Review Summary: A highly underrated and often misunderstood epic of an album, Prince shares his love of God and Sex in a rather strange but catchy funk odyssey. Do not let the cover scare you off from listening to this.
It is absolutely ridiculous how much flack this album really gets. While it is flawed in certain places, it is still a fine release from the Purple Prince. Given where the album sits chronologically, it makes it a bit easier to understand why Lovesexy gets this bad press. Let's start by turning the clocks back to 1987.
Prince was coming off of the critical praise of his arguable Magnum Opus, Sign 'O' The Times. While this record showed so many styles of Prince that it gave the listeners a well-intended rush to the head, one must remember that Prince gets bored easily. In October of 1987, a mysterious album showed up at the Executives office at Warner Bros., Prince's label at the time. It was in a black slipcase, with only a tag saying "Something by somebody". This record turned out to be the legendary (and first to be called) "Black Album". The Black Album was a dark piece, with Prince performing some of his funkiest material, as well as going out of his way to lyrically offend people. With copies of this record pressed and ready to be distributed, Prince pulled the plug on the project entirely. Rumors swirled throughout the world. The most consistent of these rumors is one where Prince took Ecstasy, and had a Spiritual Epiphany. He felt that the Black Album was a negative record, and he also felt that if he were to die, he wouldn't want that record to be his last (Given Prince's nature, none of these stories may be true, as Prince himself is quite cryptic).
Come 1988, and we get "Lovesexy". An overly-positive record, it unofficially serves as the Yang to The Black Album's Yin. While The Black Album was certainly not deep, Lovesexy was and still is deep, to Prince at least. The latter statement is what makes this album so bizarre: Nobody really understands this album's concept except for Prince himself. But with any true artist/genius, their best work comes when they don’t have a care for what people think.
One must know that this album is one single track, when in reality it is nine songs with a running time of forty-five minutes. While it can be annoying, it charmingly adds to the theme. This is a fantastic album, musically, so all is forgiven. While it is indeed funky, Prince started to further explore Soul and Gospel as well as blending blistering guitar solos with quiet compositions ("Anna Stesia").
The album famously starts with Prince's protégée at the time, Ingrid Chavez, reciting a quick poem with nice keyboard flourishes that really helps the album's atmosphere. Then out of nowhere, Prince says "Welcome to the New Power Generation/ The Reason why my voice is so clear is cus there's no smack..in my brain" (HINT!) . "Eye No" kicks into full force with music so good that you can't help but truly smile. Then of course we get "Alphabet St.", one of his best singles ever with some of the most inspiring lyrics of his career "We're goin' down down down/ If that’s the only way/ To make this cruel cruel world hear what we gotta say/ Put the right letters together/ and make a better day". With it's simple but lovely drum beat and honky-tonk guitar, its no wonder why this was the album's lead off single.
Next we have "Glam Slam". While not one of the best songs on this LP, it still is deviously catchy, especially the lyrics. Earlier in the review, I had mentioned "Anna Stesia", which is track four. This song needs to be heard by you, right now. Vocally, Prince shines and his desire to find love and sex and mix it with God really works on this tune. To put it bluntly, this is the obvious choice to pick to sum up Lovesexy's theme. Sadly, Prince does not perform this song enough as he should live, as it is an anthem of a song. See for yourself.
Things get a bit slow with "Dance On", an unfocused mish mash of Sheila E.'s fantastic drumming and Prince's guitar doodling. This is the only true weak point on this record; however it should not be discarded as it still is good enough. Moving along, the title track is next. This is another track that shows Prince's hints of his ecstasy experience ("Everybody on the block say it is the best/ the most vital is what they say.."). The chorus also is hints galore ("This feeling's so good in every single way/ I want it morning noon and night of every day/ and if by chance I can not have it I can say/ Baby I know heaven isn’t just a kiss away""). A fun, quirky song, the title track really shows off the party theme to the album.
The next three songs are some of Prince's finest songs, ever. "When 2 R In Love", taken from The Black Album and the song itself working better with this album, is so sexy it hurts. This song should be more well-known, as the melody is so fine and catchy that it would make any girl melt. A true love ballad, you can bet you’ll play it again after you hear it. I can not stress to you how great this song is. But one good song deserves another song, and we have just that with "Eye Wish U Heaven", a remarkable song. Short and to the point, the track uses a lot of space and with Princes verses is an underlying guitar riff that needs to be heard to be believed. Only Prince can make such a pretty song have such a hard guitar crunch as an afterthought. Not to mention this track's chorus is highly intoxicating. A good wedding song to say the least.
Finally, the album ends with "Positivity". What really works with this track is the positive message but with such dark music. With finely done Saxophone leads by Eric Leeds, and its haunting soul underneath, it truly shines. The album ends with a sound effect of flowing water, and emotional keyboards that’s both uplifting and down-pointing.
Another (not so) notable mention is the cover. The old wives' tale is that people refused to stock the album due to the cover, and even went as far as selling it behind the counter. While it may have scared people, one should never ever judge an album by its cover, as it shows Prince gleaming with happiness, and with that comes great music.
This album's ensuing tour flopped in the USA, while it made record-breaking numbers in Europe. It’s such a shame about that, because the Lovesexy tour is well-loved in the Prince Fan community. If you are at all curious to know about this tour (which is HIGHLY recommended), a professionally filmed show from Germany is widely circulated on the net, and it is a fascinating show. Prince enters the stage in a Thunderbird in keeping true to the lyrics in Alphabet St. After that, he shoots hoops, gets tied up, and has his back-up dancer sing "Head" with the microphone in his genital area. 1988 was a year of confidence for Prince. It was such a confidence that it was widely misunderstood, when in reality Prince just wanted to spread his butter love, his LOVESEXY feeling.