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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2013
“Cream”, the second single off Diamonds and Pearls, might be Prince’s least well-known #1 single. The track features a casual, locked-in groove as well as a lot of playful guitar

“Cream”, the second single off Diamonds and Pearls, might be Prince’s least well-known #1 hit, with one possible exception. It was his fifth and final (thus far) #1, after “When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Kiss”, and “Batdance”. It is his only #1 single that can’t be connected to a motion picture.

The low grumblings that open the song are cinematic, in a way—they give hint to the porn-like atmosphere that is to come on “Gett Off”. But then Michael Bland’s drums kick in, brightly, and a melodic guitar line enters that will serve as a continual counterpart to—a conversation partner for, really—Prince.

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Monday, Oct 7, 2013
Prince might be verbally eschewing the excesses of capitalism and consumerism, yet musically he seems to be seeking a kind of excess that might recall the same, bringing to mind “the glamorous life”.

Prince ballads can be separated out into a variety of subtypes. Of course there are the bedtime love-making jams (“Do Me Baby”). There are more austere confessional love letters (“Forever in My Life”). There are versions of the same with more melancholy or tragic overtones (“Condition of the Heart”).  There are those attempting to join intimate love songs with larger philosophical statements about society (“Free”). And there are attempts to take one of these and make it more mythic, more monumental in scope (“Purple Rain”).

“Diamonds and Pearls”, a #3 hit, is Diamonds and Pearls´ attempt at the last category, perhaps, though really it’s a hybrid of every one of these ballad types except the first. It is, essentially, a song where a man asks a woman whether she’d be willing to marry him—though of course this is Prince, so it’s phrased a little differently. He starts, “This will be the day, that you will hear me say / That I will never run away / I am here for you, love is meant for two / Now tell me what you’re gonna do.”

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Monday, Sep 30, 2013
Bragging is the point of the song, as it should be for a song whose position on the album is about hyping up the imagined crowd, getting them excited for the momentous occasion that is the debut of Prince’s new band.

“Thunder”, the first track on Diamonds and Pearls, segues into something closer to what we might expect a bandleader and his band to come up with for an opening salvo: a jam. That is, not a great work of songwriting or a hit single for the ages, but something the band can groove on. It’s a funk song, but with synth parts that give it a vaguely jazzy nightclub feeling. The lyrics drop hints that we’re hearing a band on stage, rocking the house (“Let’s make the whole house move”). That feeling is accentuated by the vocals—by all of the little back-up echoes and asides (lots of “oh Daddy”s and “oh yeahs”, including some spoken ones that give the feeling a crowd is present) and by the back-and-forth between Prince and Rosie Gaines.

Gaines is introduced here as the album’s counterpart for Prince. Not an equal counterpart, but a gifted singer who can play as his foil or his support, depending on the need.  Prince has had female singers play a similar role on individual songs in the past, but never one in the band in the same way, as present, which supports the impression that the New Power Generation is a band, not just supporting characters, whether that’s true or not.

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Monday, Sep 23, 2013
Prince's Diamonds and Pearls is a ridiculous album, in many extremely pleasurable ways, and "Thunder" is a suitably ridiculous way to begin it.

“Thunder” opens Diamonds and Pearls with a moment of grandeur and bombast, one playing into Prince’s longtime interest in combining spirituality and sexuality. The first thing you hear is Prince’s voice multi-tracked to almost resemble a chorus, a feeling echoed by the stern tone in which he sings, “Thunder / All through the night / Promise to see Jesus in the morning light / Take my hand it’ll be alright / C’mon save your soul tonight.”

It’s pure drama, proclaiming an emergency. The call to “save your soul” because of some impending doom is present in the music, too, ominous and vaguely religious at times. Prince sings as if he’s spinning a mythological tale, though if you really listen it seems to be basically a one-night-stand, with a woman in his bed who he sees as either a “sweet savior” or “the devil in disguise”. But then at the moment of climax, things get stranger, as she is an “it”, possibly named Love, which proclaims, “Only the children born of me will remain!” Is that Jesus demanding obedience, a woman proclaiming her hold over him (in the form of children), or something else? There’s also a point where he utters, almost under his breath, “Don’t do it like that / Do it like this”, making us wonder who he is talking to – is he giving love-making instructions, or is that the voice of God, mocked as a tyrant? Or is that Love’s sweet voice telling him how to behave?

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Monday, Sep 16, 2013
Our latest Between the Grooves series examines Prince's Diamonds and Pearls, which offers further explorations into the mysterious/strange sexual side of Prince and his preachy/pedantic side, and also his relaxed/smooth side.

Prince’s 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls, which introduced his band the New Power Generation, is by some counts his second best-selling album period, after Purple Rain. It went double-platinum. It contained his fifth, and final (to date), #1 single. Yet the album does not seem to have stood the test of time with most critics.

Earlier this year, Touré released a book about Prince, I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon, which has no references to the album at all, yet does talk about seemingly lesser works like Graffiti Bridge, Emancipation, and Rainbow Children. In Michaelangelo Matos’ 33 1/3 Series book on Sign O’ the Times, he refers to Diamonds and Pearls as Prince “listlessly copying himself”, equating it to the 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. In the Rolling Stone Album Guide, there are only seven albums, of 33 ranked, that are given an equal or lower star rating than Diamonds and Pearls. They slam it as “overthought and lifeless” and a “blatant aim for commercial appeal” (as if that’s an unlikely m.o. for a superstar among the best-selling artists of his time).

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