Prince and the New Power Generation
Diamonds and Pearls
US: 1 Oct 1991
UK: 1 Oct 1991
Prince has scores of songs with moments that you could take as musical versions of scenes from adult films—“Darling Nikki”, “Little Red Corvette”, much of Dirty Mind. Cries of pleasure are often used as musical cues and Prince beckons us into a bedroom often. But chief among them is “Gett Off”. The last song added to Diamonds and Pearls (replacing one called “Horny Pony”), it also was the first single. The scenario and sound the song presents are distinctly different than the rest of the album, though the sense of a peacock strutting remains.
Debuted in a 10-minute version at a club to celebrate Prince’s 33rd birthday, the song’s basement funk does suggest a party in some secretive, shadowy location. After an introductory scream from Prince, and some wailing of uncertain demeanor, we’re brought inside. The words “club mix” are uttered a couple times at the beginning too, suggesting both that this is party music and that there are other versions of this song that the listener isn’t hearing. That provides an extra insinuation of secrecy.
Musically the song suggests a mysterious scene, and suggests that this is where Prince feels at home. “Here we are in my paisley crib…” he starts at one point, and the entire song is like a beckoning into the center of Prince’s devious Don Juan persona. The way the song starts, and how it abruptly changes the scene from the lighter, airier last song, it sounds like we’re being led into a dark chamber.
But then when Prince begins, he sounds weirdly insecure, his voice lower, quieter and more wavering than usual—even while he’s being blunt and beckoning. His opening salvo—“I’m going to put this in a way so as not to offend or unnerve / There’s a rumor going all around that you ain’t been getting served”. Then he admits that all he wants to do is wrong, and makes his offer of “23 positions in a one-night-stand”.
It gets dirtier from there, with Prince telling his intended tryst that he’s heard about her fantasies, the one “about a little box with a mirror and a tongue inside”, which goes in a direction so extreme that he doesn’t dare speak it aloud.
Beyond half-hearted attempts to make the song a pedantic call for everyone everywhere to “get off” (a la the head-scratching “Everybody grab a body / Pump it like you want somebody”), the song’s lyrical strengths are in odd specificity. It’s filled with colorful versions of pick-up lines, essentially Prince finding different ways to convince a woman to enter his bed. It’s a rap song, in that he’s laying down a rap and hoping she bites.
There’s something old-fashioned about his spiel, and also eccentric, from his promise/threat to strip her down like he’s unwrapping a candy bar, against a parking meter no less, to the point where he mock-samples James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn”, by daydreaming “reminds me of something James used to say”… and then imitating him for a few seconds—in the middle of explaining to his would-be-lover why he doesn’t serve ribs at his house.
The song is all about atmosphere and suggestion, from Prince’s come-ons over churning bass and persistent drums to Eric Leeds’ flute-playing, vaguely reminiscent of the pseudo-Middle Eastern cue a cartoon or movie would use to suggest a harem. (If that flute attracts you, seek out the 12” single’s “flutestrumental” version. In fact, the suggestiveness of “Gett Off” made it especially suited for remixes and alternate versions. Interested listeners could seek out the house mix, the original extended mix, etc. Or follow the title back to a b-side for Graffiti Bridge’s song “New Power Generation”, an introductory anthem of sorts for the band, or at least the band name.)
Prince’s voice is just as strong a scene-setter in “Gett Off”. It ranks among the many examples in his discography of Prince twisting and turning his voice in unexpected ways. Here he sings more downcast and shy than the material would seem to warrant, and ends up seeming more alluring and superstar-like for it. A highlight, of the song, and the album, is his sing-song “Let me show you baby I’m a talented boy” which in a way sums up the effortless way Prince in this era was riding his talent and past successes in new directions.
// Notes from the Road
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