Prince Shows Some Vulnerability on ‘Damn U’
Prince was no stranger to expressing his feelings in song. Whether he was horny, agitated, horny, perplexed or horny, he pretty much had a song for every occasion.
With 1992's "Damn U," he turned down the lights, turned up the slow jams and got totally lost in one amazing woman. Nothing new for Prince, who was declaring his love for the ladies ever since his first record back in 1978, but this slow-simmering burner -- the fourth single from 1992's Love Symbol Album -- put him in a rare position: the vulnerable one in a relationship.
Getting freaky was pretty much an everyday thing in Prince songs. Scan almost any track in his extensive catalog, and you'll find everything you need for a serious round or three of baby-making. "Damn U" doesn't skimp on those details -- "When we're makin' love, I can't hold back / It's like having a hundred million little heart attacks," he sings at one point -- but his delivery, and the smooth, reserved flow by the New Power Generation, who back him, classify this as a different type of Prince song.
Maybe it's the way he says, "Damn u, baby, you're so fine." Or the way his breathy falsetto utters the lyrics. Or maybe it's because he sounds totally out of control of his emotions -- again, a rarity for Prince, on record and in life. Whatever it is, the song, which serves as a brief break from the album's mostly electric and frenetic jams, is one of Prince's most serious love songs during his peak era.
Watch Prince and the New Power Generation's 'Damn U' Video
"Damn U," like a few other tracks from the Love Symbol Album, was recorded in January 1992 at Paisley Park Studios and featured Prince playing, as usual, most of the underlining instruments, though New Power Generation members Michael B. (drums), Sonny T. (bass), Levi Seacer, Jr. (guitar) and Tommy Barbarella (keyboards) handle the basics.
And like some other tracks, "Damn U" features Cheers and Drop Dead Gorgeous actress Kirstie Alley during its final 20 seconds playing a reporter named Vanessa Bartholomew who futilely tries to interview Prince. In an early incarnation of the album, there was a narrative about an Egyptian actress falling in love with the artist that was told through interludes. Most of these were dropped, and the storyline was mostly abandoned, though many of Alley's parts remained ... making little sense within the revamped context.
No matter. "Damn U" was all about mood anyway. And Prince delivers it here with a side of old-school soul. It shows up in the middle of the Love Symbol Album, sandwiched between two more modern-sounding pieces of funk, "The Continental" and the minute-and-a-half workout session "Arrogance."
It's a smooth fit, though the song didn't work as well at radio. When "Damn U" was issued as a single in late 1992, a little more than a month after the album came out, it stalled at No. 108 on the pop chart -- one of the few Prince singles to not crack the Billboard Hot 100 since 1999 made him a star a decade earlier. (A pair of Lovesexy tracks in 1988 failed to chart, too.) It fared better on the R&B chart, where it just missed the Top 30 and was more suited to the audience, the first to embrace Prince's music in the late '70s. Appropriate, since "Damn U" is a wet kiss to that period.