That isn't just funk you're smelling, when you listen to Prince. The "two sides" that the proud Gemini often touted (most awesomely by dressing as Batman and Joker at the same time in the "Batdance" vid) were probably meant to make him seem somehow balanced sexually or morally or something, but I think anyone who's paid attention to his career knows of a much more immediate two Princes: the Great one and the Crappy one.
For some reason, people have a hard time with this duality -- instead of seeing how his capacity for garbage makes his brilliance even a more amazing feat, public perception of the man tends toward one side. He spent the good part of the 10 years after '93 totally maligned, considered a joke who wrote things on his face, did weird things with his name and made entirely too much music. But then, for some reason (nostalgia?), in '04, the wind changed and Prince could do little wrong -- he released a typically mediocre album, Musicology, that was surprisingly well-received (and high-charting, even if his giving it away every chance he could get effectively cooked his books), he launched a massively successful tour and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Good Princeyboy!
Things may have cooled a bit for him (he hasn't received the public lashing he deserves for "Te Amo Corazon"), but I wouldn't be surprised if mass fawning occurs whenever 3121 hits stores. Well, I'm here to tell you there's something else: garbage. What follows are four songs from his initial nadir, the early '90s (I chose one a year, starting with '91). If Prince is irritating when he's tossing off some masturbatory album track or extended jam, he's practically absurd when he's at his most commercial-minded and attempting to craft hits for others. If his proteges of the '80s were notoriously goofy, those of the '90s were mostly excruciating (Tevin Campbell excepted, obviously).
I believe that Prince loves women. I really do. And I think that's exactly what makes him such a sucky pimp.
Martika "Martika's Kitchen" (1991) - The table is set, baby, and on it is a cloth that looks a lot like Babyface's. With a limp swing beat, Prince attempted to convince us not just that Martika was new jack, but that she was also sexy. The kitchen analogy is undeniably sexual ("Get some, get some, get some"), but it serves a similar function as his little red Corvette -- sometimes, it seems to refer to a vagina ("Come on get some, in Martika's kitchen"), sometimes not ("The oven is hot"). At least if the metaphor of "Little Red Corvette" is mixed, it has a creepy air of mystery. This is just bright, boring nonsense about Stepford genitalia (it's, at least, very domestic). Martika was a lot of things: a Kids Incorporated alumna, big in Japan, Jennifer Beals-esque. Soulful was never one of these things. Not that anyone could spin this shit into gold -- even Prince sounds like a fool when doing this one (check his demo of it).
Carmen Electra "Go Go Dancer" (1992) - Joining the highly esteemed company of, well, Icy Blu and, uh, I guess Deborah Harry kinda, Carmen Electra tried to corner the white-girl rapper market with this early foray into fame whoreishness. Once again, Prince attempts to to mimic contemporary hotness, and this time tries his hand at house. He crafts a stomp for Carmen's born-to-strip persona -- she's an update of his irresistible bitch with her unstoppable body and "primal vibe." Carmen prowls like she's relishing the fact that sooner or later, she was going to have to sell it. I think this insatiable portrayal of a dancer's life is what got Prince the Showgirls gig (his "319" and "Rippopgodazippa" both can be heard in the movie...with hilarious results). "...In a taxi cab / If the radio's on / Off goes the top / And I'm going going going gone!," says Carmen, and by that time, I'm sorry that the song's inclusion here implies that it's shit. It's totally fucking awesome.
Lois L. "Qualified" (1993) - More new jack crap -- this is truly Prince at his worst because he's virtually undetectable. At least when he's turning out junk, it has personality. Every second of this, however, hurts. Seriously, Carmen Electra's cartoon stripper has more soul in her g-string than these two sisters from the Netherlands, put together. They ended up posing for Playboy, I think, which, OF COURSE THEY DID.
Mayte "The Most Beautiful Boy in the World" (1994) - If you have any question about a nepotist's inherent hubris, look no further than this, a note-by-note remake of Prince's most useless chart hit. Why did he let wife-to-be Mayte cover this track so faithfully? Maybe it's because he was in love...with himself. Whatever, this did not kick off her career the way it was supposed to, but no surprises there. This version's major deviance from the original ("The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" gets a penis in Mayte's version) totally throws everything into confusion. "Could you be / The most beautiful boy in the world? / It's plain to see / You're the reason that God made a girl," sings Mayte and...what? God made a girl only so that she could give birth? Is that what Prince meant all along? I always thought he was much more interested in vaginas as inputs. But maybe I'm being too harsh and what this remake really is saying is that man and woman can unite entirely via music. How of him (that symbol means man + woman + music, right? Right?!?).
As a palate-cleansing bonus, and a way of proving that not all of Prince's '90s output is worthless, here's 1991's "Insatiable". It's gorgeous, probably my favorite of his sex jams. Hate the game, not the cameraman.