Prince
Sign o' the Times


5.0
classic

Review

by Jake Cole USER (18 Reviews)
June 21st, 2008 | 34 replies


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Prince cemented his domination of the 80s by dropping the Revolution and writing the most inspired lyrics of his career, resulting in his magnum opus.

While Michael Jackson was dubbed the King of Pop, nobody made records as brilliant yet chart-courting during the 80s quite like Prince. From the gloriously filthy record Dirty Mind to the first bits of serious experimentation in 1999 to the mega hit Purple Rain, Prince established himself as an artist whose eclectic appearance was matched by his music. After the underperforming film Under a Cherry Moon (which at least gave us the excellent album Parade), Prince split with the Revolution and went back to his old multi-instrumentalist ways. He also took the time to work on his lyrics, and the result exceeds even the masterpiece Purple Rain.

From the start you can tell that Prince stepped up his game. The title track begins with a simple drum machine beat and a funky bassline before Prince delivers the lines “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” And that’s not even all of the first verse. The song tackles AIDS, natural disasters, drugs, the Challenger explosion, and just a general feeling of impending doom. Of course, as with any non-conceptual double album, the songs are all over the place musically and lyrically, so don’t get too used to this new socially aware tone.

While the album deals with a great deal of Prince’s mounting fear of the world around him, there are a number of good old pop songs. "Housequake" is a downright party funk tune, while "It" shows Prince hasn’t lost that marvelous innuendo of his. "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" shows off the guitar histrionics that defined tracks like “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” and has such a lightweight yet still rocking feel that it wouldn’t have sounded too out of place on Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A.. If you find yourself missing the feel of Prince with a band, never fear, "It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" is a live track featuring the Revolution before Prince parted ways with them. While the rest of the album has a very electronic feel, this is good old R&B/funk rave-up complete with deft crowd manipulation from the little genius.

Near the end of the album, the darker tone of the opener seeps back in, starting with "Strange Relationship", which chronicles a dysfunctional relationship and how the couple struggles with wanting to leave and lingering memories of better times. "The Cross" presages the more religious themes of albums like The Rainbow Children. Here, Prince talks about how the dark times “will be taken by the cross.” While it might put off people who don’t want to be preached to, it is a starkly beautiful song that builds into a riffy and emotional plea and it’s one of the highlights on this perfect album. Things take a turn for the better at the end with "Adore", a tender love song with Prince’s best vocal performance.

Effortlessly shifting between lustful dance tunes and dark musings and running the gamut of musical genres, Sign ‘O’ The Times shows the breadth of Prince’s talents and it’s the best argument to support the claim that he is a genius. It's the perfect mix of the one-man-band electronic funk of his early days and the raw emotion and soul of his recordings with the Revolution. It’s one of the precious few double albums that benefits from its haphazard, toss-in-everything-that-didn’t-make-other-albums nature. In short, it’s the Exile on Main St. of funk, a disjointed watershed that was never bettered. Purple Rain might have the hits, but anyone who wants to hear intelligent yet still fun pop music desperately needs this album. If this record was borne out of Prince’s fear of an approaching apocalypse, the end of days never sounded so danceable.



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user ratings (210)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
GeorgeNelson (5)
...

themtunes97 (5)
Sign 'O The Times is an album that will completely leave you blown away, confused, then blown away a...

kygermo (5)
"Man, Im still finding songs on it" -Andre 3000...


Comments:Add a Comment 
DaveBum69
June 21st 2008


699 Comments


purple rain came out in 1999 huh, interesting?

EStreetFan
June 21st 2008


89 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

No, but he released an album before that called 1999. That's why it's italicized.

Tyler
Emeritus
June 21st 2008


7926 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good job, Davebum.

Album is elite. Not sure I'm read to 5 it though.

SHOOTME
June 21st 2008


2393 Comments


Nice review, best album by Prince.

Smileyface
June 21st 2008


309 Comments


classic album, good review.

gimo80
June 22nd 2008


225 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Liked the review, this is absolutely one of my favourite albums ever. And yes DaveBum69, I think you should have read the sentence properly, as 1999 is one of Prince's biggest hits!

Iai
Emeritus
June 22nd 2008


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great record.

elephantREVOLUTION
June 25th 2008


2783 Comments


prince pwns

emmathebeast
June 28th 2008


1 Comments


Starfish and Coffee is the best ever.


kygermo
August 21st 2008


996 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Sign 'O' The Times beats Purple Rain only because SOTT has more songs on it. Every song on this album is great, and even "It" which isnt so great is still great. I'm a Prince freak haha.

kygermo
October 20th 2008


996 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

...and might I add that if a few more people vote for this album highly, it will beat "Tribute" for the number 1 spot for 1987.

StrizzMatik
April 2nd 2009


3220 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Amazing, amazing record. Belongs at the top of every best-album list out there.

firedrum71
August 2nd 2010


21 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

His magnum opus. One of the best albums of the Eighties and of All Time as well. Definately recommended

Athom
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2010


17224 Comments


best prince album

AngelofDeath
Staff Reviewer
December 3rd 2010


16137 Comments


Hmm. I like Purple Rain and Parade better, but this is certainly no slouch.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 24th 2011


15068 Comments


i'm listening to this right now and don't really like it at all

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 24th 2011


15068 Comments


yeah that was really bad and boring jesus

qwe3
September 16th 2011


21369 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol ok

FromDaHood
Contributing Reviewer
October 23rd 2011


9064 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Housequake is so weird

dannyboy89
June 8th 2013


12804 Comments


This is awesome, but imo Purple Rain is better. Some songs are a bit too long imo.



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