“I want to be your lover. I want to turn you on, turn you out. All night long make you shout.”
For the longest time, the only familiarity I had with Prince’s self-titled second album was from the three songs (“I Wanna Be Your Lover,” “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad,” “I Feel For You”) included on “The Hits” package that came out in ’93. I assumed those were the three must-have songs, so I didn’t need the full album.
I corrected my mistake at some point later in the 90s when I started digging deeper into Prince’s back catalog. However, it still took years before I could appreciate the slow-burner tracks such as “It’s Gonna Be Lonely” & “Still Waiting” or even appreciate “Sexy Dancer” for what it was (a pure disco track). Prince was still finding his way lyrically & thematically but with a sharper sense for what made a song a “hit” than on his debut. As a result, Prince hits higher highs than his debut, but love & relationships still dominate the lyrical content. It’s an overall significant next step for Prince and would provide him just enough clout for his next phase.
Track 1 is the first single released off the album, “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” A pretty significant chart hit (#11 on Hot 100, #1 on Hot R&B), it’s a catchy, danceable jam that is pure unadulterated pop. This song gave us Prince’s first official music video, showcasing his ability to play every instrument you hear on the single.
Track 2, “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad,” was the 2nd single released off Prince and is a more rock based R&B song that its predecessor. For whatever reason, it did not chart on the Hot 100, but it remains a fan favorite for a good reason. It’s an excellent song. The music video for this song is notable as the first to show Prince’s band of the era: Andre Cymone, Dez Dickerson, Bobby Z, Matt “Dr.” Fink, & Gayle Chapman.
Track 3, “Sexy Dancer,” is nothing but a good time. It’s a song meant for the club/disco as it’s lyrically simple yet musically adventurous. The best part, for me, is the piano jam towards the end of the track.
Track 4, “When We’re Dancing Close and Slow,” is the side one closer but also a strange and dirty song hidden as a pretty piano ballad on the surface. It’s musically less straightforward than one might expect due to the odd sound effects Prince used and the “ooh-oohs” vocal melodies he creates towards the end of the song.
Track 5, “With You,” is the side two opener on the LP version. It’s a slow jam tailor-made for junior proms. With You is the least musically and lyrically exciting song on the album but it’s still a decent listen. Just not super memorable.
Track 6, “Bambi,” is a hard-rocking’ fan favorite with, how shall I say, interesting lyrical content. “Bambi” is the age-old story of a boy trying to convince a lesbian to give Prince a try because “it’s better with a man.” Ok then, good luck with that, Prince!
Track 7, “Still Waiting,” was the 3rd and final single released from the LP. It has a pseudo-country feel to it, which makes it more interesting than it deserves to be. Not an obvious choice for a single, but “Still Waiting” is a solid ballad intended to show Prince’s range.
Track 8, “I Feel For You” is one of Prince’s most beloved non-singles of all time. It’s an upbeat track with killer vocals, lyrics, and keyboard riffs. Of course, everyone knows the Chaka Khan version released in 1984, but no one should sleep on the original.
Track 9, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” is the long slow burner of a final song off “Prince.” The song is about a boy anticipating his lover leaving him, which shows off Prince’s youthful insecurity. Lonely develops an emotional wallop due to Prince’s unique vocal acrobatics towards the song’s finale. In my opinion, this is the most underrated tracks off the album and deserves way more love.
In summary, Prince is a step up from his debut, thanks to a more adventurous approach to songwriting and a refined appreciation of pop hooks. Prince lets his varied influences show by formulating songs designed to appeal to the R&B and disco crowd, the rock crowd, and the pop crowd. It’s a somewhat eclectic collection of songs but cohesive in their polish. Several iconic tracks come from this album, as well as his first bonafide hit, “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” From a lyrical perspective, the album does many things right, even when they’re kind of wrong when applying a 21st century woke lens (“Bambi”) to them. The hits, either for himself or for others (“I Feel For You”), are what most recall this album for, but it’s the slow-burning “It’s Gonna Be Lonely” that is the album’s hidden gem. When an album such as Prince can satisfy with well-known songs and astonish you with the deep cuts, you have to accept that a record is more than what meets the eye.
Top 5 reasons why Prince is a must-own album.
5. “Bambi’s” rock strut
4. “I Feel For You” was always Prince’s
3. The sneaky way “It’s Gonna Be Lonely” rips your heart out
(tie) 1. The 1-2 opening punch of “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad”
My order of preference of Prince tracks from favorite to least favorite.
- Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? 5/5
- It’s Gonna Be Lonely 5/5
- I Wanna Be Your Lover 5/5
- I Feel For You 4.5/5
- Bambi 4/5
- Still Waiting 3.5/5
- Sexy Dancer 3.5/5
- When We’re Dancing Close and Slow 3.5/5
- With You 3/5
Overall Score: 4.1/5
Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast: PrinceTweet