Dirty Mind


While UK synthpoppers of the ’80s would hit paydirt instilling their new wave tendencies with a sense of funky pulse-beat groove, Prince broke through as a crossover critical favorite and emerging star by beating them to the punch from the other end. His third LP Dirty Mind is where his characteristic image as a singer, songwriter, and personality fully matured — emphasis on mature as euphemism, with a spectrum of raunch that ranged from hornily suggestive (the libido-addled mania of the title cut) to romantically wounded (the regretful, blame-shouldering post-bjreakup obsession of “When You Were Mine”) to provocatively graphic (the late-album two-fer of the wedding-dress-staining “Head” and the frantic incestuous taboo of “Sister”). But it was just as notable as a departure from the disco-inflected R&B of his self-titled ’79 sophomore LP — or at least a departure from its opulence, as the stripped-down auteurist production proved to be a fateful distinctive element to his early ’80s rise. (It’s practically a one-man-band effort, too, albeit with early input from future Revolutionaries Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink.) But since the sound’s more a lateral move than a rejection of what already worked, it still keeps up an era-bridging nu-funk danceability that neither New Order nor Rick James could pull off quite the same — it’s not like they’d’ve known to write liberatory jams like “Uptown” or “Partyup” anyways, much less sung it with an astounding androgynous falsetto that electrified generations of R&B tradition from Little Richard to Tina Turner.

Nate Patrin