Apollonia 6 (1984)

In some respects, Patricia Kotero won the lottery. She was chosen to replace Denise Matthews, better known as the singer Vanity, as the female lead in the upcoming motion picture starring the musician, Prince. She went from model to NFL cheerleader (L.A. Rams) to TV & music video actress to major motion picture actress co-starring with the soon to be biggest pop star on the planet. She would even parlay this opportunity into a brief singing career, including the “lead” in her own girl group, Apollonia 6.

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Apollonia 6 – left to right: Susan Moonsie, Apollonia Kotero, Brenda Bennett

In other respects, maybe one could look at this opportunity as having its drawbacks. She would be incessantly compared to her girl group predecessor, Vanity, at every opportunity, even 36 years later. Acting ability. Stage presence. Sex appeal. Singing ability. You name it, and the two were and will be forever compared against it. Even though she was thrust into the limelight and into a musical group, singing was never Kotero’s greatest strength. While a competent vocalist, she could never live up to the talents possessed by other major female singers of the era that worked with or sang Prince songs, such as Chaka Khan, Jill Jones, Sheila E. etc.

Then what is Kotero’s legacy within the Prince community? Simple eye candy with a pair of ample assets that were shown off in the film? Another (misidentified – Kotero was married during the filming of Purple Rain) Prince girlfriend? A pretty face propped up to lead a singing group simply because she was in the film? Yeah, it kind of sucks that some think of Kotero in this manner, but in my opinion, the artist “Apollonia” earned her legacy as part of a group that released one very solid to great album in the fall of 1984.

unnamedIn the film, Purple Rain, Apollonia is offered an opportunity to front a girl group managed by Morris Day. Despite her affections for The Kid (Prince), she takes that opportunity knowing the two musicians are rivals and it could cause friction in her budding relationship with the moody, volatile icon in the making. This is why she came to Minneapolis in the first place, after all. To become a star. Meeting The Kid was a bonus.

We see Morris barking orders to the group, dubbed Apollonia 6, getting them into performing shape for an upcoming showcase. A make or break moment for sure. The song they perform while wearing camisoles, garters, stockings and a whole lot of hairspray and make-up? “Sex Shooter”. “I’m a sex shooter. Shooting love in your direction.” Sounds silly and in the context of the film, it kind of is. I distinctly remember watching Purple Rain as a kid and thinking that song was bad, epically bad. The trio’s (Apollonia, Brenda Bennett, Susan Moonsie) choreographed movements looked stiff. Their outfits, while titillating, were simultaneously ridiculous. The lyrics, embarrassing. The music was cool. Nice groove, memorable synth. I dug it. It was nothing I needed to own though.

The thing is, “Sex Shooter” is a song that has grown on me over the past few decades. Exponentially. Maybe its simply nostalgia or maybe I just needed to grow the fuck up before I could appreciate the intended overt sexuality on display. Whatever it is, I hear that opening synth note held for affect, the Linn-Drum machine beat kicks in, and I’m transported to the hyper-sexualized female trio portrayed on film. Performing their one and only song for noisy, enraptured club crowd. All of the men, and probably some of the women, fucking each of them with their eyes. The Kid sees it and is disgusted by the display. A simple song and performance has that ability. To instantly transport the listener back to a time. To a place. Images of music videos or film scenes or something else entirely, playback in your mind. “Sex Shooter” is that kind of song. Prince and Apollonia 6 made that happen.

Apollonia 6, the self titled one and only album by the group, was intended to capitalize off the enormous success of the Purple Rain film and soundtrack. The official soundtrack did not include any songs from artists other than Prince and the Revolution, so if you enjoyed “Jungle Love” or “Sex Shooter” from the film, you were encouraged to buy The Time and Apollonia 6’s full length albums. Or at least the singles.

21ca460ae6ac5fe71f4930467a5018fcApollonia 6 is more than just “Sex Shooter” and some filler. Far, far more in my opinion. Apollonia was the star and the front woman, but the album’s real MVP was Brenda Bennett. Brenda and Susan were the carryovers from Vanity 6 but remained in the background in most promotional shots and more importantly, in the film and on the album cover. However, if you listen to all 7 tracks (just over 34 minutes of music), you’ll notice that Apollonia and Susan are either conspicuously quiet, or simply absent.

The first two tracks on the album, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Christian” and “Sex Shooter”, feature Apollonia primarily on vocals. This was a smart choice to feature the “star” of the show right off the bat. Reel the listeners in. Additional vocals by Brenda, Susan and The Revolution (Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman), can be heard on the track, but make no mistake, this is Apollonia’s song. It’s pleasant and upbeat, but something about the synth line used to drive the groove made it sound much more juvenile than it needed to be.

