Not only does Prince possess the most thrilling R&B falsetto since Smokey Robinson, but this nineteen-year-old. Minneapolis-bred Wunderkind is his own writer-producer and one-man band, playing synthesizer, guitar, drums and percussion. Whereas Prince’s debut album (last year’s For You) stressed his instrumental virtuosity, Prince teems with hooks that echo everyone from the Temptations to Jimi Hendrix to Todd Rundgren. But Smokey Robinson’s classic Motown hits, in which the singer’s falsetto signified his erotic thrall, are Prince’s chief models.
The biggest difference between Robinson and Prince is the latter’s blatant sexuality. Prince sings exclusively in falsetto. Instead of narrative ballads that trace the progress of relationships, Prince’s songs are erotic declarations issued on the dance floor or in bed, virtually interchangeable arenas here. These compositions begin and end in sexual heat. The garish, synthesized textures of such tunes as “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?” don’t so much imitate a band backing a singer as enclose his voice in a feverish calliope of the mind, underscoring the urgency of lyrics like “I wanna be the only one you come for,” “Sexy dancer, when you rub my body/…it gets me so hot” and “I want to come inside of you.” The simplicity of Prince’s words, hooks and rhythms are pure pop. With a trace more sophistication, he could become a solo Bee Gees of the libido.