Unlike a number of my friends and colleagues, I have not gone koo-koo for the new Prince record, 20Ten. Yes, it sounds like old-school Prince, and were this 1988, I’d probably be all over it. However, I’ve been worn down by years of “comeback” records that did nothing for me; I really haven’t been moved by new Prince music since Emancipation in ’96.
Before you accuse me of being an anti-Nelsonite, though, let me tell you, I’ve tried. I bought damn near everything available through normal retail means through Musicology (2004), and have listened to just about every blurt and fart emanating from Paisley Park since then, albeit without committing more hard-earned to the purple coffers. I was a fan, tried and true (I still think Sign O’ the Times is one of the great albums made in my lifetime), but I’ve been disappointed for too long to react with great anticipation for new Prince music.
Perhaps tellingly, I think it started to unravel around the time of the Batman soundtrack in ’89. It was the first album I’d heard of his since Controversy that I didn’t like the whole way through. It did have some excellent tracks—“The Future,” “Electric Chair,” and “Vicki Waiting” got mad spins on my CD player at the time—but they were laced in with some real deadwood, like “Scandalous,” a plodding, pseudo-sexy love jam that sounded more like a Prince parody than the work of the man himself.
To make things worse, Prince released a 12-inch extended mix of “Scandalous,” called “Scandalous Sex Suite” which, rumor had it, included the sounds of him and Batman star Kim Basinger (with whom he was sleeping at the time) actually getting it on in the studio. And though I detested the song, I bought the 12″ because, let’s face it, if I could own a recording of Kim Basinger fucking, it was my duty as a red-blooded teenage horndog to own it (this was, of course, before DVDs; I can now, if I want, own a copy of 9 ½ Weeks, and actually watch Kim Basinger fake-fucking Mickey Rourke. The moment, however, has sadly passed).
Turns out, not only was Basinger making sex noises on Prince singles in 1989—she actually made an entire album with him, something called Hollywood Affair. Thanks to Reader QQ (who, readers of this column will recall, gifted me with the Shaun Cassidy live record a few months back), I have been able to partake of this unreleased artifact, and it is everything one imagines it could be, and less.
What grabbed me at first listen was the excessive use of New Jack beats throughout the record—I know the record was made in 1989, at the height of the New Jack boom, but a lot of these tracks sound more like Bobby Brown outtakes than the Prince castoffs they truly are. For example, it’s hard to believe that something like “I Wanna” is a Prince track, so generic is its sound, down to the fake string synth samples. Better is “Show Me,” with its cool synth work, though the “fire/desire/inspire” lyrics fail to rise even to the lowest Prince standard. And Basinger raps on the track, as she does on several others on Hollywood Affair; rap is something Prince has never been particularly good at, and in the late Eighties and early Nineties, his forays were particularly dire.
Fans of Basinger’s sex noises on “Scandalous Sex Suite” have plenty to enjoy on this album. “Action Action” features them prominently, as does “Color of Sex,” which also features her giggling and rapping things like “I’ll be your slave” and “I like the way you make me feel.” “My Love Will Find U” has a nice, bassy bottom end and a threadbare but cool chorus, both wasted on Basinger, who talks a lot when she should be singing, and spends the breakdown on this little monologue: “My name is Kim. I said, ‘Kim.’ What’s your name? No, you. No, in back of you – yeah you. What’s your name? Really? That’s a nice name.” Then she giggles, makes a sex noise, and heads back to the threadbare chorus.
It ain’t all bad, though. “Love at First Sight” is a decent slow jam, on which Basinger sounds slinky, almost Madonna-like. The song sounds like it would have fit comfortably on Top 40 radio in ’89, next to something like Exposé’s “What You Don’t Know” or some such thing, until she gets to the sex noises and spoken-word portion of the song. “2 Naughty” features fucking cool guitar riffing and a skeletal rhythm track—there’s no hiding this as a superb, bare-bones Prince jam. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Prince himself doing that female vocal thing he does from time to time. Even better is “Will U Stay with Me,” with its eerie, descending keyboard figure and reverbed vocal effect, which closely approximates a haunting tone. There is longing here, both described and personified—it’s actually pretty sexy, without any cooing or sex noises. There’s even a key change at the end.
Since the damn thing never saw an official release, I offer its tracks here, for the curious among you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you