(Featured Image: Breno Mello and Marpessa Dawn in Black Orpheus, Marcel Camus, 1959; © Criterion Collection.)
Side One of For You opens with the title track, followed by “In Love” and “Soft and Wet.” On track four, Prince shifts gears for his first officially-released ballad: a jazzy, contemplative, acoustic guitar-driven sketch of a song called “Crazy You.”
It’s likely, of course, that “Crazy You” is somebody’s favorite track on the album, but I can’t imagine that’s a common sentiment. The song just isn’t designed that way; it’s made to melt into the background, serving as a short palate cleanser between the exhibitionistic single cuts “Soft and Wet” and “Just as Long as We’re Together.” Its structure is wispy, elusive: a single verse over a spare arrangement that just sort of disappears into the ether once it’s done. In many ways, it sounds more like a demo than a lot of the actual demos Prince recorded in 1977.
All that being said, however, I like “Crazy You.” For one thing, the album needs that break between the two singles–especially the oxygen-hogging “Just as Long as We’re Together.” But more fundamentally, it demonstrates the breadth of Prince’s stylistic influences, even at this early stage of his career. It’s easy to listen to For You and pick out Chaka Khan, Larry Graham, Smokey Robinson, or Stevie Wonder, but “Crazy You” is straight-up pop-bossa nova; one could imagine Antônio Carlos Jobim singing it. It’s the first entry in a strain of “exotic,” Latin-flavored songs Prince would record throughout his career, all the way to latter-day efforts like “Te Amo Corazón” from 2006.
“Crazy You” also boasts one of the album’s most inventive–and spare–arrangements. Prince’s music, especially from the ’70s and ’80s, tends to sound “wet,” for lack of a better word: I already described “Soft and Wet” as “lubricous,” an adjective that could just as easily be applied to, say, “In Love.” Most of the time, the “moist” feel of his arrangements carries an obviously suggestive undercurrent; on “Crazy You,” though, it’s much more literal. Prince accompanies his own guitar and vocals with a water drum, creating a soothing effect like raindrops falling gently on a rooftop, with occasional wind chimes adding to the romantic feel. The water drums, as far as I can tell, mark the invention of an enduring R&B cliché; did R. Kelly have “Crazy You” in mind when he came up with that dripping-faucet beat he used in all 33 chapters of “Trapped in the Closet?” (Probably not, but hey, a boy can dream.)
Lyrically, “Crazy You” is about as remarkable as one could hope from a one-verse song: the whole thing basically hinges on the circular hook, “I’m just a crazy fool, lost in the world of love I get from crazy you.” As biographer Matt Thorne has observed, it’s hardly the most remarkable of Prince’s sub-canon of songs celebrating “the eccentricities of his female acquaintances and lovers” (Thorne 2016). But again, it isn’t really meant to be: it’s a hazy daydream of a song, floating softly into the album and then drifting just as softly away. I can’t think of many more pleasant ways to spend two minutes.
One last thing: “Crazy You” finally achieved its rightly-deserved place in the hipster easy-listening canon with a handful of covers over the last few decades. First, Los Angeles-based saxophonist and harmonica player Jimmy Z (no relation to David and Bobby) recorded a version–produced by Dr. Dre!–on his 1991 album Muzical Madness. Then, the mid-to-late 2000s saw two different takes on the song: one by electronic artist Osunlade in 2006 (anthologized on the compilation Rewind Vol. 5), and another by Foreign Exchange artist Zo! featuring Sy Smith in 2009. Neither version significantly innovates on Prince’s 1978 blueprint; but if you ever find yourself hearing “Crazy You” in a mildly hip boutique or cocktail bar, you can probably thank one of those artists.
If you can believe it, next week we’ll be wrapping up with For You (unless I get lazy, which is always a possibility)! Also, remember to check back Saturday for another installment of my Prince (Protégé) Summer guest series on Andresmusictalk–or don’t, to be honest, because I’m writing about Carmen Electra. The things we subject ourselves to for Prince, am I right?
“Crazy You” (Prince, 1978) Amazon / TIDAL
“Crazy You” (Jimmy Z, 1991) Amazon / YouTube / Spotify / TIDAL
“Crazy You” (Osunlade, 2006) Amazon / YouTube / TIDAL
“Crazy You” (Zo! featuring Sy Smith, 2009) YouTube