Prince: The Final Years with Warner Brothers

Under the Cherry Moon

Prince's Around the World in a Day
Prince's soundtrack to the film Under the Cherry Moon and released with the album title Parade

Following the release of both the album and movie, Purple Rain, and an extensive tour that was compared by Prince's tour manager, Alan Leeds, to tours by the Beatle, Prince announced he would be taking some time off from performing and touring. Instead of performing, Prince focused his efforts in writing and recording music. In 1985, Prince released, Around the World in a Day. The album, like many of Prince's albums leading up to this point, was received favorably and held the number one spot on the Billboards for three weeks. Hits such as "Pop Life" and "Raspberry Beret" were standouts even though Prince refused to let Warner Brothers promote the album or any of its singles. This refusal marked the beginning of Prince's dissatisfaction with Warner Brothers, which would would eventually lead to him leaving the label in the mid 90s. More on that to come. Even though Prince refused any promotion, Warner Brothers eventually convinced Prince in promoting "Raspberry Beret," which was turning into a music video and quickly claimed the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Prince's second film Under the Cherry Moon

With the album Around the World in a Day, Prince used his primary band, The Revolution, for the recording. The Revolution would also be used for Prince's next album Parade, which was released in 1986, but it would be the last time this band recorded with Prince. This was due to the fact that Prince had brought success to members of the band, especially Windy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, who wanted to branch out on their own and have a more creative role in music. Nonetheless, Parade reached number 3 on the Billboard 200 and Prince used the album for the soundtrack for his next film endeavor. The movie Under the Cherry Moon was Prince's second feature film that he starred in and was the first film as a director. Although Purple rain was highly successful, the black and white art piece Under the Cherry Moon was a disaster. Prince played a gigolo in France who seduces the barely dressed actress Kirsten Scott Thomas. The film received awards for the Worst Director, Worst Actor, and Worst Original Song, Love or Money by the Golden Raspberry Awards, an awards ceremony that recognizes the worst aspects in film.


Sign 'o' the Times

Prince's ninth studio album Sign 'o' the Times

Considered by critics and fans, Prince's best recording came in 1987 with the release of Sign 'o' the Times. This album was part of the creative surge Prince had after taking sometime off touring and performing following the release of Purple Rain in 1985. The creative surge started with a recording project with The revolution entitled Dream Factory. This project was shelved. Then, Prince recorded an improvised jazz-funk jam session entitled The Flesh. This recording included a track called "Can I Play With U?" for jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. This recording was shelved. Then, Prince wanted to film another movie called The Dawn. This was never finished. Then, Prince recorded a solo project for a new persona that was inspired by 19th century writer Herculine Barbin. This project was entitled Camille and exhibited a falsetto vocal style sped up. Prince also felt the need to write a script for a film entitled Camille.This was also shelved. All of these projects led to Prince wanting to release all of the unreleased material on a three album compilation called Crystal Ball. Warner Brothers convinced Prince to turn this release into a double album that was eventually released in 1987 with the name Sign 'o' the Times. All these creative products led to Prince's pop-art landmark. As expressed by Rolling Stones Magazine:

Sign 'o' the Times is Prince's recorded apex, the summation and greatest articulation of all the musical fusions he'd alchemized up to that point. It's the album where he does it all - combining his synth-drums and meta-funk explorations with psychedelia, rock-guitar heroics and mainstream pop on the order of 1999 and Purple Rain.Reflecting both hip-hop's early cutting edge and his own relenting muse, with new twists on old themes, Sign 'o' the Times was at once more confident, rangy and visionary than its predecessors. It took Prince's beat centered, future-forward songcraft not just to the next level but to multiple levels.

And the album, Sign 'o' the Times, was well received, with the album reaching number 6 on the Billboards, singles such as "Sign 'o' the Times," "If I Was Your Girlfriend," "U Got the Look," and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" all chartered high on the Billboard 100. The album sold over 3.2 million copies and was named album of the year by Pazz and Jop Critics' Polls. It would be Prince's highest artistic achievement up to this point.

