20: Anna Stesia

Lovesexy (1988)
“Between white and black, night and day” 

Anna Stesia is a dividing line. It sits between the two battling halves of Prince’s psyche and tells the story of his Blue Tuesday – the night a bad trip and an encounter with Ingrid Chavez ended his plans to release the Black Album, and began the more positive-minded Lovesexy era.

On tour, Anna Stesia divided the shows’ first half devoted to lust, and the second half of spiritual material. It arrives after Prince’s Camille character is shot dead and uses stage hydraulics to depict his rebirth and ascension to a higher plane.

The song itself is the concert experience in miniature. Its first half is dark and Godless. Prince is feeling empty and alone, and is looking to numb those feelings via his usual method: sex. He seeks anaesthesia, which seems to arrive in the form of a woman in a nightclub (played in real life by Chavez). But this encounter isn’t his usual palliative of temporary oblivion – it’s the start of a spiritual awakening where he finds the solace he seeks in God. Anaesthesia becomes Anastasia, taken from the Greek word for resurrection. The bleakness dissipates and the song morphs into the most glorious acid-drenched gospel Prince ever wrote. 

The chorus, so full of desperation and ego (the word ‘me is used seven times) only appears once in the second half, distorted into the fading cry of a banished demon. A new refrain takes its place. “Love is God. God is love. Girls and boys love God above”.

Prince may have not been the first person to flip John the Evangelist’s phrase ‘God is Love’ (1 John 4:8) – the German philosopher Jakob Böhme beat him by about 350 years – but he was the first to loop its beautiful symmetry into an Elysian chant which stays with you long after the song has finished. The world isn’t short of dusty theologians arguing how love can never be God, but I can’t think of a more powerful advertisement for monotheism.   

According to Prince, this was his mother’s favourite song of his. There are days when it’s mine too. Who needs to wait in vain to be graced by a spiritual epiphany when you can uncork this bottle of Damascene elixir at will.