100 Greatest Songs of the 80’s #38 Prince – Sign O’ The Times

Released: 1987

Some people spend decades trying to write the perfect song, one that will catapult them to fame and piles of filthy cash. Well, not now of course because most pop songs are the result of a collegiate, focus group obsessed effort which effectively kills off almost any sliver of true creativity a single entity might ever conceive; that’s showbiz, 2020 style.

It’s a measure of his talent then that Prince could create one of the decade’s most effecting about turns on a Sunday, solo writing Sign O’ The Times mostly using the presets on a Fairlight synthesizer, adding in a bluesy guitar riff done in a single take and giving us his most downbeat vocal performance. The end product bubbled with tension and tinder dry funk; like the streets after six years of Reaganomics, America was a tinderbox of inequality and divison.

Culled twice from both of his abandoned 1986 album projects Dream Factory and Crystal Ball, Sign O’ The Times ushered in a Prince 2.0, one where the decade’s excesses were channelled into the sort of social commentary usually reserved for the emerging first generation hip-hoppers. Maybe it was a tribute to them. Maybe it was a sign from god. Either way, it’s still one of the best songs anyone wrote whilst not having the patience to read the instructions.


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