Vous êtes très belle, ‘Parade’. You deserve constant praise, and I shall shower you with some now…
35 yrs ago today (3/31/86), Prince released the orchestral funk-pop delight ‘Parade’. #Princerversaries
Still to this day, Prince-lovers lament the fact that ‘Parade’ did not get the credit it deserved. The common consensus is that being linked to the movie Under The Cherry Moon (which was considered a box office flop), ultimately hurt the album. However, I happen to love UTCM and think that the music is perfectly placed within its lighthearted and campy comedic vignettes.
‘Parade’ marked a new wave of band restructuring for Prince. Prince has had one of the most diverse careers as far as genre-jumping and theme-based-style morphs go. As everyone knows, Prince took an abrupt about-face after the explosive success of ‘Purple Rain’; and took a colorful psychedelic journey through world music-influences with ‘Around The World In A Day’. Because it wasn’t “Purple Rain, Part Deux: Let The Rain Come Down Again’”, ATWIAD was also considered a slight failure at the time because it took a sharp downturn in sales and chart placements in comparison to its predecessor (although it did still sell 2M copies and reached #1 on the charts).
In order to continue his chameleon-esque run within the pop music game, Prince thumbed his nose at critics (as he was OFTEN wont to do), and dropped a gem that sits on the complete opposite side of the color spectrum next. Quite literally, Prince first released a rainbow explosion of artistic cartoon renderings of his bandmates and then followed it up with a stark black-and-white ultra-dramatic (and uber-sexy) solo portrait.
While ATWIAD allowed Prince to explore his hippie side, ‘Parade’ converted him into a slick Parisian gigolo. Not only confined to the Christopher Tracy role he played in the film; Prince himself began performing in tailored suits, silk pajama-like ensembles, and spandex crop top/skinny pant combos; with slicked back hair and minimal accessories to match.
Why do I keep mentioning ATWIAD in connection to ‘Parade’? Well it’s simple really. Not only did one closely follow the other on the release schedule, but also; Prince began working on ‘Parade’ before ATWIAD was even released. This is a mind-blowing fact about Prince that most don’t appreciate enough. While most artists go through lengthy conversionary periods before dipping their toe into uncharted territory (i.e., crossing genres or changing bands or even altering personal style); Prince could pull a complete 180 within weeks and record a rock classic one day, a funk anthem the next, a pop ballad the next, and a classical composition the day after that. To be able to SUCCESSFULLY switch gears not only in the studio, but also in the inspirational space within a musician’s mind that drives style and concept? THAT quickly and fluidly too? It’s a bear, and quite impressive that Prince was able to do it so often.
So now what about the music? Well in the end, it is ALWAYS about the music. And thankfully, ‘Parade’ delivered endless gems escorting Prince enthusiasts straight from the trippy “Paisley Park” of ATWIAD into an ethereal world filled with sax and strings, layered upon classical compositions and jazzy melodies; while skillfully accenting it all with blistering funk and touches of mainstream pop. From “Venus De Milo” to “I Wonder U” to “Mountains” and the incomparable tour de force “Anotherloverholenyohead”; there are simply no misses on the album.
‘Parade’ is also revered for seamlessly highlighting the beautiful collaborative relationship between Prince and Clare Fischer. Clare arranged wonderful strings for ‘Parade’ and actually submitted many more references that weren’t used. Nonetheless, the magical moments marked by violins and cellos (along with the rest of the orchestra) gives ‘Parade’ a sonic fluidity that melts the listener’s mind into a dreamlike state.
What is ‘Parade’ and why should it always live within your own personal top 5 Prince albums?
‘Parade’ is a cotton candy cloud of happiness inviting you to ascend upon its dreamy pillowlike surface while you experience a marvelous journey through life, love and dance. It is a true treasure that I hope you all enjoy revisiting time and time again. — Miss TLC