Prince’s debut ran over budget and over time, so with his second album he was eager to show Warner Bros he wasn’t a boy trying to do a man’s job. No messing around with experimental intricate acapella workouts to kick things off this time around. A single drum hit to get your attention and then it’s straight to the best hook he had in his bag. Boom. A glorious disco strut to the face. Lead single. Point made. I Wanna Be Your Lover is primed for the airwaves – sleek pop but with a cheeky wink behind the radio controller’s back via that suggestive pause in the chorus. Here on the album, as soon as he clocks up a radio-edit’s worth of vocals, Prince drops the mic and allows the song to bloom into a funk-disco instrumental for the track’s remaining majority – like the previous album’s Just As Long We’re Together but without the hunched shoulders. That clenched era’s gone. There’s now space in his grooves to climb inside. To roam free and lose baggage in. Without vocals, he gives us an unencumbered view of this majestic expanse so that he’s certain the new Prince – more confident, less over-thinking – isn’t lost on us and then he hits us with the second single immediately after, mindful of his mission to make a quick impression. That in turn is followed by another single on the third track. He’s determined to win us over. We’re being courted and it’s all too easy to believe him when he tells us he wants to be our lover, brother, mother and sister too. Yet, according to Prince’s original liner notes for The Hits compilation, the actual target of those proto-If I Was Your Girlfriend lyrics is the jazz musician Patrice Rushen, who had helped him with the synth programming on his first album. He had a crush on her at the time and reveals that not only is the song about her, but it was also originally recorded as a demo for her. He either changed his mind or she turned it down, but a couple of years later she sent him Forget Me Nots with her sole crossover hit bearing more than a passing resemblence to his intended gift. Luckily, for whatever reason he kept I Wanna Be Your Lover for himself and it became his foothold to the next strata of fame. It was his first proper hit. His first music video. His first TV performance. The world was beginning to wake up to Prince and superstar-dom would soon come… running.
42: I Wanna Be Your Lover