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: “Deconstruction”

Prince Track by Track: “Deconstruction”

(Featured Image: No, not that deconstruction; photo stolen from the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.)

Allow me to begin this post with the opposite of my usual spiel: I’m actually almost finished with the next song and will post it tomorrow. In the meantime, though, here’s my latest appearance on Darren Husted’s Prince: Track by Track podcast, on the most obscure track I’ve had the pleasure to discuss:

Prince Track by Track: “Deconstruction”

I have a relatively ambitious plan to wrap up with Controversy in the next week or so… wish me luck, and see you tomorrow!

Podcast: The Evolution Will Be Colorized – Zack Stiegler on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

Podcast: The Evolution Will Be Colorized – Zack Stiegler on the Salford Purple Reign Conference

(Featured Image: Cover for “The War” CD Promo, © NPG Records.)

This episode, it’s 2 Zacks United 4 Prince Conference (sorry) as your usual host, Zach Hoskins, talks to Zack Stiegler, Associate Professor in Communications Media Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. As in my last episode with Jane Clare Jones, we’re here to talk about Zack’s time at the University of Salford’s interdisciplinary Prince conference back in May;  but we also touch upon a lot of other interesting subjects, including Prince’s ever-shifting attitudes toward the Internet, his racial consciousness, and the subtle (/sometimes not-so-subtle) current of Afrofuturism in his work.

Again, I’ll be posting more of these conversations in the weeks to come–already have another one in the can, in fact!–and would love to speak to anyone else who attended the conference and wants to chat. If you enjoyed this and would like to hear more, remember to subscribe and (if you want!) review the podcast on any of the major services: iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play. I’ll also be adding the episode to Mixcloud, but frankly I’m not always as good at doing that in a timely fashion. See you again soon!

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