Prince’s Eighties albums are generally regarded as his artistic peak, and his work in the Nineties, while much less well thought of by critics, still continued to produce a string of major hit tunes. But after 1995’s The Gold Experience, a lot of people act as though his career ended right there. His later works tend to be underrated, or, worse, ignored: on the rare occasions that anyone mentions them, it’s usually to talk about how they could never live up to his earlier classics (tellingly, this is a particularly common position among people who have never actually heard any of the albums in question). The truth is that Prince’s later albums, particularly from the 2000s and beyond, have much to be said for them, and are far more interesting than they are usually given credit for. This song, the title track and lead single to the most well-known of those later albums, is actually one of Prince’s most impressive achievements, a true tour-de-force of pure artistry. Here Prince summons up some of the most complex Funk of his career for a song about the deceptive complexity of Funk music itself, and the lyrics are actually smarter and more literate than on much of his more famous work from the Eighties and Nineties. He even worked in a coda of of fragmentary samples of his earlier hits that actually works as part of the song instead of coming across as a desperation tactic. Is it on the level of “Purple Rain”, or “When Doves Cry”, or even “Gold”? Probably not. But like its near contemporary, Michael Jackson’s Invincible, it deserved far more attention and acclaim than it ever received, especially given what was succeeding on the Pop charts at that time.
Verdict: A first-rate Prince song, and you can’t really give a song a bigger compliment than that.