Dedicated to those songs that I can’t stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included The Ramones’ “Indian Giver,” R.E.M.’s “Me In Honey,” and Van Halen’s “Beautiful Girls.”
I have to stop being dumb about lyrics. Or I need to stop paying attention to old songs I thought I knew well, only to discover I don’t understand a thing. I wish I could say that I came to obsess over “7″ by way of a spiritual awakening, but that’s not the case. My wife and I were walking a dog named Seven, and a small debate was held over whether she was named after the song or George Costanza’s potential son. The answer was never learned, and another mystery was borne unto the world. But I spent the whole hike humming what I remembered of the song, and upon returning home I played it again for the first time in years.
I like Prince. I think he’s incredibly talented. And by this point in the paragraph, you must realize I’m qualifying a lot to cushion an upcoming blow, so here it is: Prince is a weird dude. Weirdness generated out of contradiction. He’s a strange walking dichotomy of overtly over-sex and Jehova’s witness, if rumors are to be believed in the latter case. He signed a roughly 500 billion dollar recording deal only to immediately complain about it, thereby changing his name to a symbol, which is the official title of the album in containing the song in question. And on that album, Prince kicks things off with “My Name is Prince” — ironic since soon after, his name would actually not be Prince — and then “Sexy M.F.” containing the lamest lyrics in the world because they’re so one-dimentionally “sexy” only to eventually land on the religious intonations of “7″. I didn’t even get into the whole completely straight gay guy wearing ass-less pants and quirky up-do’s who slept with Kim Bassinger and wrote songs for Sinead O’Connor, or that he was the only pre-texting adult to actively use “U” when writing “you.”
I don’t think I’m ever as conscious of the writer’s relationship with God as I am when Prince deals with it, mostly because it seems foreign to me in a rock ‘n’ roll connotation. I tend to believe that fiction writers and book writers must believe in God by the very nature of their profession. They themselves create worlds and inhabitants and lay out “a plan” for every move in that world, so it seems like a natural fit that they would envision themselves as the characters in someone else’s story. This ties more to the ego of the writer than anything else (“I am God of my world, so there must be a God of his own world in order to validate my world”). Obviously music has been closely related to religion, but often times my favorite “religious” rock songs are ones which create spiritual feelings, not the songs which, say, predict the end of the world in great detail.
As I’ve lamented both here and in other cases, Prince’s strong suit is not his lyrics. He’s lucky that his musical strengths are so far beyond most mortal humans that his lyrical sins gain absolution. So maybe I’m not dumb about lyrics; I just get more easily suckered in to the great musical elements that I don’t pay as much attention to the words. I’ve always had a good grip on the chorus, which out of context with the rest of the song just seems like more non-sequitur rock BS, throwing in “savoir-faire” for rhyming purposes alone. But in the context of the verses, it doesn’t explain too much, except that he mentions other “7″ things. After inspecting the lyric sheets more closely, I’m happy to discover he doesn’t actually say “giant spider” but “surely die in spite of” as in “And every evil soul will surely die in spite of their 7 tears.”
More comforting, right? Immediately before that line he speaks of the plague and a river of blood with the kind of casual speech even Dethklok would notice.
I suppose it could be commended that someone as popular and prolific as Prince can so boldly stand up for his beliefs and preach to legions of his fans in the context of a pop song, but doesn’t his message get a little muddy with the spooky cackle under the first instrumental stanza? And at the same time, I would argue that a song like “Raspberry Beret” is more “Heavenly” simply because it does not invite any direct comparisons to Heaven. Maybe I’m holding too much against the artist for infusing an otherwise catchy, innovative and fantastic pop song with ideas beyond boy wants girl, but that’s what I can relate to. The best sermons are those that make the unfathomable relate to our daily lives. In some regard, Prince has done that with “7″, because I’m now considering these ideas. When they’re taken out of the context of the music — as I did by cold quoting them earlier — they seem weird and kind of crazy. When they’re combined with great music, they become something else.
Inevitable Video Note: I can’t find a video for this song. I can think of many reasons why…
1. Prince guards his music like a Swiss bank. Remember that video of him at Cochella doing “Creep?” It’s like he’s the Memory police–What video of him doing “Creep?” It was never there…”;
2. Prince has weird song titles, so looking for something called “7″ gets a lot of random crap;
3. Prince’s name is sort of weird, so looking for something with “Prince” in the title gets a lot of random crap;
4. Prince hates the internet and all its glory.
Some or all of these is true. Whatever the case, look it up yourself, then realize you can’t find it, then go to iTunes and support the guy’s mansion castle.