121: Don’t Play Me

The Truth single (1997) / The Truth (1998)
The Truth’s title track has music that sounds intimate and revealing but the lyrics read like a catechism. A song with a stronger, more personal claim to the truth follows it on both the album and single. Don’t Play Me continues the acoustic rawness but this time the lyrics back up the confessional vibe. Instead of a religious questionnaire Prince drops truth bomb after truth bomb with no protective shield of metaphors to absorb the blast. It’s one of his most candid tracks. In Controversy he fed his mystique by asking “am I black or white, am I straight or gay?”. Here he bluntly answers both questions like he’s filling in a personal ad. As well as giving us his dating profile, he also manages to rattle through all his favourite topics, despite it being a short track. God, race, and the concept of time all get a look in, as well as the emptiness at the top of fame’s mountaintop as he revealed like a pimped up Zarathustra in My Name is Prince. My favourite line is the one about his only competition being himself in the past. That’s not arrogance, it’s Prince succinctly summing up his biggest nemesis. It’s funny to me now but when I first heard Don’t Play Me I found the bravest lyric of them all to be Prince admitting he’s over thirty. To my young ears that made him sound ancient. Like my parents. Of course now, being a similar age, I realise he was acting coy. The more accurate “almost forty” still would have scanned.