The Story of Vanity 6’s Only Album
The first and only album ever recorded by Prince's girl group, Vanity 6, arrived in August 1982. The self-titled project was named for the band's lead singer, and Prince's one-time love interest, Vanity (Denise Katrina Matthews).
“She was the most beautiful woman in the world and she had no problem letting you know that," Prince once said of the former model and singer, who also served as his muse at the time.
Vanity 6 arrived in the midst of a flurry of creativity for Prince; that same year, he also released the Time's second album, What Time Is It?, penning and producing most of the songs for the funk-laced project, as well as one of his star-making works, the classic double album 1999. Stuffed in the middle of those two projects was Vanity 6, a danceable, overtly sexual (sometimes ridiculously so), collection of eight songs, including the lead single, "He's So Dull" a fun, classically '80s bubblegum pop track about a guy who's "still living with his mama" and is therefore "dull."
But it was the album's follow-up hit, "Nasty Girl," which solidified Vanity 6's place on the charts and as a memorable spot on Prince's '80s cannon. The synth-laced track, featuring Vanity's sugar-sweet vocals, landed at No. 1 on the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart, and remains a nostalgic club and radio favorite, as well as the group's most recognizable song.
The album was short -- only 31 minutes long -- but packed a punch, and Vanity's sensual, airy vocals coupled with Prince's heavy dance synths eventually influenced a host of pop singers looking to hone in on their sexuality while remaining mysterious. Prince handled all the writing and production for the project under one of his aliases, The Starr Company, with the exception of "He's So Dull" which was written by Dez Dickerson. Legendary producer Terry Lewis and Time guitarist Jesse Johnson also shared co-writing credit on "If a Girl Answers (Don't Hang Up)" and "Bite the Beat" respectively.
The album was certified gold in 1983, however, the success of the group was short-lived. By 1984, Vanity had left the group and Prince's organization all together for Motown, later admitting that she wasn't entirely comfortable with some of her early imagery.
“I did it because [Prince] told me I had to do it,” she told Aldore Colier in a 1993 interview with Jet. “If I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t get paid. I got into it. I wanted the old Diana Ross image.”
Prince essentially replaced Matthews with Apollonia Kotero, with the two remaining members of Vanity 6, Brenda Bennett and Susan Moonsie, continuing as members of Apollonia 6, making their screen debut in the 1984 movie, Purple Rain.
As for Vanity 6, they may have only recorded one album together, but they left a significant imprint on Prince's '80s catalog, defined by the ready playability of "Nasty Girl."