Certain Songs #517: Prince & The Revolution – “When Doves Cry”

Prince when-doves-cry Album: Purple Rain
Year: 1984

The utterly monster lead single from the quintillion-platinum Purple Rain, “When Doves Cry” is the sound of Prince having it … I was gonna say “both ways,” but we all know that “both ways” was probably boring to Prince.

So let’s just say that Prince had it every single fucking way he wanted with “When Doves Cry.”

A dance song with no bassline? Check.

Insane lead guitar over funky electronic drums? Check.

A single that was #1 for over a month but also almost six minutes long? Check.

A massively popular video with homoerotic imagery? Check.

Bringing his bandmates for a video of a song where he played all of the instruments? Check.

A fucksong with incredibly sad lyrics? Check. And mate. Lots of mate.

How can you just leave me standing?
Alone in a world that’s so cold? (So cold)
Maybe I’m just too demanding
Maybe I’m just like my father too bold
Maybe you’re just like my mother
She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied)
Why do we scream at each other?
This is what it sounds like
When doves cry

And that chorus, with its massive overdubbed Princes all singing in perfect harmonies, and the momentum moving ever forward pushed by a single keyboard was so completely overpowering that nobody gave a shit what “when doves cry” actually meant.

Also: all of those vocal interjections, the “whoos” and the “doobie do wahs” completely gloss over the fact that the song is basically a single groove and a single melody repeated over and over and over and over driven by that damn electronic drum that sounds like random gunshots.

But Prince masks that fact by adding and subtracting instruments and vocals so masterfully that when he breaks it down near the end, it’s almost a shock.

“When Doves Cry”

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