Sign O' the Times remains Prince's finest cinematic moment, a svelte jolt of everything that captures him at his most dazzling: the singing, the dancing, the multi-instrumental talent, the rapport with his band and those bolero-chic outfits.
Prince released his Sign O' the Times double album in 1987, and the record represented the capstone of his recklessly fertile Eighties period – from the one-two punch of Dirty Mind and Controversy to the pop hits of 1999 and Purple Rain, the psychedelic swirl of Around the World in a Day and the Euro-eroto funk of Parade. He changed direction repeatedly; he was running out of new areas to explore.
But he managed to find three more for ninth studio project. First, vocal manipulation – several tracks feature Prince singing as if he'd just inhaled a balloon full of helium, hold-overs from an entire project he'd planned from the perspective of a female alter ego named Camille. Second, horns: up to this point, Prince's brand of funk was (mostly) boldly bereft of brass – a radical move following the horn-heavy bombast of Seventies R&B – but he incorporated these regal textures more than ever before here. Finally, Prince relied on strength in numbers. Up until this point, he had never put together such a lengthy project: Sign O' the Times is a deluge designed to destroy a listener's meager defenses.