Prince Battles Heartbreak on ‘I Love U, but I Don’t Trust U Anymore': 365 Prince Songs in a Year
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 Love U, but I Don’t Trust U Anymore” is one of the most nakedly emotional songs in Prince’s catalog. While the events leading to the composition of the ballad have not been publicly discussed, it’s widely assumed that “I Love U” chronicles the dissolution of Prince’s marriage to Mayte Garcia. By the time the song was released in autumn 1999, Prince had already filed to annul their marriage. They were officially divorced in spring 2000.
The spare ballad is one of the highlights on Prince’s 1999 album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, a work that’s otherwise characterized by forced collaborations and uninspired songwriting. Lyrically, it’s clear that Prince is wounded. The first verse sets the scene, as Prince suspiciously accuses a partner of not wearing their wedding ring, smelling of a different perfume and sporting a dress that he doesn’t recognize. By the third and final verse, however, Prince is a bit less ambiguous, singing “I would never pick the flower of my favorite protege / Maybe if I would have, then you would not treat me that way.” The song seems to suggest that Prince was cheated on, and although Prince wrote about hundreds of topics, being wronged by an unfaithful spouse was fairly new territory for the musical genius’s lyrical repertoire.
Prince’s ‘90s work made clear that he was smitten with Mayte, whom he met in 1990. Their romance inspired some of Prince’s most passionate love songs, including 1994’s Top Five smash “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” The pair married in 1996, and it appeared that Mayte had done the unthinkable and turned rock’s wildest figure into a committed family man. However, the relationship suffered under the weight of the death of their son only a few days after his birth, and according to Mayte, the distance grew further after she suffered a miscarriage a couple of years later.
Vocally, Prince has rarely sounded more emotional than he does on “I Love U”, and the track’s spare arrangement brings that vocal (and the lyrics being sung) to the song’s forefront. There’s not much else to the song besides Prince’s piano and a few light electronic touches. The only other instrumentation comes courtesy of indie rock darling Ani DiFranco, who plays acoustic guitar on the track. Prince later returned the favor by appearing on her track “Providence,” released in 2000.
Ani was one of many guests appearing on Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. The album marked Prince’s return to the major label system after his bitter, public spat with Warners. It was released on Clive Davis’s Arista label, which was riding high on the success of Santana’s comeback LP Supernatural.
Looking to emulate the commercial success of Santana (one of Prince’s heroes), Rave was conceived as a more commercial work and, to that end, enlisted a slew of guest vocalists and rappers. The list of collaborators included Public Enemy’s Chuck D., female emcee Eve, and pop/rock stars Gwen Stefani and Sheryl Crow, Almost all of those collaborations felt forced, much of the songwriting was lazy, and the album was a sales disappointment, barely going gold where Supernatural (which, to be fair, was created by a much more malleable artist) sold over 10 million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year.
This was arguably Prince’s last swing for the commercial fences. However, most Prince fans are aware that even his least inspired albums contain a few keepers, and “I Love U, But I Don’t Trust U Anymore” stands as one of the best, and most heartbreaking, songs from his post-Warners period.
Prince Year by Year: 1977-2016 Photographs