Sign o' the Times (song)

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"Sign '☮' the Times"

U.S. 7" single
Single by Prince
from the album Sign "O" the Times
B-side "La, La, La, He, He, Hee"
Released February 18, 1987
Format 7" single
12" single
Recorded Home studio, Minneapolis and Sunset Sound; March – December 1986
Genre Pop rock, R&B, funk, soul
Length 7" edit: 3:44
Album/12": 5:02
Label Paisley Park
Writer(s) Prince
Producer(s) Prince
Prince singles chronology
"Anotherlover-
holenyohead
"
(1986)
"Sign o' the Times"
(1987)
"If I Was Your Girlfriend"
(1987)
Sign "O" the Times track listing
"Sign o' the Times"
(1)
"Play in the Sunshine"
(2)

"Sign o' the Times" (also stylized as Sign "☮" the Times) is the lead single off Prince's 1987 album of the same name. The song is a holdover from both the Dream Factory and Crystal Ball projects, promoted to the title track of the 1987 release. Prince performs the entire track except for some backing vocals by then-girlfriend Susannah Melvoin. "Sign o' the Times" was written on a Sunday, when Prince usually wrote his most introspective songs. The song proved popular upon release, topping the R&B chart, and reaching number three on the Billboard Hot 100.[1] Rolling Stone ranked "Sign o' the Times" #304 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Composition and arrangement[edit]

The song was constructed by Prince almost entirely on the Fairlight sampling synthesizer, which provides the primary keyboard riff and sampled electronic bass sounds heard on the track. Unlike some artists, Prince did not program new sounds for this song. He simply used the stock sounds the Fairlight offered, including the famed "orchestra hit" towards the end of the composition. The single marked a shift from those pulled from the Parade and Around the World in a Day albums, with a spare, electronic-based arrangement, simple drum machine hits and minimal stacked synth patterns, as well as a bluesy, funk-rock guitar part (cut from the single edit of the song). The record was noticeably bluesier and more downcast (both melodically and lyrically) than any of Prince's previous singles, addressing various socio-political problems including AIDS, gang violence, natural disasters, poverty, drug abuse, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and impending nuclear holocaust. This record showcased Prince's ability to merge classic and modern rhythm and blues characteristics into one song.

Artwork[edit]

  • The single's cover features new band member Cat Glover posing with a large heart covering her face, and on the back of the cover, posing with Prince's guitar, although popular rumour insisted, despite the case, that the front cover featured Prince in drag.
  • The music video consist of animated graphics, with the lyrics of the song written in the typeface Times.

B-side[edit]

The B-side was the funk-oriented "La, La, La, He, He, Hee". The song was written as a rejoinder to Sheena Easton. The track features vocal samples morphed into drumbeats not dissimilar to that of a dog barking. The lyrics refer to a dog's affair with a cat with playful sexuality. Part of the refrain was used briefly in the song "I Wanna Melt with U", from the Love Symbol album.

Track listings[edit]

7" single
  • A. "Sign o' the Times" (edit) – 3:42
  • B. "La, La, La, He, He, Hee" – 3:21
12" single
  • A. "Sign o' the Times" (LP version) – 4:57
  • B. "La, La, La, He, He, Hee" (Highly Explosive) – 10:32

Cover versions[edit]

Samples[edit]

  • Dubstep producer Kode 9 along with vocalist The Spaceape produced a dark, slow, dub-influenced pseudo cover version of this track, called "Sine", on the album Memories of the Future.
  • Derek B included a sample of the opening lyric "Oh, yeah" on his 1988 song "Bad Young Brother".
  • Young Disciples included a sample of the lyrics "gang called the Disciples" on their 1991 song "Apparently Nothin'".

References[edit]

  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 471. 
  2. ^ Hampton. A Musical Odyssey (David Nathan) in: Break Down And Let It All Out. p. 220. 
Preceded by
"Looking for a New Love" by Jody Watley
Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks number one single
April 11, 1987
Succeeded by
"Don't Disturb This Groove" by The System