Guest Blogger: Randall Paske
In hindsight, there had been clues leading to this. The embarrassingly trifling “My Name Is Prince” had already been selected as the next single from the album. (Even the NPG musicians weren’t too keen on that one, as Tommy Barbarella recently told Rolling Stone.) The previous album, ‘Diamonds & Pearls’, had found Prince chasing sales and trends, and though it had stronger, more obvious winners (“Cream”, “Money Don’t Matter 2nite”, and “Gett Off”), it also scraped bottom with annoying garbage like “Jughead” and “Push”. I let it slide at the time, but now I find it a tough listen. ‘Graffiti Bridge’ had also shown some signs of weakness, like the title track and “New Power Generation”. Quality control on Prince releases before then had been very high–many killer songs had been released only as b-sides, and even the least of his album tracks were listenable. But gradually that had changed, culminating in an album that seriously ticked me off.
After “Sexy M.F.” and “My Name Is Prince” both largely flopped in the U.S. (“Sexy M.F.” was never going to get airplay, and “My Name Is Prince” was just weak), Warner Bros. issued “7” as the album’s third single–reportedly the one they’d wanted all along. Gradually, it gained traction, peaking appropriately at number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and climbing to number 3 on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart, which measured only airplay. Though I didn’t listen to much radio at the time, I heard enough of those airplay spins that “7,” which I’d dismissed with the rest of the album, began to grow on me. When I was stuck with the radio, I began to appreciate when “7” came up in the rotation. Even with a grammatical error in the lyrics (it should be “will smite,” not “will smote”), it was much better than what surrounded it.
“7” re-entered my collection when it appeared on the tracklist of ‘The Hits/The B-Sides’ anthology. But I was still a little lost. In the years that followed, Prince changed his name and released lots of substandard albums, and I no longer possessed the enthusiasm required to follow closely, especially as obtaining his music became increasingly complicated. I bought some of his albums, but I passed on others. None of them thrilled me. I still loved the old stuff, but my completist days were over.
I’m not entirely sure what prompted it, but four or five years ago I decided to fill in the gaps and listen to everything Prince released in the years I wasn’t paying close attention. I’d long ceased to expect any consistently great albums, but thanks to my late-blooming appreciation of “7,” I knew I might find some gems. In a way, “7” taught me a new way to listen to Prince. He couldn’t sustain the greatness of his ’80s output–who could?–but that didn’t mean he couldn’t come up with a winner on occasion. I could now take pleasure in digging for buried treasure–and finding it in tracks like “Black Sweat”, “A Million Days” or “Prettyman.” And Prince surprised me in 2014 with ‘Art Official Age’, his best and most consistent album since the ’80s. I’m glad I was once again paying attention.
I went back and got another copy of the ‘Love Symbol’ album, too. My reaction to it is not universal–it is a favorite of many fans–but I still don’t like it. Though stylistically varied, it tries too hard. Besides “Sexy M.F.” and “7”, I can only really appreciate “Damn U” and “The Morning Papers”, which became the album’s other two singles–but at least that’s more than I liked in 1992. Singles aside, this album just isn’t for me.
And what about the “7” remixes? Despite being released in an era when remixing too often meant awkwardly shoving a house beat under everything, these remixes by Keith “KC” Cohen are relatively subtle. The “After 6” versions beef up the bottom end so you can rock the block, but they don’t radically alter the flow of the song. The “Mix 5” versions, which only exist on promo releases, are closer to the original but add a few little flourishes here and there. The “Acoustic” version dispenses with beats almost entirely, bringing the song’s acoustic elements to the fore. These are decent remixes, but ultimately I prefer the album version of the song. On this release, a sound effect that begins the actual album version is omitted, so the “Album Version” here is another slight variation from what you hear on the ‘Love Symbol’ album. This is also how the song appears on ‘The Hits 1’.
The B Side:
The Billboard Charts:
|Chart||Debuted||Debut Pos.||Peak Pos.||Wks on Chart|
|Hot Black Singles||12/26/92||88||61||16|
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