Thursday, May 05, 2005

"Sign o' the Times"

Let's go back and re-examine the theory that Less Is More. This is so spare, bare and simple that it feels, and almost sounds, like nothing at all. Yet it's probably Prince's best song: trembling with suppressed rage, anger and frustration. He doesn't let it show in his voice, which is a gentle and fairly laid-back drawl. The beat doesn't betray anything either - it's a slow, evil, snaking thing. It's in the lyric, which just lays it all out in front of us:

"In France, a skinny man died of a big disease/With a little name/By chance his girlfriend came across a needle/And soon she did the same/At home there are 17-year-old boys/And their idea of fun/Is being in a gang called The Disciples/High on crack and totin' a machine gun/Hurricane Annie ripped the ceiling of a church/And killed everyone inside/U turn on the telly and every other story/Is tellin' U somebody died/A sister killed her baby cuz she couldn't afford 2 feed it/And yet we're sending people 2 the moon/In September, my cousin tried reefer 4 the very first time/Now he's doing horse - it's June."

I make no apologies for quoting so extensively: this is as powerful a lyric as you're likely to come across, and by playing it absolutely straight, and by using such a minimalist musical approach, Prince makes this bold, heartfelt statement ring loudly. By some curious irony, the song that came up on my jukebox right after this was Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA". Now there's a pair of styles to compare and contrast!

1 comment:

Trollmama said...

Once again, beautifully put. I liked the blog about "That's Entertainment" also. You have excellent taste.