The Official Music Video Sign 'o' the Times

The Love Symbol

The Love Symbol with both gender symbols represented

Following the success of Prince's Sign 'o' the Times, Prince began to receive criticism from fans for straying too far from his R&B roots with tracks like "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" that was more Rock and Roll than R&B. As a response, Prince began to record The Black Album. Originally entitled The Funk Bible, Prince lyrically explored his upbringing as a Seventh-day Adventist and his separation from religion in his adult life. The music was hard-hitting, raw R&B, Prince's musical reaction to fan's recent criticism. However, with Warner Brothers about to release 400,000 copies to the public, Prince had an epiphany, realizing that the entire album was recorded out of anger. In Prince's words, "[he] made it for the wrong reasons," and told Warner Brothers to not release the album. Warner Brothers eventually complied with Prince and didn't release The Black Album at that time. It was eventually released in 1994.

Prince's The Black Album which wasn't released until 1994
Prince's tenth studio album Lovesexy

As a response to his enlightenment, Prince released Lovesexy, a spiritual, lush pivot that is described in Rolling Stones Magazine as "a mind trip, [or] a psychedelic movie." This recording was recorded at Prince's Paisley Park Studios, his own home studio and performance venue that Prince created with the success of Purple Rain. In fact, Prince made this Minneapolis home studio his go-to studio with his past several releases. Recently, this studio has been converted into a museum for Prince fans and enthusiasts. Lovesexy wasn't a huge success, however, due to a few suspect choices. First, Prince insisted that the album be released as one long track, making the album impossible to play on the radio or play particular tracks. Second, the cover art is Prince completely naked, which caused record stores not to carry the album.

Paisley Park Studios
Paisley Park Studios Control Room

Nonetheless, Prince was a pop icon and was busy creating and producing. In 1989, he created many tracks for Tim Burton's Batman that starred Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as Batman. Singles such as "Batdance" topped the Billboards and brought more of the publics attention to Prince. The following year, Prince took another stab at creating a movie. Graffiti Bridge was a sequel to the film Purple Rain and starred Prince, was written by Prince, and the soundtrack was, of course, by Prince. The soundtrack, which shares the same name, was received favorably with the album reaching the top 10 Billboard albums and several singles charted highly as well. However, the film was another disaster and was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, an awards ceremony celebrating the worst in film.

The Official Trailor to Graffiti Bridge
Another hit single by Prince from the 1989 version of Batman entitled "Trust."

New Power Generation

Diamonds and Pearls
The Love Symbol Album
"To The 9s" from Prince's Love Symbol album

By the early 90s, Prince had finally created a new backing band that would help him record new material and tour. This band was called The New Power Generation and in 1991 they helped Prince create the album Diamonds and Pearls. This album was a hit and went double platinum resulting in Prince signing a six-album contract with Warner Brothers. Unfortunately, Prince soon felt a need to leave Warner Brothers but was stuck with this contractual agreement. One of the reasons for this was that he felt Warner Brothers was not letting him release albums as quickly as he was creating music. Additionally, Prince felt that Warner Brothers was marketing his music poorly as seen with his following album The Love Symbol, which was released in 1992. Prince was very proud of the music he created for this album but the album and singles didn't chart very high on the Billboards leading Prince to believe that Warner Brothers were to blame for the promotion and marketing of the album. In fact, just a disagreement over singles was the beginning of the end for the Prince and the label. All of this animosity led Prince to changing his name to the love symbol. Many fans and critics didn't know how to react to this transformation and settled on calling Prince "the artist formally known as Prince," or simply "the artist." Warner Bothers also had to send the newly formed "love symbol," a combination of both male and female gender symbols, to magazine publications and other printed media just so Prince's new name could be properly notated.

The Hits/The B-Side

As a way get out of his contact obligations, Prince began to create and release music at a rapid rate. First, in 1993, Warner Brothers released a 3-disc compilation of Prince hits and B-side singles called The Hits/The B-Side. Come was released in 1994 and was comprised of tracks Prince recorded during a prolific period in 1993 and was filled out with unreleased music from his vault. This album's cover had the text "1953-1993" under his name indicating that his birth name had died and was replaced with the love symbol. Additionally, Prince let Warner Brothers release The Black Album that was previously recorded in 1987. The final two albums that released Prince from his contractual agreements with Warner Brothers were The Gold Experience released in 1995, and Chaos and Disorder released in 1996. Even though Prince had started to use his new name, it wasn't until The Gold Experience that an album was released under his new love symbol name. By 1996, Prince was free from Warner Brothers Records allowing him to record, produce and release music as quickly and often as he wanted.

Choas and Disorder
The Gold Experience