Review Summary: "I just can't believe all the things people say". After Dirty Mind, Prince releases this album and for him, progress was the new black.
What do you do when you release an album as dope as Dirty Mind? To Prince, he almost tried to re-capture that formula that made DM such an astonishing listen, and he (almost) successfully accomplishes that. Sonically comparative to Dirty Mind (Think Ride The Lightning and Master Of Puppets, not musically of course but "not having one without the other"), Controversy is one hell of a listen. Prince seems quite angry on this record. But if one does their research, it all makes sense.
Dirty Mind was a huge stepping stone for Prince in terms that he was finally starting to get the musical praise he so ever deserved. People tended to think he was just a young star with a career that was doomed due to his young age, and good looks. Dirty Mind changed that, and some. Once the latter album was released, people started to realize this little man was certainly not messing around. He upstaged Rick James on a 1980 tour (which resulted in a feud, on James' side mostly), he was booed when opening for The Rolling Stones, and he wasn't heard on the radio because the album was so damn filthy and in your face (see my review for Dirty Mind for more info). To be short (no pun intended): Prince needed to streamline his sound.
Controversy does just that. The title track's lyrical theme deals with the past year of 1980. People thought he was gay (and still do, which he is not). Prince was angry, embittered even! Well, with anger comes fantastic music, and there’s plenty of that on here. The title track stands as one of his all time best, and to this day is a live favorite. It's a beast live, especially with Prince playing rhythm guitar.
Sexuality bursts through one's speakers out of nowhere. An irresistibly funky beat that everybody and their grandmother tried to duplicate (even Judas Priest with "Turbo"!), nobody did it as good as Prince. This sexuality theme carries right into the next track, Do Me Baby. Another favorite of the fans, the track strangely never gets dull in its 7+ minute time, and it shows Prince at his most loving.
Private Joy is a joyous listen, due to it being so catchy, and weird! It’s almost as if this song defines the 80s. Private Joy even made its way into the movie Weird Science (as did the 1999 album in The Breakfast Club where Ally Sheedy is staring at the cover). A fun tune, there’s no real depth to it, so lets move on.
Ronnie, Talk to Russia falls flat on its face even though Prince's guitar tone is worth a mention. However, the next track Lets Work is one of the best Prince Dance tunes ever. It’s a fantastic song, as it makes us all remember why we love the man to begin with. This is also a live favorite, with it making its way onto almost every show on the 2004 Musicology tour. Sadly, Annie Christian also falls flat on its face. An odd tune, it's just there and I’m sad to say its bonafide filler. Strange, because none of Prince's albums from the 80s had any filler whatsoever (he saved his filler for the 90s).
If you don’t know about the song Jack U Off, you better find that song on the net and give it a listen. At first, you’ll scratch your head in disbelief that Prince actually gets away with such a dirty lyrical theme and an even dirtier musical composition. It’s A.W.E.S.O.M.E. (If you’re looking for someone to go/Ill take you to a movie show/sitting in the back/ girl Ill Jack U Off). Wow, and you thought Madonna was pushing the envelope in the 80s.
Controversy is almost Dirty Mind's nicer but just as horny younger brother. With six excellent songs, and two duds, it's no wonder why Prince was as popular as he was in the golden 1980s. The man was progressing in such a fast pace, up was the only direction he could go. After Controversy came 1999, an album just as infamous as the title tracks. Prince was on to something huge at this point, it just needed a few years to perfect. Highly recommended, Controversy stands as one of Prince's finest.