284: My Computer

Emancipation (1996)
In a time before online escapism became opium for the masses, Prince surfs the web for a better life… a better life… a better life… and as this era precedes the Internet pollution of YouTube comments and social media echo-chambers, it’s possible that he finds it. My Computer is a warm screen-glow of techno-optimism  – the yang to Emales dark, sinister yin – and allegedly features vocals from Kate Bush, although you wouldn’t know from listening. Her contribution is buried and distorted beyond recognition. I’m reminded of South Park’s TV debut where George Clooney voiceovers a dog’s “woof”. Or the Brian Wilson song where Paul McCartney is recorded chewing celery. In those instances, an A-lister punching below their weight is done for comic effect. The fact that Gwen Stefani and Sheryl Crow also get under-used on Prince’s later “collaborations” album suggests that with him we’re seeing an aversion to sharing the limelight with anybody who’s not a rapper, part of his band, or a protégé in his own image. Or maybe two centres of the universe can’t exist in one recording studio. Wasted opportunity aside, My Computer is Emancipation’s third-disc highlight and despite sampling and serenading cold technology, the vinyl-crackles and sitar-kisses exude a warmth seldom found elsewhere on this album. It’s a sunny travel commercial for an electronic utopia. Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to search for a thing called Second Life.