Prince and the New Power Generation
Diamonds and Pearls
US: 1 Oct 1991
UK: 1 Oct 1991
With “Push”, Prince eases back into the band-focused, dance-funk side of Diamonds and Pearls. “Eases” is the right word, as the song has an easygoing quality from the start, even with Prince’s sometimes intense falsetto and a certain level of buried anxiety. The comfort level is also unique for a song that at the same time is trying to keep a steady groove that might drive somebody to a nearby dancefloor.
Tony M is here, Rosie Gaines is here; the gang’s all here, or at least it sounds that way. In actuality, Prince plays pretty much all of the instruments. One major theme of this album seems to be “Meet my new band’, yet to a decent extent that’s a ruse. As always, Prince is the man, the star of the show, and that’s how he wants it, even when he also wants us to think he’s sharing the spotlight. At the very least, he’s a perfectionist.
For a while, the song’s apparent lyric focus is motivation, inspiration – “Push until you get to higher ground” (more likely “until U get 2…”, but nevermind). Essentially, the message is don’t listen to the haters, follow your own path. It’s the rare pop song that uses the word “asunder”, though I also think it uses it incorrectly, as a verb (“No man should asunder the joy that another man found”). He also instructs us to “change up like a sock” when someone tries to stop us.
Its length of nearly six minutes allows for surprises. The highlight of the song is the rap section in the last couple minutes, which basically sets up a cipher of sorts where each rapper gets a turn, a crowd nearby yelling for each (“Tony, get on the mic!”). Of course, there’s only three rappers and they are Tony M, Prince, and Rosie Gaines—not exactly a group of show-stopping MCs. At the same time, why I call that section a highlight is in part how goofy it is.
Of the three raps, the goofiest—and for that reason, the most interesting—is Prince’s. He starts with a nervous demeanor and then turns it into a weird affectation, as if that shaky quality isn’t nerves but his rapper voice. He runs through a bunch of the album’s song titles in rap form (including “Horny Pony”, which was deleted), and then tells us he’s “snatching up kiddies like a circus clown”, which is supposed to be what? A boast? It’s a moment that makes me wish there were a Prince album that actually was what people claim Diamonds and Pearls to be—a rap album—but with Prince on the mic all the time. Who knows what brilliant stupidity that might yield?