Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 385–407 | Cite as

Erotic Cities: Instrumental Anthropomorphism in Prince’s Compositions

  • Brian Jude de Lima


The aim of this paper is to show how Prince Rogers Nelson’s lewd onstage antics and perverse song lyrics were not the only factors that contributed to his sexually charged compositions. By examining the use of anthropomorphism (the ascription of human characteristics to what is not human), in the analysis of several of Prince’s early works between the years 1980 and 1984, the researcher makes the argument that his musical arrangements taken from this earlier musical cannon embody the stages of Masters and Johnson’s human sexual response cycle. Ultimately, the researcher views Prince’s musical arrangements and improvisations to be metaphors for his own genitalia having intercourse with his public.


Anthropomorphism Binary oppositions Lewd Perverse Sexual response cycle Eroticism Musical intercourse 


  1. Crichton, M. (1973). Westworld. Action, Sci-fi, thriller. United States. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 88 minutes.Google Scholar
  2. De Martelly, E. 2010. Signification, objectification, and the mimetic uncanny in Claude Debussy’s ‘Golliwog’s Cakewalk’.
  3. Debussy, C. (1908). Golliwog's Cakewalk. L.113. One of six movements from Children's Corner. Google Scholar
  4. Debussy Golliwoggs Cakewalk - IMSLP93799-PMLP02387-Debussy_golliwoggs_cakewalk__Transc_2011-RSB_.pdf. 2017. Accessed January 5.
  5. Dekock, 1985. Ready for the world on top with Prince-like ‘Oh Sheila.’” Tribunedigital-Orlandosentinel.
  6. Deleuze, Gilles, Felix Guattari, Mark Seem, and Michel Foucault. 2009. Anti-Oedipus: capitalism and schizophrenia. Translated by Robert Hurley. 6th printing edition. New York, NY u.a.: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  7. Derrida, J. (2016). Of grammatology. Translated by Andrew W. Mellon professor of English Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Fortieth Anniversary ed. edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ Pr.Google Scholar
  8. Feinstein, S. (2012). Incredible African-American jazz musicians. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Pub Inc..Google Scholar
  9. Friedman, A. 2016. Prince was the baddest motherfucker on the planet. FACT Magazine: Music News, New Music.
  10. Gage, S., Morales, S., Allers, K., & Federation of feminist women’s health centers. (1995). A new view of a woman’s body: a fully illustrated guide. Los Angeles: Feminist Health Press.Google Scholar
  11. Gore, T. (1987). Raising Pg kids in X-rated society. Nashville: Abingdon Pr.Google Scholar
  12. Guillemette, L. 2016. Jacques Derrida : Deconstruction and Différance/Signo-Applied Semiotics Theories.
  13. Haley, B. (1954). “Rock Around the Clock.” Wikipedia. Deca.
  14. Holland, N. J. (1988). Purple passion: images of female desire in “when doves cry”. Cultural Critique, 10, 89–98. doi: 10.2307/1354108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Holmes, D. 2016. What Prince taught me about love. and sex. and time. Esquire.
  16. Imago. 2017. Pussy control : social commentary, sexual inuendo, and smooth rymes all in one tight hip hop package. Accessed January 2.
  17. Kaplan, D. 2016. Prince was a one-man sexual revolution. NY Daily News.
  18. Kraftwerk. (1978). Man-machine. Audio CD. Canada: EMI Music.Google Scholar
  19. Kraftwerk. (1987). Electric cafe. Audio CD. New York: Elektra Entertainment.Google Scholar
  20. Kramer, L. 2007. Opera and Modern Culture: Wagner and Strauss. 1 edition. Berkeley, Calif.; London: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kubrick, S. (1968). 2001: a space odyssey. Adventure, Mystery, Sci-Fi.Google Scholar
  22. Larkin, C. (1999). The virgin encyclopedia of dance music. London: Virgin Publishing.Google Scholar
  23. Leight, E. (2016). “18 Awesome Prince Rip-Offs.” Rolling Stone.
  24. Louis, L. (1989). From the mind of Lil Louis by Lil Louis. New York: Sony Music Entertain.Google Scholar
  25. Magnoli, A. (1984). Purple Rain. Burbank: Warner Home Video.Google Scholar
  26. Masters, W., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Bronx, NY: Ishi Press.Google Scholar
  27. Mode, D. (1987). Music for the masses. Sire-Wbr: Audio CD.Google Scholar
  28. Neder, A. (2016). “Bola Sete | Biography & History.” AllMusic.
  29. Nelson, R. 1984a. Controversy. Audio CD. Warner Bros Burbank.Google Scholar
  30. Nelson, R. 1984b. Purple rain. Audio CD. Warner Bros Burbank.Google Scholar
  31. Nelson, R. 1985a. 1999. Audio CD. Warner Bros Burbank.Google Scholar
  32. Nelson, R. (1985). Dirty mind. Audio CD. Burbank: Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  33. Nelson, R. 1987. Sign O’ the times. Audio CD. Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  34. Nelson, R. 1990. Prince. Audio CD. Warner Bros Burbank.Google Scholar
  35. Nelson, R. (1994). For you. Audio CD. Burbank: Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  36. Nowaczyk, J. 2017. The sexual response cycle. Study.Com.
  37. Original Dixieland Jass Band. (1917). Livery Stable Blues. Vinyl. Victor. 18255-B.Google Scholar
  38. Palmer, R. 1981. The pop life: is Prince leading music to a true biracism? The New York Times, December 2, sec. Arts.
  39. Perone, J. (2007). The words and music of Prince. Westport. CT: Praeger. doi: 10.1080/03007760902786082.Google Scholar
  40. Potts, A. K. (2016). The intersectional influences of Prince: a human-animal tribute. Animal Studies Journal, 5(1), 152–186.Google Scholar
  41. Poundstone, W. 2011. Big secrets: the uncensored truth about all sorts of stuff ... HarperCollins e-books.Google Scholar
  42. Salkc, T. 2016. How Prince’s lyrics led to the parental advisory label. NY Daily News.
  43. Sete, B. 2000. Bola Sete at the Monterey jazz festival. Audio CD. Verve Records Santa Monica.Google Scholar
  44. Shafieyan, M. 2017. Binary oppositions and binary pairs. Accessed March 21.
  45. SLIS. 2016. Controversy: remembering Prince’s ‘Darling Nikki’ and The PMRC.” Smells like infinite sadness. April 23.
  46. Songfacts. 2016. “Purple Rain by Prince Songfacts.”
  47. Stewart, D. 2016. On Prince, Blackness, and Sexuality | Fusion.
  48. Thompson, A. Q., & Greenman, B. (2013). Mo’ meta blues: the world according to Questlove. New York: Grand Central Publishing.Google Scholar
  49. Touré. (2013). I would die 4 U: Why Prince became an icon. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  50. Tricey Diva3. 2016. Prince gets nasty during performance of head 1981.
  51. Tristan Und Isolde - IMSLP66167-PMLP03546-Wagner-WWV090.pdf. 2017. Accessed January 5.
  52. Walser, R. (1994). Prince as queer poststructuralist. Popular Music and Society, 18(2), 79–89. doi: 10.1080/03007769408591556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Wareing, C. 2016. Prince’s sexually charged and most explicit song lyrics. Mirror. April 22.
  54. Williams, B. 2016. 11 artists who perfectly capture Prince’s timeless influence. Huffington Post, April 21, sec. Black Voices.
  55. YouTube. 2016. The family-nothing compares 2 U (1985, Original Version Written and Produced by Prince).

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centennial CollegeTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations