20 Defining ‘Minneapolis Sound’ Jams That Weren’t by Prince

He dominated the ’80s and ’90s as pop’s greatest influencer.

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Photo: flickr/World’s Direction

Prince Rogers Nelson left us way too early nearly 17 months ago, but his vast body of work and the Minneapolis sound he inspired plays on. An unmistakable blend of dance, music, sex, romance, the sound of Minneapolis, Prince’s hometown, was to the ’80s what the sound of Detroit (Motown) was to the ’60s and what the sound of Philadelphia (Philly soul) was to the ’70s.

If it weren’t for Prince, St. Pauls twin city probably still would be best known as the Minnesota setting of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. In addition to all the ’80s and ’90s pop standards credited to Prince, Prince and the Revolution, Prince and the New Power Generation, “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince,” and the unpronounceable “Love Symbol,” His Purple Highness wrote, produced, and/or helped shape singles and album tracks by a number of established acts, including Celine Dion, Chaka Khan, Cyndi Lauper, Kate Bush, Madonna, Mavis Staples, No Doubt, Patti LaBelle, Sheena Easton, Sinéad O’Connor, Stevie Nicks, and TLC.

In 1981, he put together the group The Time, which enjoyed hits concurrently with Prince and his ’80s band The Revolution. The Time eventually would spin-off several hitmakers: Morris Day, Jesse Johnson, and, most successfully, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The duo’s production and songwriting skills helped the Minneapolis sound put its bold-print stamp on the musical map and also boosted Janet Jackson to superstar status.

So, in a sense, Michael’s baby sister owes her massive career to Prince’s knack for finding talent and then firing it. (According to legend, he sacked Jam and Lewis after they missed a Time gig to produce The S.O.S. Band.)

Jam and Lewis’s string of hits is as impressive as Prince’s (Why have they yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?), but the Minneapolis sound wasn’t just about its three MVPs. Here are 20 of the best by some of the rest.

“Ice Cream Castles” The Time (1984)

The title song, opening track, and first single from The Time’s 1984 album, Ice Cream Castle (just one “castle”), co-written by Morris Day and Prince (under the pseudonym Jamie Starr) and also produced by the latter, missed the R&B top ten by just one notch, but it presaged the band’s crossover era. It soon would be overshadowed on the charts by “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” but for me, “Ice Cream Castles” was the first defining Minneapolis-sound song that wasn’t by Prince.

“Pretty Mess” Vanity (1985)

“Can You Help Me” Jesse Johnson’s Revue (1985)

“The Screams of Passion” The Family (1985)

“Everybody Dance” Ta Mara and the Seen (1985)

“A Love Bizarre” Sheila E. (1985)

“Still a Thrill” Jody Watley (1987)

“Sticky Wicked” Chaka Khan (1988)

Four years later, Khan and Prince united for two tracks on her ck album, including this merger of funk and jazz and the equally killer ballad “Eternity.”

“101” Sheena Easton (1989)

“On the Way Up” Elisa Fiorillo (1990)

Fiorillo, as it turns out, had pretty solid connections to both. She was the vocalist on “Who Found Who” by Jellybean Benitez, Madonna’s onetime producer and boyfriend. She also sang back-up on several late-’80s/early ’90s Prince albums. He returned the favor by teaming up with David Z to produce her 1990 LP I Am, which included this number 27 Hot 100 hit.

“Elephant Box” and “Heaven Must Be Near” Ingrid Chavez (1991)

“I Hear Your Voice” Patti LaBelle (1991)

“Why Should I Love You?” Kate Bush (1993)

Honorable mentions

“The Dance Electric” Andre Cymone (1985) Prince’s former bass guitarist scored a R&B Top 10 all on his own mid-decade.

“I’m the One Who Loves You” Ready for the World (1985) They were from Flint, Michigan, and they had absolutely nothing to do with Prince, but Ready for the World rocked a Minneapolis-esque sound so hard that everyone thought their number-one hit “Oh Sheila” had to be about Sheila E. It wasn’t, and this B-side to that single out-funks the hits for which they’re best known (“Oh Sheila,” “Digital Display,” “Love You Down,” and “My Girly”).

“Fishnet” Morris Day (1988)The Time frontman rocked it solo, all the way to the top of the R&B singles chart and number 23 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

“Are You My Baby?” Wendy & Lisa (1989) After steering right of the Minneapolis sound for their mainstream-y 1987 debut single “Waterfall” (not to be confused with TLC’s “Waterfalls”), the former Revolution duo revisited the style of their ex-boss on this psychedelic-soul jam that’s reminiscent of Sign o’ the Times/Lovesexy-era Prince.

“Martika’s Kitchen” Martika (1991) “Love Thy Will Be Done,” co-written and produced by Prince, went Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, but the title cut from Martika’s second album, written and produced by Prince, was the tastiest concoction of their four-song collaboration.

Prince and the divas: A Spotify playlist

Written by

Brother Son Husband Friend Loner Minimalist World Traveler. Author of “Is It True What They Say About Black Men?” and “Storms in Africa” https://rb.gy/3mthoj

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