Prince, 1981

Why do you think the different stylistic influences on Prince's "Minneapolis sound" caused people to question his identity? Are the different styles he fuses associated with different identity groups?

Based on your reading of the lyrics, what do you think Prince thinks of the controversies that surround him?

Why do you think the inclusion of religious symbols and allusions in the music and lyrics were controversial?

What does Prince mean by "life is just a game, we're all just the same / Do you want to play?"

In the song, Prince "wishes" for three things. What do you think is the message he is trying to convey through these wishes?

"Controversy" performed by Prince on Controversy, © 1981. Available on iTunes and YouTube.

For more information on Prince, visit his official website.

Rights have not been secured to reprint the words for this song. Please consult this online source

Prince Rogers Nelson (1958–2016) grew up and based his career in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On his first four albums, Prince fused elements of funk, soul, disco, rock, and punk into a new sound that critics referred to as the "Minneapolis sound." Prince's later music was influenced by psychedelic rock, world music, electronic dance music, orchestral music, and hip-hop. His genre-bending style caused many to question his sexual and racial identity.

Prince Nelson Rogers
Prince Rogers Nelson

"Controversy" was the title song on Prince's fourth album, which included provocative songs intended to ignite debate and public reaction. The album is Prince's response to the reactions to his previous album, Dirty Mind, in that it addresses the questions that were being asked about him. He does not answer the questions, however, but rather revels in them, singing, "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?" Susan Rogers, a sound engineer who worked extensively with Prince, noted that Prince was "happy with ambiguity" and that he appreciated the attention it garnered. "He was fine with the right answer, he was fine with the wrong answer. He simply enjoyed that more" (quoted in Helmreich, p. 139).

Another focal point in the song is Prince's religion, which is emphasized in the congregation-like recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the middle of the song. (The music video for the song removed the chant.) In an age in which the mainstream considered homosexuality to be deviant and immoral, audiences had difficulty reconciling Prince's sexuality with his religious piety. Indeed, many found the juxtaposition of a sacred text with his "deviant" lyrics to be sacrilegious.



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