(Featured Image: Prince’s electric church in the music video for “Controversy,” 1981; © Warner Bros.)
Note: This is the third and last post on “Controversy”: a song that presents so much to unpack, I’ve opted to split my analysis into parts. Please read the first and second parts before proceeding.
Do I believe in God? Do I believe in me?
Of the famous questions Prince asks in the lyrics to “Controversy,” he only answers one–or two, depending on how you count them. The questions are, “Do I believe in God?” and, “Do I believe in me?” The answer–to both, presumably–is “yes.”
More even than the nuances of race and sexuality, this distinction between “God” and “me”–the sacred and the secular, the spirit and the flesh, etc.–was the prevailing theme of Prince’s career. This in itself hardly makes him unique: the “comingling of the profane and the spiritual is an age-old Black music trope,” writes cultural critic Touré. “Quite often in Black music history the erotic and the divine, or the concerns of Saturday night and Sunday morning, are close together in a song or a playing style or an album or a career”–including those of Prince progenitors like Little Richard, James Brown, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and others (Touré 125). But while the majority of these artists vacillated between “God’s music” and “the Devil’s,” Prince’s innovation was in combining the two: making gospel-informed music that erased the fine line between matters of the body and the soul.
Continue reading “Controversy, Part 3: Do I Believe in God? Do I Believe in Me?”
(Featured Image: Theresa Randle in Girl 6, Spike Lee, 1996; © Fox Searchlight Pictures.)
Let me actually start with an update: I’m now about halfway through my second post on “Controversy,” which means it will be on track to go live next week. Very excited to share it; the first “Controversy” post was one of my favorite things I’ve written for d / m / s / r, and this one feels to me like a worthy followup. In the meantime, here’s another episode of the Prince: Track by Track podcast, where host Darren Husted and I talk about one of my favorite deep cuts of the ’90s:
Again, I’ll be back with more next week! See you all soon.
(Featured Image: A man–Stimpy–in the uniform of the Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen; © Paramount Television.)
For those of you (i.e., probably most of you) who don’t follow me on Twitter, here’s a quick blog update: my next song is a monster, so I’m splitting the post into three parts in an effort to both keep things moving and keep my readers from experiencing eye strain. Part one will be up by the end of the week. In the meantime, here’s my latest guest appearance on Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast:
Keep your eyes peeled for that next post, I can’t wait to share it!
(Featured Image: From the Emancipation CD booklet, 1996; © NPG Records/EMI.)
Hello, it’s me, reporting from the middle of a week of other writing and day-job commitments that have given me scarcely enough room to breathe, let alone post on d / m / s / r. Fortunately, as ever, Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast is here to keep up the regular flow of my unsolicited Prince opinions. My latest guest appearance is a particularly historic one, as it finds me liking a song way more than Darren does:
If you enjoyed the drama, spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure I like one of the upcoming Crystal Ball tracks more than Darren does, too. In the meantime, I’ll be back to blogging soon, I promise–just gotta pay some bills first!