1999 by Prince
9 Apr 2022
By 24, young genius Prince had already released 4 albums, all of which were self-produced and were almost entirely performed by the purple one himself. His 5th album 1999 signalled a tangent in his career by way of recording with his live band The Revolution. It was Prince’s first billboard top 10 album, catapulting him to new heights which would spiral further with the album Purple Rain which followed 2 years later. Clocking in at just over 70 minutes, 1999 is an epic album which is often impressive, but perhaps does not hold together as a coherent piece of art.
It has beautifully crafted songs that infuse rock and soul seamlessly in almost radio-friendly packages (“Little Red Corvette”, “Delirious”, “Free”). Then there are the more experimental, obscure tracks (“All the Critics Love U", “International Lover”). The meat of the album however comes in the form of dance oriented jams that are frankly far too long. “Let’s Pretend We’re Married”, “D.M.S.R” and “Automatic”, while entertaining and edgy, feel overly repetitive and outstay their welcome, especially as they are grouped together around the album’s fatty middle. “Lady Cab Driver” is as long, but is easier to digest with its seriously groovy funk (be aware if playing this song in public, there is a sexy noises section that may be genuine). The title track is a Prince classic, but the radio-version we all know is almost half the length of the one here, which is much darker with apocalyptic undertones - that’s fine, but it can make it awkward on the dance floor when we hear the child’s voice asking “Mummy, why does everybody have a bomb?” Somehow this matches the tone of the whole album, as there is always an underlying sense of unease, like a dancer at a club realising they left the gas on at home, but continuing to dance anyway.
Every track on 1999 is a feat of exquisite musicianship, but as a whole the album feels like a bloated myriad of ideas that are in desperate need of a trim. It teeters on the tightrope between sublime songs and elongated dance tracks - all of these would be fantastic on stage with Prince and The Revolution in the glory of their musical prowess and showmanship.
Perhaps not as a studio album.