Episode 33: Annie Christian

On Episode 33 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, Jerry Bonner and I tackle “Annie Christian,” one of the more lyrically interesting songs of Prince’s early catalog. What other track can lay claim to speaking about murder, mayhem, corruption and the anti-Christ? All with a call and response chorus to boot! Come join us on a trip back to the headline grabbing events of 1981 for this Controversy album deep cut.

“Annie Christian, Annie Christ. Until you’re crucified, I’ll live my life in taxicabs”

As dubbed by my co-host for this episode, Jerry Bonner, Prince acts as a Prophet of Doom for this social commentary track on Side B of the Controversy album. With its stark and gloomy production, the song serves as a drastic tonal 180° after the raucous “Let’s Work.” Here, Prince presents a series of human ills plaguing society (murder, corruption) while utilizing an ironic call-and-response technique to highlight possible solutions (gun control, electric chair). I don’t think anyone will misinterpret this song as a party track, however, but it’s effective regardless.

“Annie Christian” is one of those songs that can come across as under-produced with its demo-level sound quality, but in some ways, this approach makes sense considering the grimy and seedy topics that Prince checks off in the lyrics. For Prince, and us as the listeners, this song is all about the lyrics. So much so that it would have made an apt time capsule for future generations to understand what was going on in our society in the very early ‘80s.

Atlanta Child Murders

Murder of John Lennon

Attempted Assassination of President Ronald Reagan

ABSCAM Scandal

Did the devil make them do it? Prince’s play on words, interchanging Annie Christian with Annie Christ (antichrist) in the chorus, certainly brings attention to the religious imagery of good vs. evil, God vs. Satan when discussing how and why bad things happen in our society. Not to mention the use of the word crucify, a word most often bringing to mind the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Prince introduces religion into his music for the first time on the Controversy album, and this is one of the key songs, along with the title track, that we can point to as examples.

Instead of facing his fears head-on, Prince chooses to live his life in taxicabs, which we interpret as staying on the move. As this line is an important one in the song, its interpretation is imperative for the listener’s experience. I want to know how you interpret that line (“until you’re crucified, I’ll live my life in taxicabs”). Did our take match yours, or do you have a completely different theory on what Prince is trying to say here? Let me know!

Prince took an entirely different approach when performing “Annie Christian” live on the Controversy tour in ’81-82. Its a more punk-rock, as opposed to gothic-funk interpretation of the song, and it slays.

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 along with any guest I may have
  • If submitted, discuss listener’s interpretations of each song’s lyrics

Thank you for joining me on this journey through Prince’s catalog!

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