30 Years Ago: Prince Re-Introduces Himself on ‘My Name is Prince’
Why on Earth, one might ask, would an artist as widely regarded as Prince feel it necessary to devote a precious lyric sheet to introducing himself? The world he'd address, after all, had spent the better part of the '80s showering the performer with Grammys, chart-searing hit singles, blockbuster world tours—and even an Oscar.
By the time "My Name Is Prince," the second single from 1992's Love Symbol Album, was deployed to offer its author's kindly acquaintance, he had already spent an entire decade collecting multi-platinum albums like rummage sale pottery. While Prince constructed his $10 million Paisley Park estate in 1986, it could easily be said that his second home was the Billboard Hot 100.
But, as exemplified by the fidgety funk energy of "My Name Is Prince," bolstered by a pounding hip-hop beat, the track that ceremonially inaugurates Love Symbol has less to do with announcing Prince's celebrity as it does with offering a still-infant generation a crucial lesson on its immortality.
The Love Symbol Album saw Prince accompanied by his backing band the New Power Generation for the second time around. The collaboration first manifested with 1991's Diamonds and Pearls, which propelled him back to the center of the international stage after the comparatively sleepy Graffiti Bridge in 1990. And armed with this musical entourage, leading Love Symbol with "My Name Is Prince," a newborn decade was formally introduced to Prince's chameleon-like cultural adaptability.
But the ego isn't merely stroked—it's pragmatically referenced: "I don't want to be king," Prince proclaims, "'Cause I've seen the top / and it's just a dream." With throaty conviction, he cautions, "Big cars and women and fancy clothes / Will save your face but it won't save your soul." The excess of overindulging one's influence can be hazardous, he admonishes. Still, it's imperative that his prominence be understood in biblical terms: "In the beginning God made the sea / But on the seventh day he made me."
Teeing up the first verse are subtly deployed vocal samples of "Controversy" and "I Wanna Be Your Lover." And in a flurry of sexual moans, turntable scratches and a thick, low-riding bass groove, Prince delivers his lines -- preached but not sung, MC'd but not rapped -- gracefully erecting a bridge on the border of the late '80s and early '90s. Shrewdly aware of acts like Naughty by Nature and his own protege Tevin Campbell making pop chart headway, Prince expertly fuses his glam-funk essence on "My Name Is Prince" with more contemporary developments in urban music. This is no more clear than when New Power Generation dancer-guitarist Tony M. issues a series of blistering rap bars that bring the track to a close.
It's a galvanizing song that almost tempts one toward chaos, which is depicted in its official music video (see below). Memorably starring actress Kirstie Alley as a news anchor, a simulated news feed documents a riot erupting during a Prince performance at his Glam Slam nightclub. A riot, of course, of which Prince quickly becomes a ringleader.
"My Name Is Prince" is a powerfully persuasive statement. However, Prince would have to re-introduce himself once more the following year when a contract dispute with Warner Bros. would result in him adopting the unpronounceable logo on the Love Symbol album sleeve as his official recording alias.
Watch Prince's 'My Name is Prince' Video
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