If you aren’t familiar with today’s song “Black Sweat” you’re in for a treat. I once referred to “Black Sweat” as Prince’s best song of the 21st century. I might have to revisit that later in this post. I haven’t properly Xcogitated this post yet. We’ll have to see where it goes. It is my favorite song from what I believe to be Prince’s best album post-Lovesexy, which means it’s the best album of the last 28 years of his life. That album is 2006’s 3121.
“Black Sweat” was recorded in mid-2004 but wasn’t released until February of 2006. Prince is credited with all vocals and instruments. It peaked at #60 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. It was nominated for two Grammy awards: Best R&B Song and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. On a sad note, a live recording of it from Prince’s final live show – recorded from his April 14, 2016, Piano & A Microphone show in Atlanta – was made available on Tidal on April 18, 2016. Prince passed away three days later, making the live recording of “Black Sweat” the final official music release of his lifetime. Credit to princevault.com for that bit of information that I did not know until now.
I’ve always considered “Black Sweat” to be the updated version of Prince’s 1986 #1 hit “Kiss.” Stripped down and funky with Prince’s falsetto on full display. Keep in mind, Prince recorded “Black Sweat” when he was 48 years old. Don’t most people lose their range at some point with age? I’ve heard countless singers who have to take their songs down a few keys so they can continue to hit the high notes as they age. Not Prince. That falsetto is as flawless at 48 as it was at 18. The video is also somewhat reminiscent of “Kiss” but this time Prince is letting the female do all the dancing. Prince mostly stands around looking incredibly cool in a dope custom suit, occasionally sipping some tea or adjusting his cuffs while a gorgeous woman in a long love symbol necklace dances around him. He definitely resurrects the classic “Kiss” reaction face when the dancer gets a little too enthusiastic for his liking:
“Black Sweat” is actually one of my favorite Prince videos. Prince is funny as hell in this video and he knows it. It’s such a badass song and he’s looking no more than half his age, yet he spends a decent portion of the video giving the amazing dancer side-eye. He can’t manage to hold back a grin when he sings the line, “You’ll be screaming like a white lady when I count to three.” Prince was always the coolest guy in the room, but he’s off the charts in this video.
So, is “Black Sweat” Prince’s best song of the 21st century? First, is it even the best song on 3121? There’s a lot of competition. Prince superfan and host of the Prince-centric YouTube show The Violet Reality Casey Rain recently asked fellow Prince fans on Twitter to list their three favorite 3121 songs. I was stunned to see how many of the lists didn’t even contain “Black Sweat.” 3121 is loaded with great music so it’s difficult to choose a single best song. “Love” is keyboard driven funk that was made for the radio. “Beautiful, Loved and Blessed” has a place in my heart because it came out shortly before my oldest daughter was born and it always reminds me of her. “Lolita” is funky and fun as hell. I’ll stand by “Black Sweat” as my favorite among some tough competition. I love “Family Name” from 2001’s The Rainbow Children. It’s hard to argue against the title track from 2004’s Musicology. “Call My Name” from the same album might be Prince’s best ballad of the century. 2014’s “Breakfast Can Wait” is another one of my favorites. “Dreamer” is one of Prince’s greatest rock songs, sounding so much like Jimi Hendrix I once scoured the internet to confirm that it wasn’t a cover. “Baltimore” holds a special spot as well being Prince’s protest to the Baltimore PD killing of Freddie Gray. I’m sure I’m missing a lot, but off the top of my head, those are my favorite Prince songs of this century.
I’ll still take “Black Sweat” over all of them. A sexy funk banger that should pack any dance floor when played. Proof that Prince never lost any of his otherworldly talent or unparalleled cool with age. Stop sleeping on Prince’s late-career music. Add “Black Sweat” to your playlist on this Friday and let it start your weekend off right.