Sheena Easton’s Unconventional Collaborations With Prince Hit a High Point With ‘U Got the Look': 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.
Though it was the biggest hit off Sign O’ the Times, Prince’s duet with Sheena Easton on “U Got the Look” emerged from a weird place – and things just kept getting weirder.
Tracked on Dec. 21, 1987 at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, according to PrinceVault, “U Got the Look” is actually a duet between Easton and Prince’s Camille persona – as denoted by the signature sped-up vocal. Oddly, however, the song was never earmarked for the aborted full-length Camille album. Instead, Prince planned to use it on the similarly shelved Crystal Ball album, which in turn later got pared down to Sign O’ the Times.
In another unusual circumstance, Easton wasn’t even aware they were going to sing it together. “‘U Got The Look’ was a track he’d basically finished for himself,” Easton told the Windy City Times in 2012. “It was just a Prince track. He said, ‘Do you want to just come in and sing some backup vocals on the choruses?’ So, I went into the studio, and because I didn’t know I was singing against him, I was all over the place – and he said he kind of liked that, so he expanded it into a duet.”
It was, really, just the latest example of an always-unconventional relationship.
Easton wasn’t credited on the sleeves of either this duet, or on “The Arms of Orion” from 1989’s Batman – though she did earn a co-writer credit on “La, La, La, He, He, He,” the B-side to Prince’s “Sign O’ the Times” single. Prince also mysteriously used aliases for his contributions to Easton’s solo singles “Sugar Walls” (as Alexander Nevermind) and “Eternity” (as Rocker Happyfeller).
Easton can be found strutting around in the music video for “U Got the Look,” but since she wasn’t on the European tour dates that served as the source material for the Sign O’ the Times concert film, the clip is simply sandwiched into the center of the movie’s final edit.
Still, it seemed nothing could slow Easton’s white-hot ’80s run. She was originally discovered on British TV’s The Big Time: Pop Singer, an ancient ancestor to American Idol that ended its four-year run in 1980. Easton went on to giant pop hits like “Modern Girl,” “9 to 5 (Morning Train)” and “For Your Eyes Only,” one of the best-ever James Bond themes. Before it was over, she earned the unique honor of being the first and only artist to score five consecutive hits on five different Billboard charts – including a country duet with Kenny Rogers on “We’ve Got Tonight.”
“U Got the Look” found similar success, soaring to No. 2 where it was held in check by “Lost in Emotion” by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam. In a final twist, however, the hit tune’s popularity apparently drew the attention of Prince’s late half-sister Lorna Nelson, who claimed in an unsuccessful 1987 lawsuit that Prince stole lyrics from her unpublished song, “What’s Cooking in this Book.”
Judge David Doty ruled in May of the following year that the tracks did not have significant similarities. Nelson appealed, but lost again; the Supreme Court then refused to review the matter in 1989. “In this case, the trial court carefully studied the lyrics involved,” the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said, “and determined that reasonable minds could not differ as to the absence of substantial similarity.” A judge also denied Nelson’s request to depose Prince.
In the years that followed, popular estimation of Sign O’ the Times began to dramatically change. At first, the album had been compared unfavorably to the multi-million selling Purple Rain, based largely on Prince’s downhill sales trajectory. (Sign O’ the Times “only” went platinum.) Today, “U Got the Look” is part of a project that many critics view as Prince’s very best.
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