Hi, I’m Rick. I’m part of Collector’s Edition. We have a show coming up about cultural scapegoats in pop music, and I’d like to share a wonderful song written by one of the great misunderstood geniuses of our time: 90’s Prince.
I’m specifying “90’s Prince” because most folks stop trying to listen through his discography right around 1989. Sometime after Batman his career seemingly crumbles into a mess of label conflicts, rap solos, triple albums and Oprah interviews. The 90’s were a stormy time in Prince’s career, but I’ve traveled these waters. I’ve seen the treasure that awaits. I can guide U 2 the other side. He is waiting for us there, on his computer.
This is “My Computer.” It’s a song about Prince’s computer? Don’t be afraid. He has written songs about computers before. It may be a bit jarring when, four seconds into the song, Prince’s AOL account welcomes you and informs you that you’ve got mail. Don’t be scared! Keep listening, your effort will be rewarded. I know the golden rule for making it through the Prince discography, and I will share it with you now:
When you feel overwhelmed by Prince’s music, remember that his songs - every single song he’s ever recorded - is about one of two subjects: Cartoon sex fantasy dreamscapes, or how awful the real world is.
“My Computer” is about the latter. You know something’s wrong as soon as 90’s Prince starts singing:
It was Sunday Night / Instead of doing what I usually do, I / Scan my computer looking for a site / Somebody 2 talk 2, funny and bright
Buddy, are you okay? Prince spends the song checking his email, getting depressed at the news, failing to reconnect with old friends and worrying about how he’s going to explain it all to his unborn child. It’s heavy stuff for a song that starts out by sampling an AOL floppy disk. There are still lots of weird Prince-isms to enjoy, however; Kate Bush sings backup on the entire song, buried under indecipherable vocoder effects. There’s a keyboard lick that veteran fans will recognize when it gets recycled on 2004’s Musicology. Prince is still pretty fun to be around, even when he’s caught in a late-night, inbox-refreshing vortex of loneliness.But there’s no squealing, no sweaty guitar solos right up in Wendy’s face. It’s just a light, sad pop song. The production sounds a little goofy, all light synth lines laid on top of growling computer beeps, but remember that this is 1996. Computers were a symbol of optimism. Jeff Goldblum had us convinced that we could be friends with our iMacs, but Prince was starting to see through it all after a decade of singing about Computer Blues and Endorphinmachines. Now we’re all glued to our miserable Tumblr accounts, and he predicted it all, right here, in 1996! All it took was an empty inbox.
What does Prince usually do on a Sunday night, anyway?