‘Planet Earth’ Preaches (But Doesn’t Practice) Green Living: 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.
“Planet Earth”, the title track of Prince’s 32nd album, alludes to an eco-conscious worldview, but its distribution was anything but green. In the UK, Prince gave away the album as a free cover mount in The Mail on Sunday newspaper. While the move generated a bonanza of free publicity and interest in his UK concert dates, it also flooded the newsstands and stores like HMV with buyers for the album who most likely immediately discarded the attached paper.
In the U.S., Prince was much more eco-friendly with album promotion; he gave away the single, “Guitar” via a digital promotion with Verizon Wireless and sold the CD with a keepsake lenticular cover. While the CD is out of print today, used copies are readily available and lossless .flac files can be downloaded via Prince’s store on Tidal.
The song “Planet Earth” was released in 2008, two years after Al Gore’s Academy Award-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, but its recording predates the film by two years. According to Prince Vault, a three and a half hour session at Paisley Park in 2004 with Prince, Michael Bland on drums and Sonny T on bass, produced songs that would land on 2008’s Planet Earth (the title track and “Guitar”), 2006’s 3121 (the title track), and 2009’s Lotusflow3r (“From the Lotus…”, “…Back 2 the Lotus”, “Colonized Mind”, “Love Like Jazz” and “Wall of Berlin”.). The album’s liner notes doesn't break down the personnel for each track, but the background vocals likely come from some chorus of then associates Bria Valente, Marva King, Shelby J., or The Twinz (Maya and Nandy McClean).
The song itself begins with Prince thinking about what Man has done to the environment, “50 years from now what will they say about us here? Did we care for the water and the fragile atmosphere?” Later on, it turns into a lament about the fallacies of Man in general - “Imagine sending your first born off to fight a war, with no good reason how it started and what they're fighting for?” It ends with yet another nod to Judgement Day, “Just like the countless bodies that revolve around the sun, Planet Earth must now come into balance with The One.”
In the spirit of recycling, “Planet Earth” turns out to be the second of three Prince songs in close order that reference our planet’s name in the title. Prince turns in the Disney-esque ballad “Somewhere Here on Earth” two tracks after the title song on the Planet Earth album. In 2002, a spoken word ballad, “Here on Earth” (little to no relation) appeared on One Nite Alone (Prince’s 25th album, a piano-based affair that is often confused with One Nite Alone… Live!, a full-band 3-disc concert set).