Dirty Mind

Prince

Warner Brothers, 1980

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/16/2013

[READ THIS FIRST.]

Dirty Mind was so many things to Prince and his growing fan base that it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on just a few; to run through the entire list would be far too laborious for this scribe.  First off, it was the perfection of the “Minneapolis sound” that was the street sound that Prince had been so heavily entrenched in when first starting out. The local bands of the day (including 94 East and Flyte Time) all took to it with their screeching keyboards used for accent rather than horns and punchy rhythm tracks with processed drums to soften the beat. The bass tracks were also “lighter” than the standard heavy-ended trad funk style. The best explanation of what the sound sounds like is Dirty Mind.  Also, this album is the first of Prince’s most overtly sexual albums, as his lyrics detailed his every desire that were often overlooked by censors as he wrapped them in clever entendres and shades of innuendo.

 This album has also been credited as the birth of Prince’s powerful visual imagery of the day.  His look was now firmly pushing the androgyny stakes with his heavy makeup, poodle perm, high-heel boots, and an array of lingerie to accompany his sleazy but stylish trench coats. This album is also his first true crossover record, and it found love from groups as diverse as the New Wavers and washed-up disco queens to the harder-edged R&B crowds and rock kids. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

 Most important, though, Dirty Mind is significant due to the fact that it was Prince’s first truly great album. From start to finish, this record sizzles with all of the components that make Prince so great. His voice was stronger than before thanks to his constant touring in support of his first two albums. The arrangements here are tighter and more focused that ever before, and the production is the perfect blend of polish and fuzz to help keep the overall ambience of the record even throughout its entirety.  The cover shot was also Prince’s first great visual statement of who he was, a pretty clear affirmation of how little of a f*** he gave. 

The album kicks off with the title track that became a floor filler in the clubs and a surprising hit on the airwaves (due to the nature of the lyrical content). It is still as funky and hypnotic as it was then.  Pushing the envelope the furthest, though, was the glorious sleaze-pop of “Head,” five minutes of an infectious groove that finds Prince seducing a virgin bride-to-be in explicit detail. It remains one if his finest moments on record. Just as infectious but far more poignant is the exuberant funk of “Uptown,” which sees Prince pleading for acceptance and tolerance of people from all walks of life. 

“When You Were Mine” is another gem that has since joined the ranks of Prince classics; Cyndi Lauper later covered the song, but it belongs here within the context of the album. “Sister” was by far the most daring of the tracks included here, as it sees Prince spin a tale of a sixteen-year-old boy engaged in a sexual relationship with his 32 year old sister. Prince relays the story in the first person, which makes it all the more disturbing as he relates the joys of incest. Clocking in at only 90 seconds, though, “Sister” is over as quickly as it started, giving way to the album’s fantastic closer “Partyup.” 

Dirty Mind remains one of Prince’s great albums and still sits comfortable among all that followed throughout his “purple reign.”  This is a stone- cold, crossover classic LP.

Rating: A

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