Prince’s ‘Chelsea Rodgers’ Is as Funky as It Is Mysterious
A fierce and groovy character sketch, Prince's "Chelsea Rodgers" nearly got lost in speculation: Just who, if anybody, was Chelsea Rodgers?
There was plenty to love about the song, all by itself. Shelby J., a North Carolina belter who had just joined the New Power Generation, gets a vocal showcase with Prince on this propulsive, guest-packed track from 2007's Planet Earth; also featured are percussionist Sheila E. and horn-player Maceo Parker. Together, they tell the story of a stereotype-bursting, ruggedly independent model amid pounding disco bass, soaring gospel-influenced vocals, bright brass stabs and goofball synths.
In the accompanying video, Prince attends a fashion show while the tune roars toward an instantly legendary quip-turned-party-chant: "Shake it like a Juicy Juice!" But the clip only served to stoke the rumor mill, since a lady friend is seen wearing a necklace with a hybrid design combining Prince's personal symbol and "CR," presumably for Chelsea Rodgers.
Watch Prince's "Chelsea Rodgers" Video
One theory, when the song appeared as the second single from Planet Earth, was that this was simply Prince's latest anonymous, but soon-to-be-famous protege. Or perhaps the video was simply a dodge. Maybe Prince was again addressing supermodel Cindy Crawford – subject of his salacious track "Cindy C," from 1994's Black Album. There were whispers, likely sparked by Sheila E's appearance in these sessions and repeated by Rolling Stone, that Chelsea Rodgers was their love child. Others figured this character was Prince himself, donning another Camille-like guise.
PrinceVault seems to put the matter to rest, stating that "the song is inspired by and written about model and clothing designer Chelsea Rodgers." Someone with the same name had a bio page at Models.com. The Telegraph also specifically mentioned "Prince's new girlfriend, the model Chelsea Rodgers" accompanying the singer to Fashion Week 2007 in London.
What ultimately became of her is harder to discern. But "Chelsea Rodgers" certainly helped position Shelby J. – a former backup singer with D'Angelo and Larry Graham – for her own future success. After debuting with Prince on the Super Bowl halftime stage, she'd appear on a total of four of his albums before starting a solo career.