On Episode 18 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, Karen Shedrick and I talk about the final song on Prince’s self-titled second album, “It’s Gonna Be Lonely.”
“…if you ever leave, I’d be in a messed-up state of blue”
Prince gets deep in his feelings on this spectacularly melodramatic album closer. He sings from a place of desperation, not wanting to lose the person he’s been with for a long time (“we’ve been together for quite some time”). Throughout the song, Prince expresses fear of living life without her and what that will do to his fragile emotional state. We have to take the lines he sings about her planning on leaving him, even though he offers no concrete lyrical proof that she has said as much. Is it possibly a case of his relationship insecurities coming out (“I’m just afraid that if you ever leave, I’d be in a messed-up state of blue”)?
As a listener eavesdropping on Prince attempting to manage the situation, you could almost accuse him of low-level emotional blackmail. Prince’s lines about how her leaving would profoundly affect him as a means to get her to reconsider can be interpreted as a less dangerous version of emotional blackmail. I never get the sense that Prince is threatening to harm himself if she leaves him, but his co-dependency certainly isn’t healthy. He can’t live without her, and he asks her to give him “every little single thing” that he needs. Yikes.
You get the impression from the second verse that while they’ve had good times and Prince makes jokes about their time together (“who could ever resist your accent from gay Paris”), there’s a growing unease that overwhelms him. He begins to understand where the relationship is headed, and it’s bumming him out that she always wants to leave. Is this a case of a casual fling that evolved into something more for Prince, but she’s not at that level of commitment? Or could it even be that his insecurities are the root cause of her wanting to leave? He never feels he’s good enough or that she’s looking for something better, despite her protests, until it’s just too much for her to handle? The line “who do you think you are?” tells me that he’s now frustrated and defeated about her lack of commitment and resignation that she will leave again, possibly for good.
Ending the Prince album on this note, with a flourish of music and vocal acrobatics, brings us a sense of closure on the one hand. On the other hand, we’re left feeling like Prince, stuck in his perpetual cycle of a doomed relationship (break-up, make-up) along with him. The music follows suit, as it doesn’t end either, but slowly fades out. Prince obsessively repeats lines from the song in the outro as if he can’t stop thinking of the awful, inevitable outcome. “It’s Gonna Be Lonely” fades out as the music revolves in a loop while Prince’s depressive madness consumes him. A stunning yet harrowing finish.
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!