As human beings, we know that there are certain unwritten rules in life. Jim Croce warned about the dangers of standing on Superman’s cape and removing the Lone Ranger’s mask. Our president repeatedly emulates “don’t mess with Texas” without saying a word. The cast of Seinfeld spoke of many unwritten rules. And I, your friendly neighborhood music scribe, have my own set of rules. Don’t touch my wife, my car, my food, or Prince’s music.
Normally I am a fan of the cover song. Hearing musicians performing their favorite artist’s music somehow made them more human to me, knowing that they, like me, are just regular old fans. But this is Prince; this is the music that was the soundtrack of a good portion of my young adult-to-adult life. How dare anyone screw around with my memories!
If I Was Prince is not the first time that His Royal Badness’ music has been redone, it’s just the latest collection. As with anything, there have been good examples of this undertaking (TLC’s version of “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, The Afghan Whigs performing “Housequake” and “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” live in concert), as well as the horrible bastardizations, or as I like to call them, causes for justifiable homicide (Leann Rimes doing “Purple Rain”, Mariah Carey butchering “The Beautiful Ones”, etc.).
This collection, released by UK label Rex Records, could be considered a combination of the previously mentioned examples. Luckily for the consumer, though, the bastardizations have been kept to a minimum. “Sexy Dancer”, the opening track as interpreted by 7 Hurts with Peaches and Bitch Lap Lap, comes across as a deliberately lost Spice Girls song. Built around a sample from the original version (from Prince’s 1979 self-titled second album), this cheesy rendering just begs to be skipped. I feel that you will happily oblige. The group Fort Lauderdale follows next with a melodic version of “Annie Christian”, the purple one’s spoken word political tirade from the Controversy album. When questioned as to why he chose this relatively obscure track to cover, Lauderdale’s Steve Webster said it was “an excuse to (add) more guitars (to the song)”. The guitars, as well as the funky bass line, work well here, and will undoubtedly cause heads to nod.
“If I Was Your Girlfriend”, from the phenomenal 1987 masterpiece, Sign O’ The Times, is re-done here by a group known as the Op:L Bastards. While the music is a top-notch, electronic reworking of the original version, the band unfortunately chose to substitute its own lyrics for Prince’s. That being said, this is still the best cut on the disc. Other standouts include “Under the Cherry Moon” by Simian, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” by Broadway Project with Jeb Loy Nichols and “Alphabet Street” by Blue States. Misty Dixon, however, delivers yet another maiming of “The Beautiful Ones” (from the Purple Rain soundtrack). Maybe it’s just that song. It just shouldn’t be sung by anyone but Prince. No one else! Are you listening Britney and Justin?
With eight out of 10 decent tracks and some hilarious liner notes, If I Was Prince is well worth your time and money. Just stay away from “The Beautiful Ones”. All of you!