| October 27, 1982|
27 October 1982
Grammy Hall of Fame
| January - August 1982|
Warner Bros. Records
| Kiowa Trail Home Studio
Sunset Sound Recorders
Funk, Rock music, Pop music, Soul music
Prince albums, Funk albums
1999 is the fifth studio album by American recording artist Prince. It was released on October 27, 1982, by Warner Bros. Records. 1999 was Prince's breakthrough album, but his next album, Purple Rain, would become his most successful. The title track was a protest against nuclear proliferation and became his first top ten hit in countries outside the United States. The album was his first top ten album on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States (peaking at number 9, besting that peak at number 7 after his death in 2016) and became the fifth best-selling album of 1983 overall, eventually being certified quadruple platinum by the RIAA.
The album's opening title track, "1999", was also its first single and initially peaked at number 41 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was subsequently re-released following the huge success of its follow-up single and 1999's second track, "Little Red Corvette", which peaked at number 6 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Shortly after being reissued, "1999" hit number 12 and has since become one of Prince's most recognizable compositions. The music videos for both "1999" and "Little Red Corvette" were significant as two of the first videos by a black artist to receive heavy rotation on the newly launched music video channel, MTV. The two tracks were later combined as a double A-side single in the United Kingdom, where it peaked at number 2. A subsequent single from the album and its third chronological track, the rockabilly-influenced "Delirious", still managed top ten status in the United States at number 8, but a fourth, the double-sided single "Let's Pretend We're Married"/"Irresistible Bitch", got no further than number 52.
While "Little Red Corvette" helped Prince cross over to the wider rock audience, the rest of 1999 retains the funk elements featured in previous albums and is dominated by the use of synthesizers and drum machines. The album is, however, notable within Prince's catalogue for its wide variety of themes in addition to the sexual imagery which had already become something of a trademark on his previous work. "Automatic", extending to almost ten minutes, starts side three of the album with a prominent synthesizer melody and bondage-inspired lyrical imagery which, transplanted to the music video for the track (with a scene that depicted Prince being tied up and whipped by band-members Lisa Coleman and Jill Jones), had been deemed too sexual for MTV in 1983.
"Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)", an ode to a harsh lover, is the centerpiece of a preoccupation with Computer Age themes that would continue into future albums. This is also reflected in various aspects of the album's instrumentation, with Prince fully embracing the gadgetry and sounds of emergent electro-funk and 1980s sequencing technology on tracks like "Let's Pretend We're Married" and "All the Critics Love U in New York", songs that widen his use of synthesizers and prominently feature the use of a Linn LM-1 drum machine. Prince himself has cited the movie Blade Runner as an influence on the album's synth sound and the music videos produced for its singles. 1999 also contains two ballads in "Free", a delicate piano piece expressing patriotism and appreciation for American freedoms, and "International Lover", a slow-paced love song for which Prince received his first Grammy Award nomination in 1984 under the category of Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
The album's cover features elements from the front cover of Prince's previous album, Controversy; namely the eyes and the "Rude Boy" pin in the "1999", the jacket studs in the "R" and the smile in the "P". The "I" in "Prince" contains the words "and the Revolution" written backwards (as "dna eht noituloveR"), both acknowledging his backing band and foreshadowing the next four years of his career.
1999 received widespread acclaim from critics. The album's critical and commercial success secured Prince a place in the public psyche, and marked the beginning of two years of heightened fame via massively successful tours, hit singles and a Hollywood movie. According to the Rolling Stone Album Guide, "1999 may be Prince's most influential album: Its synth-and-drum machine-heavy arrangements codified the Minneapolis sound that loomed over mid-'80s R&B and pop, not to mention the next two decades' worth of electro, house, and techno."
In 2003, the TV network VH1 placed 1999 49th in its list of the greatest albums of all time. The album was also part of Slant Magazine's list "The 50 Most Essential Pop Albums" and the magazine listed the album at #8 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".
In 2003, the album was ranked #163 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time while in 1989 it was ranked the 16th "100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s".
The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
All tracks written by Prince.Alternate formats
Originally released on vinyl as a double LP (the first of a number of double sets from Prince), 1999 was cut to a single vinyl edition in some countries; Brazil, for example, opted to issue the release as two separate vinyl albums, 1999 I and 1999 II.
The original compact disc version of the album was also cut, omitting "D.M.S.R.". There is a disclaimer on the back cover of the original compact disc pressing that reads "To enable the release of 1999 as a single compact disc, the song DMSR has been omitted from the original LP edition". Later compact disc pressings (from a 1990 reissue onward) included the track.
On the cassette release, "Free" was placed after "D.M.S.R." to end the first side, balancing out the lengths of both sides of the cassette.
Prince - lead vocals and various instruments
Dez Dickerson - co-lead vocals (1), guitar solos and backing vocals (2)
Lisa Coleman - co-lead vocals (1), backing vocals (2, 3, 5, 6, 8)
Jill Jones - co-lead vocals (1), backing vocals (6, 8, 9)
Vanity – backing vocals (8)
Wendy Melvoin - backing vocals (8)
While not performance credited for the studio recordings, band members Doctor Fink (keyboards), Bobby Z. (drums) and Brown Mark (bass) do appear in the music videos."1999" (#12 US, #4 US R&B, #25 UK)
"Little Red Corvette" (#6 US, #15 US R&B, #54 UK)
- "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?"
"Delirious" (#8 US, #18 US R&B)
- "Little Red Corvette"
- "All the Critics Love U in New York"
- "Horny Toad"
"Let's Pretend We're Married" (#52 US, #55 US R&B)
- "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)"
- "Let's Pretend We're Married"
- "Irresistible Bitch"
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