Sunday, 27 June 2010


Prince - Controversy

Controversy has to be one of the most important pop songs of the 80s. Truly seminal, it set a blueprint for not only dance-based pop in that decade but for the more interesting side of house music in the 1990s and beyond. One look at the live version at Bloomington and anyone who went to the Daft Punk Alive tours in 2007 can see exactly where they got their inspiration.

Live in Bloomington 1983

Lyrically it brought a serious edge to what could have been a tongue-in-cheek, self-referential record. "Some people want to die, so they can be free" is juxtaposed with "Some people call me rude, I wish we all were nude, I wish there was no black and white, I wish there was no rules". Yes, it is slightly ridiculous but it sought to speak to all those teenagers finding themselves and dealing with not fitting into society's or their own family's expectations.

The move from the driving 4/4 beat into the chorus is magical, and comes from nowhere - resetting people's assumption of what could be achieved with dance music. Unlike the 4/4 driving tunes that Talking Heads were producing at the same time, Prince managed to marry the danceability of house/disco with killer hooks and populist choruses.

The disco revival of 2008 gave the song another audience, with younger DJs and artists, like Holy Ghost putting it into mixes alongside tracks by artists such as Hercules and the Love Affair.

Holy Ghost! - I will come back

And even less obvious artists like Minus' Jesse Heartthrob have spoken about the influence that Prince, and specifically Controversy, had on their musical development.

Live in Houston 1981

Controversy might have seemed like an obvious song title and topic for Prince to have opted for, but he managed to deliver something that was so much more than simply a headline-grabbing slab of forgettable pop.

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