Prince Shows Vulnerability on ‘I Wish U Heaven,’ But Only Briefly: 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.
“I Wish U Heaven,” the third and final single from 1988’s Lovesexy, served as a short detour from the optimistic psychedelia that colored the majority of the album. Instead, Prince delved into bittersweet melancholia.
In some ways, that’s understandable. After all, he’d been through a lot. Prince split with the Revolution, his musical collaborators since 1982’s 1999, prior to releasing Sign O’ the Times in 1987. Occupying a strangely dark headspace, he later decided to pull the intended follow up – dubbed The Black Album – at the last minute. Prince said he sensed bad spirits around the project.
In its place came 1988’s Lovesexy, which generally brought brighter moods to bear. Describing the album to Rolling Stone years later, Prince said Lovesexy was “a mind trip, like a psychedelic movie. Either you went with it and had a mind-blowing experience or you didn’t.”
That sense of fun played out on the inviting, lightly executed funk grooves of “Alphabet St.,” the lead Lovesexy single, and on the soaring optimism of its follow-up “Glam Slam.” But not here: “I Wish U Heaven,” a Top 20 R&B hit, found Prince inhabiting his rarer pensive side – this time adding a deep vulnerability.
Prince assumed all instrumental duties save for the distinctive drums, which were handled by Sheila E. That rhythm ends up taking a lead role, undergirding everything with a propulsive backbeat which punctuates Prince’s chunky, palm-muted power-chord pattern. He weaves through this robust cadence with lyrics conveying the fallibility of a romantic relationship, admitting that “doubts of our conviction follow where we go.” Still, he’s unable to bring himself to part from the disintegrating shared experience. All Prince can do is offer defeated gratitude: “For your every touch, I thank you so much; for your every kiss, I wish you love.”
The shortest song on Lovesexy at under three minutes, “I Wish U Heaven” was subsequently released in both radio-single and 12-inch formats. The extended version, titled “I Wish U Heaven (Parts, 1, 2, & 3),” featured not just a protracted song length, but also a few radical musical changes. Entirely rearranged, the elongated “I Wish U Heaven” suite sees a more dynamic, programmed drum beat, more liberal use of backup vocal harmonies, a Prince-MC’d hip-hop verse and a funk-pop about-face that redirects the song’s musical destination hardly a third of the way into it.
Of course, this 12-inch update of “I Wish U Heaven” thwarts Prince’s own diversion from Lovesexy‘s expedition of cloud nine, steering it precisely toward the euphoria dominant elsewhere on his 10th album. As with so much surrounding the Prince legend, the end of this song wasn’t necessarily the end of its story.
Prince Albums Ranked in Order of Awesomeness