Retro SOTBMusic Review: Prince – For You

Before I begin, please note that this is still only my opinion. And while this is, technically, a WIRTB (like my review of Around the World in a Day), I still am in the thought school that believes that Prince has never released a “bad” album. But, in 1978, Prince shook up the world with his debut album. The disco-tinged For You is an album that people seem to either be in two camps over. 
Either you accept that it’s Prince’s first album and eargasm over him pulling his best Smokey Robinson or you’re not a fan of it because it’s Prince’s first album and he’s pulling his best Smokey Robinson. Personally, I’ve always been on the fence about the project. On one side, I love Prince playing around with the sexiness we saw on stuff such as Dirty Mind, but doing it in more of a PG sort of way. I also enjoy the harmonies he deploys throughout the album, such as through the sparse intro/title song.
However, it’s a project where you can tell Prince is holding back and kind of putting out something he knew’d get some ears to his work. A lot of the song choices are safe, down to the production and instrumentation on them. For instance, “Soft and Wet.” It’s a great track, but it’s somewhat interchangeable with similar songs from the era, Prince or otherwise. Yes, the album is distinctly Prince, but it’s “safe Prince,” which limits the creative juices flowing, figuratively and literally.

By no means is For You a bad album. It’s still a Prince album. But, when compared to other works from even this era of Prince (for instance, the self-titled second album), everything just feels…safe. Prince’s genius shines through on songs, but those moments are often undercut by ever-so-slightly paint-by-numbers disco funk and proto-Quiet Storm vibes, such as with “Crazy You.” I do love the track “So Blue” because it feels like the Prince most of us have grown to know over the years: a genre-bending phenom who could mix a horn section with a simple acoustic guitar and give us a slow, bluesy ballad on an album that’s more fast-paced disco funk than anything.

Now, if you want to hear Prince play some disco, this is a great album to check out. If you’re looking for a more mature, free Prince, you won’t find him here. This project is constrained and tight and doesn’t allow for as much experimentation as other, later releases. Still, Prince never made a bad album and he sure didn’t start with his first project being overly “meh.” It’s just a bit “meh” at parts.
Speed on the Beat

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