Vanity 6, 1982

3 x 2 = 6

Just as he’d done for his own Controversy, Prince put the finishing touches on the Vanity 6 album at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. The last song he recorded for the album, on April 5, 1982, was also the last song on the track list: a gauzy synthpop ballad arithmetically titled “3 x 2 = 6.”

More than any other song on the album, “3 x 2 = 6” reflects the personal relationship between Prince and Vanity (née Denise Matthews), which had blossomed in the months since their first meeting. “Prince became like a father to me,” Matthews later recalled. “He loves playing dad. The first thing he did when we met was to nurse me, take care of me. I was very dependent on him, [‘]cause I needed a father because of the terrible insecurity I had experienced as a child” (Nilsen 1999 105).

Patreon Exclusives Reviews

Post-Vacation Update: Patreon-Exclusive Originals Review, plus “Sister” on Press Rewind

It’s a well-known fact that when Prince gave songs to other artists, he would cut his own recordings with guide vocals–not “demos” in the traditional sense so much as complete alternate takes, with production values in many cases equal to the versions that saw release. Almost as well-known, at least among bootleg enthusiasts, is the fact that Prince’s versions of these songs tended to be better than the “covers.” That makes the latest posthumous release by Warner Bros. Records and the Prince Estate, Originals, something of a no-brainer: here are 15 songs we already know and (mostly) love, preserved as they might have been had Prince decided to keep them for himself.


Press Rewind: “Head”

It was a stroke of good timing that just as Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast was coming to an end, I got the opportunity to guest on another track-by-track podcast, Jason Breininger’s Press Rewind. Similar to my and Darren’s respective projects, Jason’s is to go through the full Prince catalogue song by song, but with a specific focus on lyrics that pleases my inner lit major. It also made for an ideal opportunity to talk about some songs that I didn’t get to talk about on Track by Track, starting with “Head” from Dirty Mind:

Press Rewind: “Head”

It was a pleasure talking to Jason about the second dirtiest song on one of my favorite albums. And if you enjoyed it as much as I did, you’re in luck: we also recorded another episode talking about the first dirtiest song on the album, which should be coming out in the next couple of weeks.

While I have you here, I want to thank everyone who has already signed up for my Patreon! Pierre Igot, Caroline S., Oliver A., and Demetrius, your day-one support was extremely heartwarming. If you’re just joining us now and interested in supporting, check out my Patreon page here:

Support d / m / s / r on Patreon

I’ll have my first patron-exclusive post ready soon–hopefully as soon as tomorrow! And of course, the next “official” post will be here soon as well. Thanks for your patience.

Roundup Posts

d / m / s / r Year Three in Review (and Patreon Announcement)

On June 7, 2016, I launched this blog as a long-term writing project and, more importantly, as a way to process the inexplicable sense of loss I felt in the wake of my favorite artist’s passing. I often say that I’ve made less progress in these past three years than I would have liked, and that’s true; but on the other hand, there’s also no way for me to have predicted that I would still be doing this in three years, or–even more surprisingly–that people would actually want to read it.

That being said, let’s see what I accomplished since last June. My productivity did go up, though not as much as I wanted it to: I managed 26 posts–more than last year’s 20 but still significantly less than my first year’s 45. I had said I really wanted to get through more than two albums by this June, but I must have jinxed myself; in fact, I got through exactly two:

Controversy, 1981
Ephemera, 1979-1981

And, of course, this moderately increased writing productivity came at the cost of my putting the brakes on the d / m / s / r podcast. In 2017-2018, I put out 15 episodes, which makes me tired just thinking about it. Since then, I’ve done two, both from the latter half of 2018:

New Power: A Conversation with Takuya Futaesaku
Prince (1979) Revisited

All of which is to say, I want to do better, but I fear that I’m bumping up against my capacity for a pure labor of love. So, after three years and 91 posts, I’d like to propose an alternative arrangement: as of today, I’m launching a Patreon, which–if supported, obviously–will help me to justify the time I spend on d / m / s / r amidst my many other competing responsibilities.

