Prince Falls in Love, Again, on ‘The Morning Papers’
Falling in love in a song was nothing new for Prince. He did it all the time. A lot of the time it ended up getting all swirled in with buckets of lust too, but throughout his almost 40-year recording career, he expressed his devotion and unbridled passion in ways that ranged from the downright nasty to near heavenly.
So it's no surprise that one of Prince's most romantic records is 1992's the Love Symbol Album, one of only two LPs of his, out of a total of 39, with the word "love" in its title. Officially, the album's title is an unpronounceable symbol, but even that's closer to genuine romance than 1988's more salacious Lovesexy, which featured a semi-erect penis flower on its cover.
That mood carried over into the album's contents. As originally envisioned, the Love Symbol Album was supposed to tell the story of an Egyptian princess who falls in love with a rock star. Spoken-word interludes were weaved into the story -- some of them by actress Kirstie Alley, who played a reporter trying to interview the elusive Prince-like rock star -- but were eventually cut, making the remaining ones seem out of place and leaving the story's narrative a confused mess.
What was left was an album about that mixed dance-floor jams like "My Name Is Prince" and "Sexy MF" with bedroom burners like "Blue Light" and "Damn U." It's not an uneasy combination; the Love Symbol Album may be Prince's last great LP. But as far as that concept that was supposed to drive it? It's barely there, meaning that the album's individual songs must carry the weight. And most of them do, especially the five tracks pulled as singles. The last of them, "The Morning Papers," arrived six months after the album's October release.
Watch Prince and the New Power Generation's 'Morning Papers' Video
And like many of the LP's deeper cuts, it's a love song that works within the context of the album's earlier configuration and as a stand-alone number. Maybe it makes more sense within the scrapped narrative, especially since it's written in the third person -- the song was to be introduced right around the time Prince's character begins to fall in love with the princess -- but its sentiments slip into more familiar positions almost as well: "They could take a walk down the ocean side / Make a wish on every wave / They could find a carousel and ride or kiss in every cave / They could contemplate the entire universe or just one star."
But unlike most other cuts on the Love Symbol Album, "The Morning Papers" softens the R&B textures -- whether it's the hard funk of 'My Name Is Prince" or the bedroom balladry of "Damn U" -- and replaces them with Around the World in a Day-era mid-tempo pop. There's even a killer guitar solo that tears through the song's latter half.
The song was recorded in early December 1991 at Paisley Park Studios with some of the album's other key tracks. And like those numbers, it features the New Power Generation in one of their tightest performances; the song's last minute or so is a stellar showcase for the band's prowess.
"The Morning Papers" ended up just missing the Top 40 when it was pulled as a single in April 1993. (It did a little better at radio, where it cracked the Top 20.) Like most of the Love Symbol's songs, it also appeared on the 3 Chains O' Gold home video that made a little more sense of the story that got pushed aside on record. With or without context, it's one of Prince's best songs of the '90s, a throwback of sorts about a subject he excelled at when he put his heart into it.