Three days this week, three songs from early-90’s Prince records. If the Daily Prince Random Song Generator keeps this up you’ll be reading about a song from Batman tomorrow. Tonight’s track “New Power Generation” comes from a soundtrack as well, 1990’s Graffiti Bridge. However, like so many Prince songs, this one resurrected from the vault.
This song, originally titled “Bold Generation,” was recorded in January of 1982 during a recording session that produced music for The Time’s album What Time Is It? On the original track The Time’s frontman Morris Day played drums while Prince played all other instruments and took care of vocals. All of this indicates that the song was likely intended for The Time, but for whatever reason, was never used and ended up in the vault.
In December of 1989, nearly eight years later, the song was dusted off and renamed “New Power Generation” for use by Prince – not The Time – in Graffiti Bridge. Graffiti Bridge was a unique album for Prince, because unlike Purple Rain, Parade, and Batman before it, this soundtrack featured other artists. “New Power Generation” was Prince’s second single from the album, but the fourth single overall behind Prince’s “Thieves in the Temple,” Tevin Campbell’s “Round and Round,” and “Melody Cool” by Mavis Staples. The album also contained four songs by The Time and a Prince track that featured George Clinton.
As for the movie Graffiti Bridge, it was billed as the sequel to Purple Rain, but you don’t need to watch the two of them for long to see the difference. Purple Rain was gritty, filmed on location in Minneapolis, and felt real. It wasn’t perfect, but the story was understandable and it was easy to cheer for The Kid (Prince) even though he came off as an abusive ass hole. Graffiti Bridge is confusing. Prince and Morris are playing the same characters, but Morris has a bit more a Nino Brown vibe going. Prince sings positive quasi-Christian Rock and lives under the stage at a club called Glam Slam that he somehow co-owns with Morris. The movie was mostly shot at Paisley Park Studios and it shows. The street scenes look more like the set of a musical than actual streets. However, I will say that the inside of Glam Slam looks like it would’ve been an amazing club. It would’ve been cool to see Prince perform at that club in real life.
The difference in the movies is also mirrored in the respective soundtracks. While Purple Rain is widely considered one of the greatest albums of the 20th century and arguably the greatest soundtrack ever, Graffiti Bridge is not. If you’re not a Prince head I’m guessing you can’t name a single song from the soundtrack outside of “Thieves in the Temple,” and even that isn’t one of his best remembered hits. It peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990 and finished as the #98 Pop Single of that year. Beyond that, Graffiti Bridge didn’t produce hits for Prince (“Round and Round” reached #12 for Tevin Campbell). That said, this album has a fine list of high quality Prince deep cuts. “Joy in Repetition,” “The Question of U,” and “Elephants and Flowers,” are all great Prince songs. I would rate “New Power Generation” a notch slightly below them. I would argue it’s the first Prince song that sounds like it was influenced by the New Jack Swing era. It has that late-80’s/early-90’s R&B/new jack sound to it. It has the unenviable task of playing the “Let’s Go Crazy” role in Graffiti Bridge. It’s the live performance by Prince and New Power Generation that sets the tone for the movie, and while it’s no “Let’s Go Crazy,” it’s an enjoyable song and performance. Like I said, Glam Slam looks like a club I’d want to be hanging out in, and Prince and NPG put on an amazing performance of the song. After watching that performance you think you’re about to settle in for a great motion picture. Unfortunately, the movie peaks with that performance and the “Elephants and Flowers” performance that comes ten minutes later. The rest of the movie is forgettable, and borderline regrettable.
Still, Graffiti Bridge gives us some great Prince music heading in to the 1990’s and “New Power Generation” counts as one of those songs. It’s a solid introduction to NPG. I wish the rest of the movie was able to match the energy of its opening song.