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December 06, 1991 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-12-06

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Page 10 -The Michigan Daily-- Friday, December 6, 1991

Pearls before swine: Prince critics miss boat

by Kim Yaged
W hen Neil Simon won the Pu-
litzer Prize, it wasn't that he didn't
deserve it. It was, "Why Lost In
Yonkers?" What about Rumors,
Barefoot In The Park, Brighton
Beach Memoirs, The Odd Couple ...
Simon, the only playwright whose
work consistently appears in collec-
tions of the best plays of the year, is
more than worthy of a Pulitzer, but
why now? Printed criticism ex-
tolling the virtues of Simon's work
prior to Lost In Yonkers was essen-

tially nonexistent. Thus, Simon's
Pulitzer is what Susan Lucci's
Emmy will be when she finally
wins one for "Best Leading Lady"
on daytime. And so it goes in the
music industry.
With Diamonds and Pearls, his
least progressive contribution to
the music scene ever, Prince, as
Sindad O'Connor claims savior sta-
tus for the Paisley Empire, is enjoy-
ing his greatest commercial success
since Purple Rain. Even though, as a
product, Diamonds and Pearls is a
more mature offering of musician-

ship than, say, his debut For You, or
the follow-up Prince, in the contin-
uum of Prince's career, Diamonds
---- - - - - ~-- --
and Pearls is a step backward,
Prince (along with his band, the
New Power Generation) may as
well have released an album of
cover tunes instead of Diamonds and
Pearls, on which he essentially tries
to imitate others, with songs like
the Smokey Robinson-ish "Strol-
lin'," and plays catch-up, with

tracks like the hideous rap
"Jughead." "Thunder" almost
sounds like it could be an Amy
Grant song if you don't listen to the
lyrics closely enough. Even pop ra-
dio's faves, such as "Gett Off," are
works that have been circulating the
Prince underground for years.
Perhaps Prince has begun to fall
back on his infamous vault of mys-
terious music as an easy way to fill
up an album, instead of using it, as in
the past, as an outlet of tantalizing
B-sides with which to satiate the in-
satiable listener.
That's not to say that Diamonds
and Pearls is a lost cause. The title
track and "Insatiable" are two

i

works in particular which live up to
my orgasmic expectations of
Princely erotica, genderfucking and
the "Rude Boy" reputation. Most
musicians can only dream of being as
great as Prince's worst. And
Diamonds and Pearls isn't necessar-
ily the work worthy of that title.
The true weakness lies with the crit-
ics who only swallow what's
rammed down their throats and ac-
cept things for their anticipated fla-
vor, extolling retroactive praise in-
stead of searching for the true deli-
cacies. Their insight is non-existent.
Let's talk the obvious. Has any-
one even acknowledged the source of
the New Power Generation appella-
- tion? The name of Prince's band
didn't emerge from thin air. The
"new power soul" existed as early
as 1988 on the Lovesexy album,
specifically "Alphabet St.," but the
phrase reappears throughout on the
continuous concept album which
plots the overthrow of "Spooky
Electric," Prince's personification
of Evil. More obviously is the track
"New Power Generation" off the
Graffiti Bridge soundtrack. How's
that for blatant?
Maybe the soundtrack thing is
part of the problem. Four of the
seven albums Prince has released
since Purple Rain have been put out
in conjunction with a movie. Dia-
,nonds and Pearls is his first LP in
three years not to be released with a
film. This has not been incon-
sequential in the critics' flippant
dismissal of the music. (I'll by-pass
the cult-following defense of these
flicks, since that's not the focus of
this article.) Regardless of the in-
tent, worth or success of these
films, the music deserves to be
judged on its own merit.
Dismissing "Batdance" as one of
those things that happens (maybe
that excuse will help in soothing
my wounds from "Jughead"), the
Batman soundtrack is an ingenious
work. While in the movie it is the
Joker being the "Partyman" sitting
in the "Electric Chair," and Batman
being "Scandalous," in reality, it is
Prince playing all the parts, includ-
ing Vicki Vale, just to twist the
sexuality issue further. Prince even
manages to work himself, in the
guise of the character Gemini, into
the plot, rendering Batman the al-
bum not simply background music
to a movie, but an additional step in

the career of the ultimate narcissist
Perhaps more upsetting was the
disregard for Graffiti Bridge. Whipe
everyone fawned over the precious
Tevin Cambell and the rejuvenation
of the previously defunct band tho
Time, critics forgot to acknowledge
the source of the greatness. At,
though Mavis Staples and George
Clinton, along with the rest of the

lESS

Prince

I

crew, were a delight, the master-
mind behind the magnificence is un-
doubtedly Prince. Alternating funk,
pop, rock, gospel, blues and hip hop,
Graffiti Bridge is one of the most
gracefully assembled demonstra-
tions of eclecticism in existence.
See PRINCE, Page 12

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