46: When Eye Lay My Hands On U

Internet download (2001) / The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
In the midst of Prince’s conversion to his new faith, he wrote When Eye Lay My Hands On U, a song that viciously rejects the idea of an eternal afterlife by describing sex as “the only forever we’ll both obtain, the only joy in this forsaken game”. This blasphemy (which he belatedly attempts to cover up with a “god forbid” disclaimer the second time around) is a cathartic counter-attack of raw sexual energy, the bark of a wild dog refusing to be leashed, and is why Prince warns us in the opening line that his message is “not meant for transmission”. Welcome to his long dark night of the soul where a challenger for the title of one true God steps forth as the primordial Eros – not the nuetered Eros of later poetry, the mischievous son of Aphrodite whom the Roman’s renamed Cupid, but the awesome elemental power that the Greek poet Hesiod described as the most beautiful of all the deathless gods. This divine loosener of limbs enters the arena and teases X-rated lyrics out of Prince, causing him to spin a tale of foreplay that culminates in an homage to the Santana song Europa. This results in what may be the most sensual guitar-playing he has ever committed to tape, but behind the sensuality lies a violent clash of swords. Prince once said he doesn’t feel sexy when he plays guitar, he feels angry. Here we hear him furiously shredding his sexual frustration with every sinew of his body, resisting being ordained by Eros’s intoxicating power, and in the process creating a tender tabernacle for his new Lord to step into. By the end, a defeated Eros crawls back into his demoted role as chubby cherub of the Renaissance and an ashamed Prince buries this profane lapse of lust in a place that only NPG Music Club members could access – first as a download, and then three years later on a compilation which, to date, still hasn’t seen a physical release. In 2009, with the battle for his soul comfortably behind him, Prince relaxed his view that the song’s message “should only be accessed in the privacy of your mind” and began performing it live, most memorably as the opener to his Montreaux appearances, where he skips over the blasphemous line in the first show, but in his second appearance summons the courage to scream it to the sky. The crowd melts when his seduction reaches its apex, the point where his fingers reach the cap stone and the Santana solo is unleashed to mark the explosion of ecstasy, but to those listening carefully they may hear, behind its bars, the beautiful torturous screams of a banished god.

224: Supercute 

Supercute single (2001) / The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Supercute was released as a concert-only single and earmarked for the shelved High album. It has a showtune vibe – a red light West Side Story or Grease – where the protagonist Prince sings about his summer nights lover and an entourage of Other Princes join in on the chorus. But things get x-rated fast. The tale begins with the jet sound effect from the late-nineties tracks White Mansion and Come On. It’s his love interest arriving on a 747, but it’s not the only noise we’ll hear that’s a low, humming drone. Later on, the story focuses on toys. And not ones Pixar would write an animated film about, although they may well be called Buzz and Woody. This is the part where Tony/Danny pleasures Maria/Sandy with a vibrator whilst trying to get her to confess her private joy technique. And on a post-2000 Prince single too? Egads! Contrary to popular belief the smut didn’t stop when the cussing did.

270: The Dance

The Chocolate Invasion (2004) / 3121 (2006)
The Dance first appeared on The Chocolate Invasion as an unmemorable but technically solid wail of unrequited love – the only song on the album that hadn’t previously been available to download. Prince wasn’t done with it yet though and re-recorded a version for 3121, crafting it into a smoother but still fairly forgettable filler track… until… OMG until… the final act. Then wow! Prince turns up the melodrama dial to full foot-stamping tantrum and screams “It’s not fey-eh! It’s not FAY-EHHH!!!” Histrionic fireworks that sear this broken-hearted breakdown into your brain. It has a redemptive twist on a par with The Usual Suspects. A slow-boil jam that’s three parts If I Love You Tonight, and one part The Beautiful Ones.

277: Judas Smile

Internet Download (2001) / The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Without seeing the movie it’s hard to know how much of Judas Smile’s lyrics are influenced by the plot of Spike Lee’s Bamboozled, and how much are further tiles to be placed in the mosaic of Prince’s personal mythology. And to be honest I like it that way. I remember reading that the line “how dare you call the robot Mecca” refers to the Mecha robots in Spielberg’s AI, and if that’s the level of outrage, the more opaque the better. Instead of the paranoid, scattergun lyrics, I’d much rather focus on the jittery music: another funky rollout of the space invaders synths, briefly interspersed with a Carlos Santana interlude. It’s the cold shower during an otherwise steamy first half of The Chocolate Invasion; an anxiety dream interrupting a wet one. The beat reminds me of Q-Tip’s Breathe and Stop. But angrier. A Diatribe Called Quest presents The Low End Conspiracy Theory. I don’t know where the vitriol is being directed but seeing it thrash and coil like a high-pressure hose makes Judas Smile a livewire highlight of the NPGMC years.

312: Underneath the Cream

Supercute single (2001) /The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Underneath the Cream… Cream, get on top… As a soy-milk drinker, Prince seems strangely concerned about your location in relation to dairy products. Unless he means… oh my! Nobody tell Larry. Underneath the Cream takes its title from a line in Hot Wit U and nestles within a trio of XXX songs on The Chocolate Invasion. The smooth, succulent centre of an early-noughties, naughty hat-trick. Also add the raw intimacy of opening track When Eye Lay My Hands On U and unexpectedly you have Prince’s raunchiest album since Come. The lyrics of Underneath the Cream are certainly graphic but the soft-as-silk seduction slinks along like butter wouldn’t melt. The music even veers towards blandness at times, quietly inoffensive like hotel-room art, but at 1:45 the synth strings swell, the song transcends to another plane and suddenly we’re astral wingsuit-flying with Hypnos and Eros. A “wet dream eternal” you’ll never wish to wake from.

385: Sexmesexmenot

The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Prince sends this daisycutter of a synth groover low and hard into the front row, exploding a hundred ripening libidos with his filthiest song since he rewrote the Kamasutra on 18 & Over. First surfacing in 2001 and released in full three years later, it’s one of a surprisingly high number of songs that shatter the common illusion that Prince cleaned up his act after becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. The swear words may have ceased but the sex songs certainly didn’t and if anything they got even more immature, with Sexmesexmenot featuring lines such as “I’m gonna wet your pants” and a less than subtle pepper grinder euphemism. It’s the fourth dirty song on the album and we’re only on track 5 but all hopes that he’s regained his filthy mojo to 1994’s Come levels are dashed during the album’s next track Vavoom, a sterile Peach where he’s wearing his O face but totally faking it.

482: High

The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Like the bunny of Energiser this wound-up, robotic drum beat stutters along at half tilt, tussling with restless keys while a highly strung Prince sings about his music getting you high (a common boast found in previous songs such as Now and Purple Music). The result is a jittery, cocaine-fuelled jackalope full of nervous energy and braggadocio. When the vocal track is outpaced, the beat runs ever onwards towards an unknown destination and free of supervision the chords get playful, channelling salsa and Thieves in The Temple.