On Episode 54 of the Press Rewind – Prince Lyrics Podcast, author and blogger Laura Tiebert and I talk about the infamous, scandalous, and downright sexy “Darling Nikki” from Prince’s Purple Rain album. We dig into the cultural significance of the lyrics as both a spark towards the “explicit lyrics” labeling for the music industry AND its depiction of female sexuality. We also dissect the hidden message in the song’s strange and haunting coda and what it might mean in the context of the song and album as a whole.
“Thank you for a funky time. Call me up whenever you wanna grind.”
“Darling Nikki” is a (wet) fever-dream song with fever-dream lyrics on top of synth-pop-metal hooks and demonic-sounding back-masked vocal coda. It’s also the most notorious track on Purple Rain thanks to its somewhat innocuous use of the word “masturbate,” but Tipper Gore’s ire did nothing to dampen the Purple Rain album’s success or Prince’s success’s career. Laura Tiebert suggests that one could make a Filthy Fifteen list of just Prince songs, expanding it to the Filthy Fifty if you’re feeling ambitious and a bit randy.
Beyond the historical significance of the track, Laura and I also dig into its relevance to the film and where the name Nikki came from. After recording the episode, I came across a passage in Duane Tudahl’s book, Prince and the Purple Rain Studio Sessions 1983-1984, that mentions that Vanity’s character in Purple Rain was to be named Nicartha Ann (aka Nikki), hence the title of this song. It rolls off the tongue much more effortless than Darling Apollonia, doesn’t it?
Naturally, our discussion ends with the back-masked vocals, which many believed to be of nefarious intent at the time of release. Anyone in attendance at the Purple Rain tour shows would have heard the forward version of the lyrics, not the backward version. Therefore, they would have realized that Prince was not tempting listeners to embrace Satan and the path of evil, but instead follow God, as the Lord will be coming soon. Coming, coming, soon.
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!