Controversy (Prince album)

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Prince Controversy.jpg
Studio album by Prince
Released October 14, 1981
Recorded 1981
Studio Uptown, Sunset Sound, Hollywood Sound
Length 37:15
Label Warner Bros.
Producer Prince
Prince chronology
Dirty Mind
Singles from Controversy
  1. "Controversy"
    Released: September 2, 1981
  2. "Let's Work"
    Released: January 6, 1982
  3. "Do Me, Baby"
    Released: July 16, 1982
  4. "Sexuality"
    Released: 1982

Controversy is the fourth studio album by American recording artist Prince. It was released on October 14, 1981 by Warner Bros. Records.

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to Blender magazine's Keith Harris, Controversy is "Prince's first attempt to get you to love him for his mind, not just his body", as it "refines the propulsive funk of previous albums and adds treatises on religion, work, nuclear war and Abscam."[3] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic also remarked on its music in how it "continues in the same vein of new wave-tinged funk on Dirty Mind, emphasizing Prince's fascination with synthesizers and synthesizing disparate pop music genres".[1]

Controversy begins with its title track, which raises questions that were being asked about him at the time, including his race and sexuality. The song "flirts with blasphemy" by including a chant of The Lord's Prayer. "Do Me, Baby" is an "extended bump-n-grind" ballad with explicitly sexual lyrics, and "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" is a politically charged plea to President Ronald Reagan. "Private Joy" is a bouncy bubblegum pop-funk tune, "showing off Prince's lighter side", followed by "Annie Christian", which lists historical events such as the murder of African-American children in Atlanta and the death of John Lennon. The album's final song, "Jack U Off", is a synthesized rockabilly-style track.[4]

This was the first of his albums to associate Prince with the color purple as well as the first to use sensational spelling in his song titles.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars[1]
Blender 4/5 stars[3]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[5]
Entertainment Weekly B+[6]
MusicHound Rock 4/5[7]
Pitchfork 9/10[8]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars[4]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3.5/5 stars[9]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 8/10[10]
The Village Voice A−[11]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone Magazine, music critic Stephen Holden wrote that "Prince's first three records were so erotically self-absorbed that they suggested the reveries of a licentious young libertine. On Controversy, that libertine proclaims unfettered sexuality as the fundamental condition of a new, more loving society than the bellicose, overtechnologized America of Ronald Reagan." He went on to say, "Despite all the contradictions and hyperbole in Prince's playboy philosophy, I still find his message refreshingly relevant."[4] Robert Christgau was less enthusiastic in a generally favorable review for The Village Voice, in which he wrote that its "socially conscious songs are catchy enough, but they spring from the mind of a rather confused young fellow, and while his politics get better when he sticks to his favorite subject, which is s-e-x, nothing here is as far-out and on-the-money as 'Head' or 'Sister' or the magnificent 'When You Were Mine.'"[11]

Controversy was voted the eighth best album of the year in the 1981 Pazz & Jop, an annual critics poll run by The Village Voice.[12]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written, composed, and arranged by Prince.

Side one
  1. "Controversy" – 7:15
  2. "Sexuality" – 4:21
  3. "Do Me, Baby" – 7:43
Side two
  1. "Private Joy" – 4:29
  2. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" – 1:58
  3. "Let's Work" – 3:54
  4. "Annie Christian" – 4:22
  5. "Jack U Off" – 3:09


Adapted from the AllMusic credits.[13]

  • Prince - lead vocals, bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, producer, arranger
  • Lisa Coleman - sitar, keyboards, backing vocals (on "Controversy", "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" and "Jack U Off"), keyboards ("Jack U Off")
  • Dr. Fink - keyboards ("Jack U Off")
  • Bobby Z. - drums ("Jack U Off")

Singles and Hot 100 chart placings[edit]

  1. "Controversy"
  2. "When You Were Mine"
  1. "Let's Work"
  2. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia"
  3. "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" (US 12")
  1. "Do Me, Baby"
  2. "Private Joy"
  • "Sexuality" (German/Japan/Australia single)
  1. "Sexuality"
  2. "Controversy" (DEU, JAP)
  3. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (AUS)


Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1981) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[14] 55
Dutch Albums Chart[15] 50
US Billboard 200[16] 21
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[16] 3
Chart (2016) Peak
U.S. Billboard 200 55

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1982) Position
US Billboard Pop Albums 59


Region Certification Certified units/Sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[17] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[18] Platinum 1,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Prince: Controversy at AllMusic. Retrieved September 15, 2011 (2011-09-15).
  2. ^ Eddy, Chuck (September 2010). "Essentials". Spin. 26 (8): 84. 
  3. ^ a b Harris, Keith (June–July 2001). "Every Original CD Reviewed - Prince". Blender. No. 1. Alpha Media Group. 
  4. ^ a b c Holden, Stephen (January 21, 1982). "Prince: Controversy". Rolling Stone. No. RS 361. Wenner Media. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on March 20, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2016. 
  5. ^ Larkin, Colin (2002). Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise 4 ed.). Virgin Books. ISBN 978-1-85227-923-3. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ Browne, David (September 21, 1990). "Purple Products". Entertainment Weekly. No. #32. Time. ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  7. ^ Graff, Gary; Durchholz, Daniel (eds.) (1999). MusicHound Rock: The Essential Album Guide (2nd ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Visible Ink Press. p. 897. ISBN 1-57859-061-2. 
  8. ^ Brooks, Daphne (April 29, 2016). "Prince: Controversy". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved May 1, 2016. 
  9. ^ Hoard (2004), p. 655. Portions posted at "Prince: Album Guide". Retrieved August 15, 2012. 
  10. ^ Weisbard, Eric (October 10, 1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide (1st ed.). Vintage. ISBN 978-0-679-75574-6. Retrieved September 15, 2011. 
  11. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (November 30). New York. Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice (February 1). New York. 1982. Retrieved November 1, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Controversy - Prince | Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 November 2016. 
  14. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  15. ^ "Prince - Controversy". 
  16. ^ a b "Allmusic: Controversy : Charts & Awards: Billboard Albums". Retrieved April 2, 2014. 
  17. ^ "British album certifications – Prince – Controversy". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 2, 2014.  Enter Controversy in the field Keywords. Select Title in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Select Gold in the field By Award. Click Search
  18. ^ "American album certifications – Prince – Controversy". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 2, 2013.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH


  • Nathan Brackett, Christian Hoard (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. 

External links[edit]