Prince Pens ‘Eye Hate U’ as a Breakup Ballad to Carmen Electra: 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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To celebrate the incredibly prolific, influential and diverse body of work left behind by Prince, we will be exploring a different song of his each day for an entire year with the series 365 Prince Songs in a Year.
The ’90s saw Prince embroiled in a high-profile fight to free himself from a serious, long-term relationship. Frustrated with Warner Bros.‘ refusal to release Prince material at a pace that matched his ability to create it, the superhuman songwriter changed his professional alias to his now-famous, unpronounceable “love symbol” in protest.
Not that this was the only souring relationship Prince had creeping into his creative output at the time. Indeed, the tale behind the 1995’s lovelorn “Eye Hate U” ballad is one that sees our protagonist lament the promiscuities of a lover and wrestle with the conflicting, residual feelings of love and hate that failed to follow her out the door. And the subject of this slow-burning parting shot was future supermodel and Hollywood film star, Carmen Electra.
Years before her Playboy debut, Prince had discovered Electra (or, at the time, Tara Leigh Patrick) at the infancy of her career, performing at a Minneapolis nightclub in the early ’90s. The two met, and the encounter resulted in a recording contract with Prince’s Paisley Park Records imprint and Prince restyling her as “Carmen Electra.” The future celebrity would later recall, “I reminded him that my name was Tara. He told me, ‘You look like a Carmen, so to me, you’re Carmen.” Unbeknownst to Electra, she’d be introduced to Prince’s new alias as well—only in song form.
1995’s The Gold Experience, featuring its lead single “Eye Hate U,” (“The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” also from Gold, was first found on the previous year’s The Beautiful Experience EP) would be that first album that Prince (or, technically, The Artist Formerly Known as Prince) would credit to the non-phonetic love symbol.
Led by New Power Generation drummer Michael B. and bassist Sonny K., the infectious groove of “Eye Hate U” prowls gently, punctuated by the evocative, smooth-funk mastery of an unparalleled rhythm section. Lyrically, the sentimental Symbol curses Electra, his protégé-turned-lover, having left her following the revelation that she’d pursued someone else on the side. “You gave your body to another in the name of fun,” he sulks in the first verse.
Following Prince’s tragic death last year, Carmen Electra opened up about their brief relationship, confessing, “I don’t know one beautiful woman who didn’t want to be with him. But it did hurt me. It hurt me really bad. And I was too young to really communicate with him, so I just kind of pulled away.”
Prince ended their relationship in a way that’d be hard not think of as excessively melodramatic if it were anyone but Prince. To telegraph that he was leaving her, he intimately previewed her the song, in a setting allowing her to absorb the lyrics. Particularly bruising were the outro lyrics: “I hate you because I love you,” repeated until the end.
“It was hard to hear,” she continued. “And it was even harder to hear the parts of the song that said it could have been a completely different way. … I literally cried in front of him. I think he just wanted me to hear it and know that he was really upset. Then he ﬂew me back to Los Angeles.”
And she was probably right. While the two were never married (and nor is it clear that marriage was ever even discussed), Prince re-imagined the fallout in the music video for “Eye Hate U” in a dramatized court room setting, elevating its emotional significance to the severity of a divorce.
The silver lining to the heartache? Despite disbanding the proper Prince designation, the single reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, aiding The Gold Experience to gold-selling status. And while Carmen Electra wasn’t Prince’s only musical collaborator that moonlighted as his paramour, the pairing survives in hindsight as one of the most extraordinarily improbable professional and romantic couples in pop history.
Prince Albums Ranked