116: I Hate U

The Gold Experience (1995)
This venom-sweet song was Prince’s first single after the independently-released The Most Beautiful Girl in the World and the contrast between the two ballads couldn’t be more stark. If the earlier release is a totem of his love for Mayte, then it’s hard not to view I Hate U as his outstretched middle finger to Warner Bros after he returned to the fold – a reading not helped by SLAVE being written on his face in the accompanying video. I Hate U was not the soundtrack to my first broken heart (Massive Attack fulfilled that role) but I do remember the lyrics helping my flailing attempt to pick up the pieces. The concept that you could love and hate somebody at the same time was new to me and discovering this song was like finding my symptoms in a medical journal. Maybe I was a particularly sheltered late-teen but realising love and hate weren’t polar emotions and could feed each other much more than nothingness could was universe-realigning. Obviously the idea wasn’t new. The Persuaders’ thin line is one of the main themes of both Othello and Romeo & Juliet. I read the latter play around the same time I first heard I Hate U, but Romeo’s brawling love and loving hate or Juliet bemoaning why her only love sprang from her only hate didn’t speak to me as directly as I hate you because I love you but I can’t love you because I hate you… ’cause you’re all that’s ever on my mind. Boom! Doc, you nailed it! What’s the prognosis? In I Like it There Prince worried what he could say that Shakespeare hadn’t said before (which probably explains why the next line contains a dubious abortion simile and the phrase “emotional ejaculate”) but in I Hate U he worded it better than the bard and his arsenal of oxymorons ever could.