214: One of Your Tears

The Truth (1998)
There’s two back-to-back songs on The Truth concerning souls returning from the dead, but the motivation behind them couldn’t be further apart. Comeback, written around the time Prince lost his son, features the heart-wrenching line “never say the words they’re gone, they’ll come back”. Nature abhors a vacuum and belief that death isn’t final is welcome solace. Yet the album’s preceding track One of Your Tears is more concerned with inflicting pain than relieving it. The music may be as light as air, but unpack the lyrics and a hydrogen cloud of hurt, revenge and suicidal nihilism blooms out. The singer is tormented by mental images of his lover’s infidelity and wishes to “disappear; cease 2 exist; cease 2 be here” after she sends him a used condom in the post. Both Nietzsche and Freud believed aggression and cruelty were fundamental parts of human nature and when unable to satisfy our violent urges we turn on ourselves. The act of willing nothingness is our death drive (Freud) or will to power (Nietzsche) taking the short route to escape life’s suffering, but it’s also a stifled form of aggression. The singer wants to respond to the cruelty inflicted on him and retaliates the only way he can: he wishes he was dead but still wants to be around to see the upset it would cause. I want to die and come back as one of your tears. Reincarnation as revenge. And yet this line still reveals a desire to be close and intimate with his tormentor too. What amazes me in both these songs is how much Prince paints with so little. They’re barely more than a verse and a chorus each but the grief is three dimensional. In One of Your Tears especially, the line I just quoted contains a world of conflicting emotions in just twelve words, and I consider it one of the greatest lines of poetry he ever wrote.