Daily Prince 8/20/20: Holly Rock

Just logged in to WordPress and shit looks significantly different.  If this post is messed up, I blame them.  You do something 200 times the exact same way and then the 201st it looks different.  It’s jarring.  I’m an IT guy and I do this to people all the time with software upgrades, so I guess this is karma.  Next time someone in our office bitches that Excel looks different I’ll relate.  What am I saying?  So shit is rearranged.  I adapt.  Let’s go.

I haven’t written about a track from Originals since “Manic Monday” way back in early-May.  That’s only about 100 days ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago.  Or just yesterday.  I can’t tell anymore.  Is “COVID Brain” a thing?  I think I have it.  Not actual COVID.  I mean my brain is mush from living this Groundhog Day shit, being buried in a dark basement, and never going outside because it’s been six months and our bumbling ass administration still doesn’t have a plan to combat this virus.  Maybe I’m supposed to get Andie MacDowell to fall in love with me and this will all just disappear.  Probably not.  I’ll just keep listening to Prince and riding it out.  So anyway, where was I?  Oh yeah, Originals.

In June of 2019 the Prince Estate released a collection of songs that Prince wrote and recorded, then ultimately gave to someone else to release.  The estate released the album two weeks early for Tidal subscribers, so you know I had to sign up for a month of Tidal just to hear it early.  Two weeks later it was available on all streaming services, and shortly after that on vinyl.  I have two copies, one on purple vinyl and one on white vinyl because I’m a psycho.  Actually, one of them (without checking I’m gonna say the one with purple vinyl) also came with a CD and a book.  I was told the white vinyl was “limited edition” or something and being a sucker not only for anything Prince but also white vinyl, I bought that shit, too.

Originals has a strong lineup of songs you’ve all heard.  For example, “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, “Jungle Love” by The Time, and “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. are all well-known songs that found their way deep in to the Billboard charts.  Originals lets you hear Prince’s version of them.  Originals also opened the door to a slew of deep cuts of which I was previously unaware.  One of those songs is “Holly Rock.”  This song was written for Sheila E. and was used on the soundtrack of the 1985 movie Krush Groove.  I’ve never seen Krush Groove, but I know enough to be aware that it’s a bit of a cult classic in the hip hop community.  The album actually produced six singles including “Holly Rock.”  It’s better known for being an early Rick Rubin production and including Beastie Boys’ first single, “She’s On It.”

As far as Sheila E.’s version of “Holly Rock” there really isn’t much different musically, but hearing her version compared to Prince’s is quite shocking.  Despite the fact that it was made available 34 years later, I heard Prince’s version first.  It struck me that for such an energetic song, Prince’s vocals as kind of chill.  He was probably chill because he knew this was just a demo and nothing that he’d be releasing.  He refers to himself as Sheila E. multiple times on the song as if to say that he already wrote the song for her, so why bother inserting his own name.  By comparison, Sheila E. is swinging for the fucking fence in her version.  She brings energy like an overly enthusiastic server at a restaurant.  Remember the dude from Chotchkie’s in the movie Office Space who had 37 pieces of flare?  That’s Sheila E.’s vocal performance on “Holly Rock.”  So over the top it’s grating.  I much prefer Prince’s relatively chill delivery despite the fact that it’s an energetic party song.  I do wonder how his vocal performance would’ve been different if it would’ve been one of his albums.  No matter.  Prince kills it, as always.  Also, shout out to Eddie “Eddie M” Mininfield for the incredible saxophone performance.  I thought Eric Leeds was Prince’s go-to saxophonist at this time and would be curious to hear why he wasn’t involved, but Eddie M crushes it.  His performance really takes the song to another level.

Just a fun side note to wrap this one up: The Prince Estate released an animated music video for “Holly Rock” even though it wasn’t officially a single.  I thought it was well done and I enjoy how it incorporated so many different Prince looks over the years.  My kids love the video.  Specifically, when Sheila E. sings “Holly Rock” during the chorus (yes, Sheila E. still sings the chorus on Prince’s version) the kids try to attempt the dance that the animated singer is doing in the video and it’s laugh out loud funny watching them sway back and forth while leaving their arms dangling behind them.  Watch the video and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

“Holly Rock” is a song that’s now on every one of my Prince playlists and I think it would get everyone up on their feet at a party, club, wedding, sporting event…whatever.  I was excited for Originals because I wanted to hear Prince’s version of other people’s hits, but what makes the album memorable is songs like “Holly Rock” and “Love…Thy Will Be Done” that I wasn’t familiar with but fell in love with anyway.  If you haven’t checked out Originals yet, do it now. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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