No particular sign (Prince, 1986)

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One of the most revered artists — not only singer but indeed artist in the consummate sense — of all time is Prince, a legendary guitarist whose stardom soared through the eighties. With a mix of pop, funk, soul and R&B, Prince defined an era of pushing genre and pop art boundaries that may have otherwise been overshadowed by the dominance of the one and only King of Pop (Michael Jackson).

While known most for his iconic Purple Rain song released in 1984 with the film that won him an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, Prince produced hundreds of other memorable hits throughout his storied career including Little Red Corvette (1982), 1999 (1982), When Doves Cry (1984) and Rasberry Beret (1985).

Today though, we feature Kiss, a song composed, written and produced by Prince released in 1986. Ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and many other charts and is remembered as a fan favorite.

With a simple bassline marked more by its funky rhythm and simple harmonies, the song stands out for its beats that truly seem to “pop” and persist. The song is broken by timely breaks in rhythm and is driven by Prince’s transcendent vocals that wind and squeal between the heavy beats, beckoning listeners to dance and move. One of the most striking parts is the guitar solo that begins about two-thirds way into the song, starting with harmonic riffs that don’t seem to make immediate harmonic sense but nevertheless, fitting with the true definition of funk. The song persists and insists the same way Prince insists on his need for a “kiss” throughout the song.

While the sonority stands apart from the soul genre from a few decades prior to Prince’s breakout hits, the song actually stays true in lyrics and in ethos to the soulful songs of old.  In much the same way James Brown beckoned and Otis Redding reassured, Prince pleads that the partner need be neither “rich” nor “cool to “rule my world.” He states that there is “no particular sign that turns me on” and that they could nevertheless “have a good time.” While the song may be more sexually explicit than those of yonder years, the sentiment backing this funky beat and soaring vocals remains the same: love is love, and the frivolous materialism of wealth and demeanor — and in this case, even clothes — are irrelevant to the depth of love symbolized by a simple kiss.

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