Asking for money is something I’ve been mulling over for a while, and I don’t take it lightly: I initially considered launching the Patreon around this time last year, but decided against it because I didn’t think the amount of work I had been producing justified the ask. I’m doing it now, in large part, because I want to help normalize the idea that people producing creative work–including music criticism–are compensated for their labor. The Patreon model has its flaws, but on the whole it seems like a fair way for readers to support writers whose work they enjoy–and, as paid freelance writing rapidly becomes as anachronistic a notion as pensions and other forms of traditional job security, I suspect it’s going to be something more of us will have to embrace.

At the same time, I also recognize that not everyone who reads the blog wants or is able to support me financially, so I want to assure you that I’m not about to put everything behind a paywall. After my 100th post, I will start making new posts Patreon-exclusive for a short time–say, a week–before sharing them with the public. Mostly, though, the Patreon will be a way for me to deliver more to the people who want it, while also allowing me to turn down other (paid) opportunities and focus on the stuff that, trust me, we would all rather I focus on.

There are other benefits, too: if there’s interest, bringing back the podcast on a more regular basis is one of my stretch goals. More enticingly, it’s long been a pipe dream for me to start revising my blog entries and putting them out in more permanent, tangible form (i.e., books). Once the Patreon hits a certain monthly level of support, I will be able to justify taking on such a time-intensive project. Obviously, if this idea becomes a reality, patrons will be thanked in the books and, if supporting at a certain level, will receive copies as they come out.

Just to make myself clear, I don’t plan to become wealthy or even financially solvent from the Patreon; I have never been under the illusion that writing about Prince will allow me to quit my day job or retire early. But let me put it this way: I have about 200 regular readers, and if every one chipped in a dollar a month, that $200 would make a big difference in my ability to make ends meet. So would half, or even a quarter of that amount–basically, if the Patreon can allow me to put even a couple more hours a week into this passion project, then it will be accomplishing what it’s supposed to. In return, you’ll be getting more regular blog posts, as well as more “ancillary” pieces for patrons: in the coming weeks, for example, I’ll have a review and some revised/updated posts around the new Originals compilation. And if that doesn’t appeal to you, hey, no harm done: you can keep reading without contributing a dime, and I’ll appreciate you every bit as much as I do now.

To everyone reading this–future patrons and others–thanks for making the first three years of d / m / s / r feel like a worthwhile endeavor. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Patreon, just click the link below or the one I’ll be adding to the left sidebar of the site. Otherwise, I’ll be back soon to put another notch on my “completed albums” tally for Vanity 6!

Support d / m / s / r on Patreon

1999, 1982

Let’s Pretend We’re Married

Having completed the majority of the Vanity 6 album over a few weeks at his home studio, Prince was back at Sunset Sound by the end of March 1982. The first song recorded during this block of sessions was intended for his own fifth album–though its salacious lyrics and heavy electronic sound kept it stylistically aligned with his latest side project.

Let’s Pretend We’re Married” opens with one of the treated Linn LM-1 beats that had already become a sonic trademark for Prince, just seven months after his introduction to the machine. A driving kick and snare lays the foundation, with rimshots punctuating every other measure. On the tenth measure, a hiccuping conga hit creeps in, and the rimshots, now swathed in reverb, grow more insistent. Finally, a pair of churning bass synths enter the mix: one four on the floor, one double-time. Once again, Prince’s interest in the emergent electronic music that would soon be dubbed techno is evident in the song’s indefatigable pulse; music critic and biographer Dave Hill would describe it as “a long, agitated throb from start to finish” (Hill 130). But where the previous year’s “Sexuality,” for example, was all pulverizing rhythms, “Let’s Pretend” sprinkles on a heaping spoonful of pop sugar, with a tinkling keyboard line that precisely mirrors Prince’s vocal melody.