Prince Celebrates a ‘Rock and Roll Love Affair,’ or Maybe Not: 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.
No one ever confirmed whether "Rock and Roll Love Affair" was, in fact, about Prince's relationship with Andy Allo – or even if they were anything more than friends.
Certainly, the Cameroonian-born singer-songwriter's intersection with Prince fits a pattern. Allo arrived as a shooting star in his life, briefly occupying the center of Prince's universe before releasing a collaborative project, and then simply vanishing.
Whatever its origin story, there's no denying this song's fizzy exuberance as Prince reflects a new lover's youthful sense of endless possibility. Left unsaid, of course, is what happened next. The closest Allo ever got to confirming their possible involvement was in a moment of tragedy: "You taught me how to love so deeply with no inhibitions, but you also taught me about heartbreak," she said in a touching tribute to Prince after he died suddenly in 2016. "I am the woman and the artist I am today because of you."
If she was, in fact, Prince's girlfriend – joining a group of collaborators that included Vanity, Apollonia Kotero, Jill Jones and Susannah Melvoin, among others – Allo would perhaps have been his last. That made her influences all the more important, as she helped set his last-act musical course and even convinced Prince to grow out his hair, creating a natural afro.
They first worked together on Prince's 2011 update of "Extraloveable," a frankly inauspicious debut in which Allo added an awkward rap to a leftover song from the 1999 era. Nevertheless, she rose quickly through the ranks. That May, Allo appeared as a guest vocalist during a pair of Prince's performances at the Troubadour. By the next month, she was singing and playing guitar with the New Power Generation for 2011's Welcome 2 America Euro and Welcome 2 Canada Tour shows.
"She's great," Prince said in an interview with the Irish Sunday Independent that summer. "Soon, I'll be backing her up!" And it really happened: After his tour's European leg, Prince and Allo repaired to a studio in Switzerland to work on what would become Andy's second album, Superconductor. Prince executive produced the project, and co-wrote a trio of songs.
He also premiered the video for Allo's lead single, "People Pleaser," on the same October 2012 night when fans in Los Angeles first got to see the clip for "Rock and Roll Love Affair." Produced very much in the breezy style of his mid-'80s work on Around the World in the Day, right down to its sun-flecked theme of "two people in love with nothin' but the road ahead," "Rock and Roll Love Affair" was actually issued under three names.
Watch Prince Perform 'Rock and Roll Love Affair' on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'
"RnR Affair" premiered via iHeart Radio to promote the Welcome 2 Chicago after party in September 2012. The song was then titled "Rock and Roll Love Affair" for the promotional clip. Later, Prince called it "Rocknroll Loveaffair," after adding overdubs from the Hornheads, for 2015's Hitnrun Phase Two. Adding to the confusion, Prince initially released the single under the pseudonym Andre Crabtree III. (Careful liner-note readers will remember the name from his Lovesexy era.)
Andy Allo was a thread running through it all. She hyped her still-forthcoming album by performing a first-ever solo gig during Prince's Chicago stand. She appeared in the "Rock and Roll Love Affair" video. The lyrics even reference Allo's song "When Stars Collide," which in turn is linked to "What It Feels Like," an Allo collaboration later issued as part of 2014's Art Official Age.
"Absolutely, he's a mentor," Allo told Ebony in 2012. "He's kind of taken me under his wing and taught me a lot. When he asked me to join NPG, it was a challenge because I was surrounded by these incredible musicians who are years and years ahead of me. So, in that sense, it was a challenge to kind of be the new girl in the group. And also, I feel like I'm still so new as an artist."
It all provided a platform for dizzying, if short-lived success: Allo soared to the top of the R&B charts in America, the U.K. and France – but then, she was gone. She ended up selling Superconductor via her own web site, and the follow-up EP Hello was constructed without input from Prince.
Allo, a fierce individualist, wouldn't have had it any other way. "That experience was incredible. It's very educational," she told Billboard in 2013. "I would just watch him. You're in the presence of someone who has so much experience and so much knowledge. At the same time, he gave me that space to blossom and grow."
Prince, for his part, seemed to hold no ill will. A few years later, he streamed a previously unreleased acoustic EP by Allo titled Oui Can Luv on Tidal – but, Prince being Prince, only for half a day.
Of course, there's much more to "Rock and Roll Love Affair" than its connections to Andy Allo, whether real or imagined. For instance, the synth stabs recall both the hook from Jimi Hendrix's "Third Stone From the Sun," and Prince's great Purple Rain-era love song "Take Me With U." The brass section, perhaps best heard during Prince's performance of the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live, work like a Greek chorus of horny effervescence.
Allo remains one of the more intriguing figures from this period, however, since she formed a bridge to the next one: The music video for "Rock and Roll Love Affair" found Prince working with an all-female group, and not for the last time. His on-screen band also included Ida Nielsen and Hannah Ford, who went on to work as Prince's subsequent collaborators in the edgy 3rdEyeGirl.