Jump to content

Controversy (Prince album)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prince looking towards the viewer, with front pages of "The Controversy Daily" newspaper behind him, mentioning various headlines.
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 14, 1981
RecordedAugust 14–23, 1981[1]
StudioKiowa Trail Home Studio, Chanhassen, Minnesota; Hollywood Sound Recorders, Los Angeles, California; Sunset Sound, Hollywood, California[2]
LabelWarner Bros.
Prince chronology
Dirty Mind
Singles from Controversy
  1. "Controversy"
    Released: September 2, 1981
  2. "Sexuality"
    Released: October 1981 (non-US single)
  3. "Let's Work"
    Released: January 6, 1982
  4. "Do Me, Baby"
    Released: July 16, 1982

Controversy is the fourth studio album by the American singer-songwriter and musician Prince, released on October 14, 1981, by Warner Bros. Records. It was produced by Prince, written (with the exception of one track) by him, and he also performed most of the instruments on its recording.

Controversy reached number three on the Billboard R&B Albums chart and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It was voted the eighth best album of the year in the 1981 Pazz & Jop, an annual critics poll run by The Village Voice.[5]

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.

Music and lyrics


Controversy opens with the title track, which raises questions that were being asked about Prince 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.[6]

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Sun-Times[8]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[9]
The Guardian[10]
Rolling Stone[6]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[12]
Spin Alternative Record Guide8/10[13]
The Village VoiceA−[14]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, 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."[6]

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.'"[14]

According to Blender'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."[7] Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic remarked that 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".[3]

Controversy was voted the eighth best album of the year in the 1981 Pazz & Jop, an annual critics' poll run by The Village Voice.[5]

Track listing


All songs written by Prince, except where noted.

Side one
1."Controversy" 7:15
2."Sexuality" 4:21
3."Do Me, Baby"André Cymone, Prince7:43
Total length:19:19
Side two
4."Private Joy"4:29
5."Ronnie, Talk to Russia"1:58
6."Let's Work"3:54
7."Annie Christian"4:22
8."Jack U Off"3:09
Total length:17:52



Partially adapted from Morris Day and David Ritz.[15]




Weekly charts

Weekly chart performance for Controversy
Chart (1981) Peak
Australian Albums Chart[16] 55
Dutch Albums Chart[17] 50
US Billboard 200[18] 21
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums[19] 3

Year-end charts

Year-end chart performance for Controversy
Chart (1982) Position
US Billboard Pop Albums 59
US Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums 15


Certifications for Controversy
Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[20] Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[21] Platinum 1,000,000^
Worldwide 2,300,000[22]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

See also



  1. ^ "Prince - Discography for USA". www.discog.info. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
  2. ^ "Album: Controversy - Prince Vault". www.princevault.com. Archived from the original on July 7, 2016. Retrieved September 4, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Controversy – Prince". AllMusic. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  4. ^ Eddy, Chuck (September 2010). "Essentials". Spin. 26 (8): 84.
  5. ^ a b "The 1981 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll". The Village Voice. New York. February 1, 1982. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Holden, Stephen (January 21, 1982). "Controversy". Rolling Stone. No. 361. New York. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Harris, Keith (June–July 2001). "Prince: Controversy". Blender. No. 1. New York. Archived from the original on August 20, 2004. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
  8. ^ Keller, Martin (April 4, 1993). "A Prince Discography". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on April 8, 2017. Retrieved April 8, 2017.
  9. ^ Browne, David; Sandow, Greg (September 21, 1990). "A decade of Prince albums". Entertainment Weekly. No. 32. New York. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  10. ^ Price, Simon (April 22, 2016). "Prince: every album rated – and ranked". The Guardian. London. Retrieved April 25, 2016.
  11. ^ Brooks, Daphne (April 29, 2016). "Prince: Controversy". Pitchfork. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  12. ^ Matos, Michaelangelo (2004). "Prince". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 654–57. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  13. ^ Weisbard, Eric (1995). "Prince". In Weisbard, Eric; Marks, Craig (eds.). Spin Alternative Record Guide. New York: Vintage Books. pp. 311–13. ISBN 0-679-75574-8.
  14. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (November 30, 1981). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
  15. ^ Day, Morris; Ritz, David (2019). On Time: A Princely Life in Funk. Hachette Books. ISBN 9780306922206.
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  17. ^ "Prince - Controversy".
  18. ^ "Prince Chart History: Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  19. ^ "Prince Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". Billboard. Retrieved August 5, 2023.
  20. ^ "British album certifications – Prince – Controversy". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  21. ^ "American album certifications – Prince – Controversy". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved May 2, 2013.
  22. ^ Souza Filho, Otávio (December 20, 1992). "Prince: muito discos, poucas vendas". O Dia: 7. Retrieved August 10, 2023.