couple of dog albums late in his Warner Bros. days as his hits were dwindling (namely 1994's Come and 1996's Chaos and Disorder), I've always considered Lovesexy one of his messiest efforts during his 80s/early 90s hitmaking days. It was kind of a meditation on sex and spirituality that was tossed together as a quick replacement for The Black Album (see below) and it just didn't work for me. It wasn't a total loss as there were a few good tracks, but none of them would make any kind of "best of" Prince list and that included this first single. It was a fun, funky jam that even included a rap (by dancer/singer Cat Glover), yet it paled in comparison to his previous hits. It did crack the lower end of the Top 10, but it wasn't an overwhelming success. I'd venture to guess that if a poll was taken to rank all of Prince's Pop Top 10 hits, this one would be at or near the bottom of the list. It quickly became forgettable, as did the LP.

ReduxRating:  4/10

Trivia:  For his follow-up to Sign o' the Times, Prince wanted to channel his Camille character that he toyed with earlier in '86 on another scrapped album. The new work had more elements of funk and R&B, along with hip-hop, than previous efforts due to a feeling from some folks that he had become too pop-oriented. When completed, the album was a single disc that was packaged in an all-black sleeve with no title. Because of that look, it became known as The Black Album. It went to press with an intended release date of December 8, 1987. However, on December 1, Prince abruptly cancelled the release and recalled any and all albums that had already been shipped. The main reason given was that Prince thought the LP's message was too dark and negative and it wasn't the direction he wanted to go. Not long after, stories started to circulate about why Prince truly made his decision. The most common story was that Prince had a bit of a bad trip when taking ecstasy for the first time and hallucinations lead him to believe that the album was evil. Therefore, he took back the LP and then recorded the antithesis, which was Lovesexy. Of course the sudden withdrawal of the album and stories around it made people interested in hearing it and soon bootleg copies of it made from pre-release promo copies started to circulate. It became one of the most famous cancelled LPs since The Beach Boys' 1967 Smile. Most folks who heard the album thought it was great and that made demand for the bootleg increase and it is often reported to be the heaviest bootlegged album of all time. Then in 1994, Prince finally agreed to let Warner Bros. officially release the LP. Apparently, the label, perhaps noting how much money they lost with the bootlegs and seeing the legendary recording as a potential cash cow, gave Prince $1 million for his okay and money being a motivator, he accepted. The Black Album would finally be released in November of '94 with no singles to be issued out. Unfortunately, it was a little too late. It became Prince's lowest peaking studio album (#47) since his 1978 debut and it failed to reach gold-level sales. While critics were still enthusiastic about the LP upon its official release, it was noted that changes in the musical landscape over the previous six years made it sound a bit dated. In other words, it was just a legendary curiosity in Prince's catalog and not a hidden masterpiece.


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