Episode 41: Automatic

On Episode 41 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, I am joined by first-time podcast guest Farooq Ansari to discuss the cold, robotic funk of “Automatic” from Prince’s 5th album, 1999. Is Prince descending into madness over his inability to shake off a bad relationship? What does the ending mean? Of course, we don’t really know, but we sure had fun offering up some thoughts on this standout track!

“A-U-T-O-Matic. You’re all I wanna do.” 

On this epic nine-minute long Robo-funk jam, Prince explores various emotions from romantic addiction, lust, and dramatic resignation and takes us on a trip through the psyche of a tortured soul. It’s a stomach-churning rollercoaster ride where we’re taken on an evocative journey through the ups and downs of an obsessive and possibly (definitely) unhealthy relationship. We get to experience the desperate need to be with someone so badly that they’ll do anything (“You will?, Yes I will, babe.”), even die if that’s what is being asked of them (“just tell me what to do”). It’s harrowing, a bit spooky, frigid but funky. It’s a quintessential 1999 album track, even though it was technically released as a single in Australia.

An incredible song, from both a musical and lyrical perspective, “Automatic” is an exhausting trip. It starts typical enough, with its standard verse-chorus-verse structure, but then Prince adds a lengthy spoken word section where he gets philosophical (“Can you hear me., Why do I love you so much?”), poetically romantic (“I only pray that when you dream, I’m the one you dream of”) and frankly, a bit sadomasochistic (I’m addicted to your pleasure. I’m addicted to your pain.”). All of this is laid out before us until we’re finally lifted off into a spaceship filled with female torture-aliens in a sort of cathartic release. And we love every second of the exquisite pain.

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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