I’ll confess right up front that I’ve never seen Prince’s 1990 film
I do, however, own the
Still, it’s an interesting listening experience with some scattered but worthwhile highlights. On my most recent spin, I realized that Graffiti Bridge even has a few things to teach us, some more vital than others.
Want to underline your sequel’s inferiority? Open with a weak knock-off of the original.
When Prince was writing “Can’t Stop This Feeling That I Got,” he was probably consciously trying to create a musical link between Purple Rain and
The concept of Prince featuring George Clinton is way cooler on paper.
There’s no question that
Place them side by side and Morris Day can easily upstage Prince.
This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s seen Purple Rain or heard an early record by The Time, but Morris Day is one of the great showmen of his era. As wild and weird as Prince can be, Morris brings so much more manic energy to his couple of tracks, especially “Release It.” Granted he’s not half the musical genius Prince is, but when Morris starts bossing his "stellas" around and stealing nookie from his side men, I find myself wishing
Once upon a time, there was Tevin Campbell.
Remember Tevin Campbell? That sweet-voiced pretty boy who ruled the R&B charts in the early ‘90s? He’s part of the bizarre
Mavis Staples can do no wrong.
Prince being Prince, he probably could have recruited Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner or another top-tier mega diva to fill this role (he did allegedly pitch the part to Patti LaBelle). Instead he went with the less iconic but equally skilled Mavis Staples, and her brassy, classy presence gives the album just the boost it needs in its saggy second half. Her “Melody Cool” is an undeniable highlight of Graffiti Bridge, a swaggering slab of soul that’s one of the few blatantly cinematic moments that translates gracefully onto wax.
Prince should never dabble in hip-hop.
Sadly, Prince viewed the half-assed flow shoehorned into “New Power Generation (Part II)” not as a failed experiment in genre-bending, but as the gateway to several albums’ worth of hip-hop flirtation. It’s all pretty embarrassing stuff. “Cocaine was a thing that I took on / and Nowhere was a place that I was goin’”? Really?
“Thieves in the
Don’t get me wrong – Graffiti Bridge’s big single is a damned good song, maybe even a great one. But unlike its predecessor, it’s just not sturdy enough to hang an entire album and feature film on. As for the title track, it’s little more than a pleasant coda, utterly lacking in the majesty and passion of “Purple Rain.” You know that famous scene at the end of the first film, where Prince’s guitar neck erupts during the fadeout of “Purple Rain,” dousing the crowd with highly suggestive sparks? “
- Ira Brooker
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