On the surface Private Joy isn’t a huge departure from anything found on the previous two albums; a lighthearted synth-pop song full of sunshine, baked in the mould of Uptown or I Feel For You. But if you look closer Prince has a whole new toolkit at his disposal. Firstly there’s the trademarked, anguished scream, a calling card that’s used all over Controversy and kept in the bag ever since. Then there’s the angsty guitar feedback that drenches the final minute; a subterranean howl later lifted wholesale for Orgasm on the Come album. Also introduced is Prince’s first use of the Linn drum, the machine that subsequently went on to power the majority of his 80s’ output. And finally there’s the dual interpretative nature of the lyrics which either see Prince being possessive over a girlfriend or singing a masturbatory ode to his penis. Choose your own adventure. If you take the high road then you get to speculate who Valentino is, the character also referenced in Manic Monday (and possibly inspired by the actor Rudolph Valentino). If you go the low road the only option is to assume it’s the name Prince gives to his Little Prince. I’m inclined to tread the second path and I can only send my sincere apologies to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
325: Private Joy