On Episode 15 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, Karen Shedrick & I talk about “Bambi,” the hard rockin’ tale of a boy trying to convince a lesbian that that he’s a more suitable mate.
“I’m gonna show you what it’s like to be loved by a man.”
Karen Shedrick joins me for the first time on the episode for “Bambi,” the hard-rockin’, thematically problematic ode to male sexual frustration. Prince shows his youth and reflects the times in his misguided approach towards same-sex attraction on this track. Thankfully, it doesn’t wholly reduce “Bambi” down to an offensive and regrettable footnote in his discography, thanks mainly to the spectacular guitar histrionics.
“Bambi” is, in essence, a song about a boy that meets a girl who also likes girls and not boys, so the boy tries in vain to convince the girl that sex would be better with him. Naive? Absolutely. Prince even admits as much in the lyrics (“maybe I’m just too naive”) as he ponders the various reasons why she won’t be with him.
Karen and I debate the origin of Prince’s dilemma. Could the song’s lyrics be a case of Prince’s character falling for someone only to be rebuffed by her due to her sexual orientation? Another possibility is that Prince was dating a woman that eventually cheated on him with a woman, which infuriates him, and the end result is an angry, vengeful song. This might explain some of the more violent lyrical tones (“maybe you need to bleed”) and the screaming guitar he plays throughout the song.
One particular line in the song, “but you were untrue, you had another lover, and she looked just like you,” perpetuates this uncertain path of understanding where Prince is coming from. Does “untrue” actually mean that she cheated, or could it simply mean that she didn’t tell him she was gay from the start, all the while accepting that he was falling in love with her? We don’t get any answers from the lyrics, and the tone of the song can be interpreted either way.
“All your lovers, they look just like you. But they can only do the things that you. Come on, baby, take me by the hand. I’m gonna show you what it’s like to be loved by a man.”
Again, these lines speak to the idea that gay or bisexual women are only gay or bisexual because they haven’t been with a man that really knows what he’s doing. While there’s undoubtedly some aspect of Prince’s confidence that can be admired here, it mostly comes off as misogynistic and clueless to how sexuality works.
Prince must have enjoyed playing this song throughout his career. It has a notable appearance on the unreleased The Undertaker project from 1993 and a regular setlist appearance in the Live Out Loud Tour with 3rd Eye Girl in 2013. Maybe less notable, but not less interestingly, Prince offered it to the rapper TC Ellis for a remake/re-imagining on his one and only Paisley Park records release.
The goal of each episode of Press Rewind is to:
- Take a track by track look at the lyrical content of Prince’s discography
- Discuss my own interpretation of each song’s lyrics
- If submitted, discuss listener’s interpretations of each song’s lyrics
Thank you for joining me on this journey through Prince’s catalog!