1984 was a year of the rise of a musician who had already caught everyone by surprise with his obsession for composing, playing, arranging, and producing everything himself. Prince released his album Purple Rain that year and rose to become one of the decade defining superstars, alongside Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Madonna. While the singles from this album have long since become classics, a song called Darling Nikki went down in the music history.
As Elizabeth Gore, the wife of US vice-president, heard what music her daughter was listening to in her room, she was horrified. Darling Nikki’s suggestive text led the woman to launch an initiative that resulted in a high-profile hearing before the US Senate, involving numerous musicians and people from the industry. As a result of this witch hunt, it was decided to label explicit song texts. Since then, a sticker that said Parental Advisory – Explicit Content has been seen on countless records. But Gore made a fundamental mistake and Prince illuminates both sides of the coin in his song. Only music specialists recognized a hidden meaning in the last verse of the song that sounded familiar to them. If the record is played backwards, the fourth verse reveals a well-hidden meaning.
A Hidden Message
Prince recorded a part of the song in gospel, which sounds completely normal to an untrained ear, but the lyrics only shine in their true colours under the right light. If you listen closely to the song text in reverse, it turns into a complete opposite. Hello, how are you? I am fine because I know the Lord will arrive soon, that line does not fit with the story of Darling Nikki. But Easter eggs like this are nothing new in art history. Centuries ago, artists disguised secret messages which could only be recognized, for example, if you looked at a painting from a certain angle. Then a new perspective opened up, and the message of the picture changed suddenly. The message at the end of Darling Nikki had a similar effect. It is quite ironic that this song changed the music industry from the ground up, but not in a way that people hoped it would.
The plan backfired
The notorious Parental Advisory – Explicit Content sticker was not perceived as a warning but as a seal of approval. Sales of records with this sticker on the cover skyrocketed. The advisory sticker gave the youngsters clear indications of what to expect from the music. The rise of hip-hop in the 1980s and 1990s is mainly due to Gore’s failed project. Her hope to push back explicit song texts did not come true and. in contrast, she developed the best marketing tool that the music industry could have hoped for at the time. On the other hand, Prince played the song live for many years and inadvertently made music history with Darling Nikki.