“Sex Shooter” was the only single released from the album that charted. While it didn’t make much of a dent on the pop chart, it was a success on the Dance and R&B charts. It is arguably the best song on the album. It is undisputedly the most well known song on the album, however. Whether you like Apollonia’s version, the bootleg version that featured Vanity on lead vocals, or the Prince recording found on the Originals album released in 2019, this song is a banger. My much younger self was an idiot, clearly.

Side A closes with “Blue Limousine”, which is my personal favorite song on the album. It’s a Brenda Bennett mid-tempo dance number in which she chastises her man for leaving her waiting to go out on the town. He was supposed to pick her up in his blue limousine but she suspects he’s running late, not because of a flat tire, but because he’s a cheating scumbag. The song continues to count up as the track progresses, “7:31 and there’s still no sign of my baby’s blue limousine”. “Blue Limousine” was also released as a single but it did not chart on the pop or dance charts, but went top 20 on the R&B charts. An underrated gem for sure.

Side B kicks off with another Brenda number, “A Million Miles (I Love You)”. A funky and upbeat track that’s maybe the most unheralded song on the album. I love how the song moves. Its groove, the drums, guitar, everything. Brenda’s vocals are on point here as well, in a way that she didn’t really showcase on the couple of songs she sung on the Vanity 6 album. This song is the jam of side B. It doesn’t hurt that Prince’s vocals can be heard mid-way through the song and it ends with Sheila E doing her high energy latin flavored thing on the drums. It’s another overall stellar track.

Susan’s one and only contribution to the album is the next track, the oddly titled “Ooo She She Wa Wa”. After over a minute and a half of studio banter between the three women, which seriously drags on way too fucking long to pad the length of the LP, a cool new wave groove kicks in. Think back to “Make Up”, another Susan lead vocal track on the Vanity 6 album. “Ooo She She Wa Wa” is a spiritual successor to that sound. The lyrics and vocals are simple and fit Susan’s persona in the group as the immature, teddy bear holding, acting younger than she really is member of the group. She even tells her suitor that giving her “candy” will make her happy. Oh lord. The song gets interesting half-way through when it slows down to a crawl, like the listener is on some sort of narcotic that makes your brain feel sludgy. This song has an overall cool sound but it’s very, very slight lyrically. Susan is known as the non-singer in the group, and it’s clear this track was written especially to give her something to do. Both of her contributions to the Vanity 6 album, “Drive Me Wild” and “Make Up”, are sing-spoken and this track is no different.

Brenda’s next track, “Some Kind of Lover”, is the album’s only real ballad. Ballads typically require true singing ability (see “3 x 2 = 6” on the Vanity 6 album for an example of one that didn’t quite hit the mark) to pull off and thankfully Brenda is up to the task again. As the best singer in the group, and arguably was even when Vanity was still around, Brenda does a wonderful job on this nice, if unspectacular track.

unnamed (1)The album’s finale, “In A Spanish Villa” sees the return of Apollonia in the lead vocal position, for the first time since the middle of side A. I use the term “vocal” loosely when referring to this track, as it is a spoken word, spanish language, guitar based song with a breezy and flirty vibe. Kind of like Apollonia’s ’80s persona put to music. It’s short and sweet and forgettable, but a suitable ending to the album.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Christian (3/5)

Sex Shooter (5/5)

Blue Limousine (5/5)

A Million Miles (I Love You) (4/5)

Ooo She She Wa Wa (3.5/5

Some Kind of Lover (3/5)

In A Spanish Villa (2.5/5)

Earlier in this post, I mentioned how Apollonia would be compared to Vanity throughout her career, especially the portion that existed in the music business. Well, I’m going to do the same thing with their respective albums. I actually have to say I enjoy the Apollonia 6 record slightly better than Vanity 6, although not in a real discernible way.

After Apollonia left the group in 1985 to continue with her acting career, Prince decided to move on from the entire girl group concept. Songs like “Manic Monday”, originally intended for Apollonia 6, would find a home with other artists. He had already begun putting the pieces together for another side project, called The Family. This new group featured members of the fractured Time project as well as his new girlfriend, Susannah Melvoin (Revolution guitarist Wendy’s twin sister). Apollonia 6 was now a relic of the Purple Rain era that Prince was eager to move beyond. This time capsule from 1984 didn’t stand tall as a monster record like the other Purple Rain era releases that year, but the album truly deserves more love and attention.

Overall: 3.5/5

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