written, composed, produced, sung, guitar/bass guitar/drum kit/keyboard performed by Prince
Early 1980s Prince is my kind of bitch. For one thing, he don’t need no band. He’ll play it all himself and do it well, no thanks to you. Second, he’s perfectly willing to spend three minutes making feminine/gay sex noises over a slow jam. He knows no shame and he’d fuck you just as soon as play drums at you.
The instrumental performances are strong, quite impressive considering Prince played almost every part on the album (a practice he would soon abandon). The arrangements and performances have a lot of personality, in contrast to Michael Jackson’s Bad, which I reviewed (a few hours ago el oh el). While there aren’t as many lead guitar antics as on later Prince albums there are just enough to let you know he can shred, an impressive level of restraint. The singing is typical Prince, with a priority on expression over pitch (not that it’s ever out of tune or anything).
There are basically three kinds of tracks on the album: funk jams, slow fuck jams, and uptempo party romps. The latter category features weird, chirpy organ work that reminds me of John Cougar or something. None of the album’s tracks were big hits, at least as far as I know (what, me research?!) but a handful of tracks are pretty catchy. The others are more concerned with creating gritty, funky jams, replete with slap bass, handclaps, and staccato synths.
The standout track for me is “Annie Christian” (like anti-Christian, get it?), as it presents a dreamlike atmosphere that almost suggests a drum n’ bass feel, years ahead of its time. Unfortunately, Prince just chants on this track but there is a very catchy melody suggested by the synth lines, complimented by clever guitar interjections.
To date, this is the earliest Prince album I’ve heard, although I’ve heard the singles from his earlier albums. I would say Controversy presents a transition between his gritty funkcentric beginnings and his more mainstream but relatively bloated mid-80s efforts. This album is actually stronger than the much more famous 1999, largely due to an element of discipline largely absent from that later work.
On a final note, the final track is entitled Jack U Off. Prince spends the entire song attempted to convince some poor sap to submit to Prince’s jacking-off advancements. In my vernacular, “jacking off” refers to the act of gripping a penis and stroking it repeatedly. Is Prince begging to give some dude a handjob or can jacking off apply to the ladies’ unmentionables, as well?