Musicheads Essentials: Prince - Controversy

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Prince Controversy Album cover
Prince's album 'Controversy' was released on October 14, 1981 (Courtesy Warner Brothers)
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Musicheads Essentials: Prince, Controversy
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Prince dropped Controversy on October 14, 1981 — and it was his fourth album in four years. His breakneck album release and touring cycles had courted considerable audience numbers... and as the album title indicates, considerable controversy.

Tackling the frequent questions and topics hurled at him by the first three records — For You, Prince, and, Dirty Mind — Prince turned the questions back on his audience. His new approach yielded great results, with the title track hitting #3 on the R&B chart (only #70 on the Pop charts). His other topics included political spheres — foreign affairs, " Ronnie talk to Russia"; domestic affairs, "Annie Christian" — earning him the honor of being Sly Stones's "most formidable heir" for socially conscious songwriting, according to Rolling Stone.

Controversy also solidified the idea that Prince would soon need a band. Previous albums have Prince playing all the instruments on all the songs; on Controversy, you hear the André Cymone-penned "Do Me, Baby" and Lisa Coleman, Matt Fink and Bobby Z all perform on "Jack U Off," a nascent version of the band soon to be known as The Revolution.

Also of note: the album cover is the first popular association with Prince and the color purple. It's the first time Prince's sensational spelling (non-standard spelling for special effect) with "Jack U Off." Two iconic associations that would follow him for the rest of his career.

If the first three albums declared the sexy, young, virile Prince, Controversy established him as a nuanced songwriter poised for stardom in the years to come.

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