Daily Prince 5/6/20: What’s My Name

Before I go any further, it only took me 12 posts to recognize a serious flaw in this system: If I ask Siri to play something by Prince she’s very limited.  I’ll never get to give “Dead On It” 0 stars because it’s on The Black Album and I can’t play that digitally.  I’ll never get any songs from Lovesexy because the entire album is one track.  I was missing a lot of music.  I’ve changed my process and now have an insanely long list from which to choose.  Enough housecleaning.  On to “What’s My Name.”

Snoop Doggy DOOOOOOOOOGGGGG!  Nope.  Wrong song.  I’M NOT A NICE PERSON!  Nope.  That was DMX.  Prince also had a song called “What’s My Name.”  Record shows that this song was written and recorded in 1993 just before Prince legally changed his name.  It wasn’t officially released until 1998 when it was a part of the vault cleaning Crystal Ball triple CD collection that contained songs from multiple eras.

Shortly after “What’s My Name” Prince changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol.  That symbol came to be known as “The Love Symbol” and Prince became The Artist Formerly Known as Prince, TAFKAP for short, or O(+> until 2000 when he changed back to Prince.  This was done mostly to mess with his record label, Warner Brothers, with whom he was in constant dispute over ownership of his music.  Some say he did it thinking if he had a different name he would no longer be tied to the contract he signed when he was Prince.  Some say he did it just to fuck with Warner Bros and make them use that symbol when referring to him in all legal documents.  Legend has it Warner Bros needed to send out floppy discs (!) throughout the company with a special font containing the Love Symbol so they could refer to him properly in legal documents.  No idea if it’s true, but that’s a baller move by Prince if it is.

The song “What’s my Name” is decent but particularly memorable.  It sits with many of Prince’s mid-career songs in the meaty part of the bell curve.  Songs that are solid if not spectacular.  Prince’s vocals only rise above a quiet mumble once when he’s counting off the chorus.  While I’m not always an expert at translating lyrics to actual intent, it seems to me the point of the song is that your name is just a label.  It doesn’t make you who you are.  He practically whispers, “Take my name, I don’t need it.  Nothing stays the same anyway,” to start the song.  The verses and chorus in the song fluctuate wildly.  The verses simmer quietly, building to an explosion in what I’m calling the “chorus” even though there aren’t actually any lyrics.  The chorus consists of a DJ scratching what sounds like a siren sound effect over some funky slap bass courtesy of New Power Generation bassist Sonny T.

I prefer to listen to “What’s My Name” during a workout of some kind since it has a pissed off kind of vibe and explodes with energy in multiple parts.  Like much of the Crystal Ball collection, I give it a 2.5 out of 5 stars.

I’d also like to clarify something about my scoring as long as I have a minute.  When I rate these songs, 2.5 out of 5 probably looks bad.  Two things about that: First, 2.5 is right in the middle.  The middle is average to me.  Don’t look at 50% as failing.  This isn’t school where anything below 50% is an F.  I’m grading this more like 50th percentile, not a failing percentage.  Also, when I say that it’s “average” I’m comparing it to the rest of Prince’s catalog.  I still prefer an average Prince song like “What’s My Name” over at least 95% of the music I’ve heard in my life.  Please understand that when I’m grading these songs.  Probably something I should’ve explained when I started this.

Thanks.  Enjoy your Wednesday!

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