Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)

Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)

(Featured Image: Sean Young’s femmebot fatale, Rachael, in Blade Runner, Ridley Scott, 1982; © Warner Bros.)

Having recorded the majority of 1980’s Dirty Mind and 1981’s Controversy at home in Minnesota, Prince shifted gears and made liberal use of Sunset Sound during the sessions for his fifth album in early 1982–his most reliance on a professional recording studio since the 1979’s Prince. On April 28–two days after recording “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?” and a day after cutting an early version of his 1985 hit “Raspberry Beret”–he even did something relatively rare for him: using the more advanced facilities in L.A. to re-record a “demo” from his home studio on Kiowa Trail in Chanhassen.

While his precise motivations for this remake are impossible to surmise, it seems unlikely that recording quality was one of them. A little more polish and the original “Something in the Water” could have passed for a studio take, with its three distinct keyboard parts layered like gauze over elastic bass and pistonlike Linn LM-1. The most prominent of those parts–an angular hook resembling the sound of numbers being dialed on a touch-tone phone–sounds like a more melodic mutation of the synth line from another home studio creation, “Annie Christian.” But where that song’s cold, technologically detached arrangement had extended to Prince’s robotic vocals, here he plays off against the science-fiction musical tropes with an organically soulful melody and acoustic jazz piano.

This literally cyborgian aesthetic has led some to detect the influence of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner in the song–both for its themes of synthetic androids experiencing human emotions and for its soundtrack by Greek musician Vangelis, who similarly blended cutting-edge electronics with more traditionally noir-ish jazz motifs. But Blade Runner didn’t premiere in theaters until June 25, a solid two months after both the original “Something in the Water” and its remake. Most likely, then, the resonances between the two works are coincidental: Prince and Vangelis both drawing from the same well of alienated postmodernity as contemporary synthpop artists like Gary Numan and the Human League.

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Prince Track by Track: “REVELATION”

Prince Track by Track: “REVELATION”

(Featured Image: Prince takes a bow at the Sydney Opera House, February 20, 2016; photo stolen from SERPAN99’s Twitter.)

Well, here we are: my last episode ever of Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast. All told, we recorded 36 of these things over the last 20 months, and it’s been a real pleasure to both talk about some of my favorite songs and educate myself on some other songs I didn’t know much about. Thanks to Darren for taking a chance on me, a complete stranger who responded to his call for guests on Twitter almost two years ago. I think we went out on a pretty good note, if I do say so myself:

Prince Track by Track: “REVELATION”

If you just can’t get enough of listening to me ramble about Prince, I will hopefully be making some other podcast appearances in the near future; and of course, I still hope to put out another one of my own someday. For now, though, you’ll just have to content yourself with reading me ramble about Prince. I’ll be doing some more of that very soon.

Prince Track by Track: “U KNOW”

Prince Track by Track: “U KNOW”

(Featured Image: Prince presides over Paisley Park on the back cover of ART OFFICIAL AGE, 2014; © NPG Records.)

We’re down to my final three appearances on Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast! This time, the subject is (probably) my favorite track from Prince’s last three albums:

Prince Track by Track: “U KNOW”

Also, as promised, my review of Lizzo’s new album is up on Slant Magazine! She’s come a long way from “BOYTROUBLE”:

Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You is a Vessel for Pure Exuberance

Hoping to have another Vanity 6 post up by the end of the week–and, of course, it being Celebration week, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a “new” track to write about sometime in the next couple of days. We’ll see what happens!

Prince Track by Track: “BOYTROUBLE”

Prince Track by Track: “BOYTROUBLE”

(Featured Image: Lizzo pays tribute to Prince in the music video for “Boys,” 2018; © Atlantic Records.)

It’s crazy to think about, but I’m nearing the end of my guest appearances on Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast: just three more to go, one track each from ART OFFICIAL AGE and HITnRUN Phases One and Two. In the meantime, though, the topic is “BOYTROUBLE” from 2014’s PLECTRUMELECTRUM:

Prince Track by Track: “BOYTROUBLE”

This episode is serendipitously well-timed, since Lizzo–one of the featured artists on the track, who has really blown up in the last few years–is releasing her highly-anticipated third studio album Cuz I Love You next week. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be sharing a review of that album soon. And if all goes even more according to plan, I’ll have another track from Vanity 6 posted before then. Stay tuned!