Prince #2: Come
Let’s be clear: Come is pathologically, hilariously blunt in its sexual language. On the title track, we go from Prince telling a woman he’s going to ejaculate, variously, in her hair AND her eye (forewarned is forearmed, I guess) to saying “it’s no wonder there’s a puddle there” to what can be the only appearance ever of the word “tallywhacker” in an R&B song. “Come” (the song) is juvenile, ham-handed, often just plain gross, and I love it. It’s maybe one of the best-produced songs in Prince’s discography, and therefore a key to the rest of the album.
Where The Black Album was a brittle-sounding, mostly electronic scrapbook, Come is gorgeously produced from end to end, full of warm bass and stunningly arranged horns. It’s also not entirely about fucking: there’s the thoughtful “Race,” the full-on rave track “Loose!”, and “Solo,” a lyrical collaboration with M. Butterfly librettist David Henry Hwang. Prince put it out as a contract-fulfiller with Warner Bros., did no publicity for it, and almost immediately disowned it. Yet when you listen to Come, you can hear the work and care that went into it. It’s an album equally at home with being filthy and quiet, puerile and thoughtful. Two years earlier, on “My Name Is Prince,” Prince shout-rapped, “I got two sides/And they’re both friends!” This, more than anything, is the sharpest self-assessment in the man’s entire catalog. Come is the embodiment of that. Despite his public attitude toward the album, I suspect Prince took a rightful pride in the album: he’d later include more than half the tracks in a TV special that was supposed to be promoting 1995’s The Gold Experience.
One note: if you do listen to Come, maybe don’t do it at work, or around someone you don’t know intimately. And if you do listen with an intimate friend, a fun game is to see how long you can maintain eye contact through the final track, “Orgasm,” which is a minute and thirty-nine seconds of Vanity either having an orgasm or faking one really loudly.
- I would argue that Come, along with maybe The Truth, is the most consistent-sounding album of Prince’s post-1999 career. The production, now 23 years later, sounds absolutely warm and vital, with deep grooves on every song, and probably the best-sounding computer drum tracks of the man’s career. (New Power Generation drummer Michael B does add real drums to a few tracks, though he’s also the most machine-like musician of any of Prince’s players.) Check out, in particular, “Space,” which has a mid-tempo drum track (Caissie thinks it sounds like something off a Beck song) but a bouncy, peak-era Motown bass line played by Prince himself.
- I cannot believe I just typed the words “deep grooves,” but there you have it.
- I do think it’s telling that Come and The Black Album — the two albums Prince disowned most vocally (we’ll get to Old Friends 4 Sale soon enough) — are also his most revealing. With The Black Album, he was clearly freaked out at the thought of admitting drug use after being such a public teetotaler. With Come, I think it’s less the idea of talking about sex (I mean, it’s Prince) than the incredible specificity of some of it. Then there’s the “Papa,” a detailed lyric about child abuse wrapped uncomfortably in a blues shuffle. Prince was a performer who had no problem singing about oral sex or wearing assless pants; vulnerability was less comfortable for him.
- Sample lyric from “Come”: Lickin’ you inside/Outside/All sides/With my tongue in the crease/Baby, I go ’round/When I go down. Who was singing about ass-eating in 1994? Prince, once again ahead of the curve!