Finally! Worlds colliding. The one song included on the D’aily and the Daily Prince blog. Yes, this is the song where my two favorite musicians intersect. If you want the full background on “She’s Always In My Hair” you can read the post I wrote about it 18 months ago for the Daily Prince blog. For those of you unfamiliar who don’t want to do the extra reading, I will summarize right now. Back in the 1980s Prince had a cool habit of reserving some of his best work for the B-side of singles. A single would consist of an A-side, which was the song that the artist released, and a B-side, which could be just about anything. Sometimes it was an instrumental or another hit, sometimes it was a deep cut from the album, and sometimes you’d get a completely different unreleased song altogether on the B-side. Prince turned B-sides into must-listen music. I’m paraphrasing, but Prince’s theory on singles was that the A-side was the music he made for the record label and the B-side was his chance to stretch out. Experimental stuff. Prince’s had an amazing run of B-sides in the early to mid-80s that’s unrivaled. People unfamiliar with Prince’s work outside of his hits have likely never heard of any of these songs, but Prince heads know. B-sides are where it’s at. I keep a list of what I consider to be the best Prince songs on a running post I call the Prince Hall of Fame. I took his catalog of well over 1,000 songs and whittled it down to 20. Now, like a sports Hall of Fame, I’m adding new inductees every year. This year I added two more, so we’re up to 22. Among those 22, two of them aren’t hits or even songs form his albums. They’re B-sides. One is “17 Days” which was the B-side on the “When Doves Cry” single. The other is “Erotic City” which appeared on the “Let’s Go Crazy” single.
My next favorite Prince B-side and a song that’s on the short list for Hall of Fame entry is “She’s Always In My Hair.” It was included as the B-side to the 1985 single for the Prince classic “Raspberry Beret.” It’s a clever track about a girl who’s so supportive and loving that Prince seems rather annoyed. He doesn’t know how to react to such adoration. He actually wrote the song for on-again, off-again love interest Jill Jones who did not react well to the song. The line, “Maybe I’ll marry her…maybe I won’t,” somehow wasn’t appreciated.
Leave it to D’Angelo – an unabashed Prince disciple – to choose an obscure B-side to cover. It wouldn’t be D’Angelo if he swung for the fence and covered “Purple Rain.” He had to go deep in the catalog. D’Angelo’s version of “She’s Always In My Hair” first appeared in the 1997 soundtrack for the smash hit movie Scream 2. That soundtrack featured an eclectic, genre-spanning array of artists including Foo Fighters, Master P, Collective Soul, Dave Matthews Band, Sugar Ray, Nick Cave, and D’Angelo to name a few. “She’s Always In My Hair” was also included in D’Angelo’s 2008 greatest hits compilation The Best So Far.
If I were you I’d have two questions now, so I’m going to address them: How are they different, and which one is better? Let’s cover the differences first. I’m happy to say that they are quite different. This isn’t one of those songs where D’Angelo just laid down a similar track an sang over it. They have completely different vibes. The first feature of the Prince version that jumps out is the heavy keyboards and the flange effect. There’s an 80s new age feel to Prince’s version. Surprisingly, D’s version is much harder. There are stretches of the song that are just D’Angelo with some drums, and electric guitar, and a slap bass. The only D’Angelo song that goes harder than this is “1,000 Deaths” and that song came 17 years later.
Another difference worth mentioning is the vocals. Prince’s vocals are right in front of the mix, loud and clear. D’Angelo has so many layers to his vocals and he’s not always harmonizing. It’s five D’Angelo voices spanning multiple octaves.
Before choosing a favorite, there’s one other factor that goes into that selection: How does it sound live? Thankfully, both artists seem to like performing this song live as it keeps popping up on YouTube. Here’s Prince performing it for his Rave Un2 the Year 2000 concert Paisley Park. It stays pretty true to the original. The interesting Prince performance comes from his 2014 appearance on the short-lived Arsenio Hall Show reboot. It’s kind of a cover of D’Angelo’s cover. He performed it with 3rdEyeGirl, which already means it’s going to be loud and electric. The tempo is slightly slower and the electric guitar is more present than his previous versions. Perhaps my favorite recording of “She’s Always In My Hair” comes from D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s 2015 Spotify Session. It rocks like his Scream 2 version, but Pino Palladino is involved, so you know the bass is funkier.
So which is better? It’s close, but I give the edge to D’Angelo. I love his layered vocals and I prefer his emphasis on guitar over Prince’s keyboards. Obviously all the credit goes to Prince for writing and creating the song in the first place, but if I had to choose one, give me D’Angelo. You can’t lose with either one, though.
With that, we wrap yet another week of the D’aily. Four more songs on my list. I believe the next is a bit of a lightning rod. I’ve seen this song take some criticism and I’m not sure why. It’s often far down people’s list of favorite D’Angelo songs, but it’s closer to the top of my list. We’ll examine it on Monday and I’ll make my case then. Until then, have an amazing weekend.