58: Hardrocklover

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
You can tell this Prince & Joshua production was recorded in the same session as June as they both start in a similar soundscape. However, Hardrocklover soon takes a very different trajectory. At the start, when its My Jamaican Guy synths are twinkling like interstellar steel drums, only its title gives any indication of the carnage to come. An undertow of sinister sub-bass then pulls you in and before you know it you’ve been smashed over the head by a mountain-blast of hard rock. It’s where the Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum albums collide and it feels exhilarating to stick your soft, vulnerable headspace into the impact zone. Years ago I was approached by a brick shithouse of a guy wanting to fight me. I hadn’t provoked him, he was high on PCP and had picked me at random. I ignored him and continued chatting to my friends with him yelling behind me at an increasing volume. Just as his violent threats reached their peak and it was clear the ignore tactic wasn’t working, my group of friends started repeatedly screaming at me “WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!?”. Now I was surrounded by people on all sides, all inexplicably yelling at me. Stuck between a ruck and a hard case. I almost broke down in tears. What HAD I done!? I didn’t realise at the time but this is a classic technique to deflect aggression. Escalating the situation but shutting the main perpetrator out. I didn’t know this but my friends did. And it worked. The drug-addled thug sloped off, evidently thinking I had enough to deal with, and my friends resumed their chatting like nothing had happened. I’d never felt more bewildered or, afterward, more dosed up on that heady cocktail of fight-or-flight hormones. On some level it made me understand what drives certain people to spend their evenings roaming the streets looking for a fight. PCP must heighten this buzz because violence from its users and abusers had become a serious problem in the city where this happened (the same thing actually happened to me again but that time the “flee in a passing cab” tactic worked). I propose we send copies of Hardrocklover to every city with an angel dust problem. Played at loud volume, it’s a harmless substitute for unsolicited violence. Spend the verses summoning all the anger in your blackened soul and then direct it all into the sky during the primal screams of the chorus. Admittedly I’ve never taken PCP but I’ve blasted Hardrocklover through my headphones at a level that’ll probably make me deaf in later-years and I can honestly say I’ve never felt the need to beat up a stranger. Coincidence?

142: X’s Face

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
I keep listening to this song planning to rate it lower, thinking well OBVIOUSLY I love it but come on, let’s put your critical hat on here. Get your eye in the game. It’s scientifically and objectively inferior to the X number of Prince songs I have left to review. Serious music heads will frown. It can’t compare. But then I play it. Loud. Through speakers. Like God intended. And it makes me feel funny. Like I could topple governments with my mind. Or fire nightclub lasers from my fingers. Unusually for a Prince composition X’s Face isn’t improved by headphones. It’s a song you have to be punched in the gut with. If dubstep hadn’t already been invented this track would have birthed a movement.

228: This Could B(e) Us

Art Official Age (2014) / HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
Prince often retweeted memes he featured in, but the viral “THIS COULD BE US BUT YOU PLAYIN” jpeg of himself and Apollonia inspired an album track. Twice. Out of the two versions of This Could Be Us, the remix is punchier and puts some meat on the space-ballad’s delicate bones. The original starts off with a Close Encounters melody, twinkles like a malfunctioning holodeck and slows to a close HAL-style. But HITnRUN’s revisit takes the sci-fi effects and ramps it up into warp-drive. The second half is now basically an instrumental and all the better for it, although the song’s lyrics aren’t as corny as they first sound. “You want me like a new pair of shoes” and “you’re the cage to my dove” may seem like clumsy and misguided pick-up lines, but in the context of Art Official Age’s narrative, Mr Nelson has yet to receive his first affirmation on how to interact with the opposite sex. The recently awoken time-traveller is still concerned with words like “me” and “mine” and is currently reliving past relationships where he wants to possess and be shown off as a possession. It’s this restricting mindset that’s caging his dove of inner peace. Or hey, Prince may have just grasped for a word rhyming with ‘love’ without thinking too hard about it but where’s the magic in believing that?

264: Ain’t About To Stop

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
If you’re a Prince fan, chances are you’re used to his quicksilver output, and can roll with the twists and hairpin bends – not always on board but rarely shocked – but who could have predicted Ain’t About To Stop? This may be the bucking bronco that throws you off. If it doesn’t sound like a Prince song that’s because it initially wasn’t. This club banger was slated for Rita Ora’s album with the London singer providing lead vocals, but for whatever reason it got dropped. Luckily Prince salvaged it for his penultimate album, promoting himself to lead vocal and changing the hometown shoutout to North Minne. To West Indian ears the lyrics are dirtier than Rita’s $100 nails, making this a contender for his sweariest release since Larry had a word in the late 90s. Not that Prince may have known as he still censors out the word ‘ass’, but my money’s on him turning a blind eye to Rita’s potty mouth. The lyrics are best ignored anyway – millennial angst in Prince’s hands becomes Grandpa Simpson yelling at a cloud – but the music is pure fire. If this is indicative of the rest of her oeuvre then consider me a Ritabot.

279: Shut This Down

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
Shut This Down is a Battle Royale between album-mate Ain’t About to Stop, Public Enemy’s Shut ’em Down and a roided-out My Name is Prince. It’s a klaxon soundtracking the destruction of city infrastructure as 100ft robots clash with the super-hero protagonist. Decepticons’ entrance music. Mothra’s Eye of the Tiger. Kaiju hip-hop from the Pacific breach. Bridges and roads are gonna get upturned and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.

406: Like a Mack

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
My guess is Joshua Welton, Like a Mack‘s co-producer, is a Nintendo Head because this track is addled with old-school console sound effects, power-ups and gold coins, making Prince sound like a pimped up Wreck-it Ralph. I can visualise him shrinking, Mario-style, with every pitchshifted “looking, looking, looking…” In the midst of this 8bit orchestra the horns seem lost and bewildered. The trumpets just do their thing, refusing to mingle, and the sax towards the end seems particularly downbeat but it’s a welcome return for the NPG Hornz nonetheless. Like a Mack is the third song on HITnRUN Phase One to mention the moon, and the second to rhyme it with June which makes me think of Yoko Ono’s diss on Paul McCartney that he only writes moon-June-spoon rhyming songs. But hey, if it’s good enough for Sign o’ the Times (and even John Lennon but don’t tell Yoko) then it’s good enough for The Curly Fries. I don’t know too much about this female duo but the sparring verses they deliver are pure fire. Overall it’s a spiked turtleshell of a pop song – a King Koopa club banger – and if released as a single I bet it would show that a fifty-something Prince could still run the bulls of the millennial charts. Plus it taught me what a THOT is, not that I’ll be using it in polite (or even impolite) company anytime soon.

453: Fallinlove2nite

HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you hate this song. It’s too derivative. Too mainstream generic. You’ve grown up with Prince inventing twisted paracosms, whole alternate universes to fall into. An artist sui generis. And this sounds like all the songs on the radio stations you avoid. You’re viewing it from high on top of his teetering back catalogue tower, a pedestalled stack of songs soundtracking both the momentous and the trivia of your life story and this could never escalate to those heights. But it needn’t. To hear the splendour you need to momentarily reset your model of the world. Remember your starry-eyed youth, your first clubbing experience, your first drug du jour. It didn’t sound like this but if you fill your lungs with that air and listen again Fallinlove2nite begins to sound so virginal and pure. The bulletproof vim of youth in a month of Friday nights. Being an integral part of a New Girl episode, and one of his rare TV appearances, this song would have been hundreds of people’s first introduction to Prince. Thousands probably. And they now have a whole 40 year discography to explore and hear for the first time. I envy them.