I started this little Daily Prince project exactly two months ago. We’re more than 60 songs in to the list and we’re finally getting our first opportunity to go back to 1981’s Controversy. Prince wasn’t a household name quite yet when Controversy dropped. He was coming off of 1980’s shock-fest Dirty Mind. He set the bar high. Like Prince would do famously throughout his career, he changed gears on this one. Don’t get me wrong, Controversy wasn’t a complete departure from Dirty Mind. There’s plenty of leftover raunch on tracks like “Jack U Off,” “Do Me, Baby,” and “Sexuality.” There’s also exploration of race and sexuality on the title track, “Controversy,” the anarchist punk of “Ronnie, Talk to Russia,” and whatever the hell is happening on “Annie Christian.” Dirty Mind might be the superior album, or at least that seems to be the consensus that I happen to agree with. Controversy gets past the freaky and gives you a deeper look in to who Prince was in 1981. There’s so much more to him than songs about head and incest.
In the middle of the album, and the middle of Prince’s freaky spectrum, lies today’s song, “Private Joy.” “Private Joy” was the B-side to Controversy’s third single, “Do Me, Baby.” It’s about as bubble gum pop as Prince gets. “Private Joy” sounds like it was recorded in 1981, which is to mean it sounds dated as hell. It’s uptempo and heavy on synth and hand claps. It’s like the happy theme of 1981. There are some mildly nasty references like referring to his private joy being his “orgasmatron.” This is G rated for Prince, though.
Controversy has some amazing highs. The title track is a masterpiece. “Let’s Work” is as funky as funk gets. “Private Joy” just doesn’t do it for me. Probably my least favorite song on the album. I look forward to the day the Prince Song Randomizer gives me something better from Controversy.