My attempt to blog all of the entries from the book 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die
Brief Background: 1999 is a double album that was recorded throughout the first 2/3 of 1982 and was released in October of the same year. While they didn’t appear as musicians on the album, the cover makes note of Prince’s backing band The Revolution.
What I think: As a resident of a Minneapolis suburb profiling a Prince album for this project is an interesting prospect. I have no perspective on how the rest of the country and world feel about him, especially since his passing. He’s certainly royalty here and while not infallible, I feel wholly under-qualified to write about his music. Thankfully, I have good things to say:
We all know the three hit songs from the album, “1999”, “Little Red Corvette” and “Delirious” and these are all amazing funk, rock and pop hybrids that took over the charts all over the world. These all are part of the album, but they also seem to stand apart as well, the really fascinating parts of the album for me are the instrumentation and themes that come after.
First, with the instrumentation. The album is extremely based on synthesized instruments, which really puts it in 1982 and that is a good thing. I guess my surprise here is that unlike Purple Rain, most of the standard guitar parts and solos are gone. That is just something I’ve always taken as part of his sound and to be honest I do miss them on occasion.
The second, item is the themes contained in the album. Prince often quickly moves from sex to spirituality to fun to love often within the same song (D.M.S.R: Dance, Music, Sex, Romance for example). This is something he explored throughout his life and seems to have been able to successfully transition between them in his life. For me, being raised as a Catholic, those ideas still don’t blend together very well. They are all very distinct things. I think a lot of other people feel the same way and despite trying to move past our upbringings it makes a song like “Let’s Pretend We Are Married” amazingly jarring. The seven-minute song mostly contains an ode to seemingly romantic love/sex, even if it is casual. Then it suddenly drops the pretense with Prince explicitly professing his sexual desires, before then declaring his love for God and finally moving on to professing his love for fun (nightlife?). It’s so jarring… and brilliant. I don’t know if any other musician has ever been able to bring such complex themes together in the way he did. Madonna may have come close, but was never as deep into them.
So, the whole album is an exploration of these ideas and while the singles stand out, the rest of the album really works great as a whole piece of the journey.
Do I agree or disagree with the writers as to this being an album you must listen to? It’s a whole as an album, a single piece of work that works. That doesn’t happen very often.
Rating (Out of 5) 4.5
Is this my first time hearing this album? Yes (388/507)
Amount that are new to me: 76%