In ‘The Dance,’ Prince Takes No Chance on Romance: 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.
“The Dance” marks the first time Prince recorded two versions of the same song and placed them on separate albums. The first appears on Prince’s 29th album, 2004's The Chocolate Invasion (Trax from the NPG Music Club Volume One); a second, longer take appeared on 2006's 3121. But when The Chocolate Invasion was reissued on Tidal in 2015, the album had a new sequence and “My Medallion” appeared in place of “The Dance”.
“The Dance” is one of the most intense lovelorn songs in Prince’s canon since “The Beautiful Ones” appeared on Purple Rain 20 years before. While the original track’s recording date is unknown, assumed to be between 1999 and early 2004, the window encompasses Prince’s separation and eventual divorce from first wife, Mayte Garcia, and his courtship and marriage to Manuela Testolini.
In the song, Prince views falling in love the same way as the kids in Stranger Things feel about falling into the Upside Down. “I don't want to give you my love / 'Cause I don't want to lose my mind,” he sings in the opening chorus. In the first verse, he raises the stakes, “I don't wanna give you my love / 'Cause if I do it's going to be the last time / I never want to feel this way again.” If the song is about Testolini, he was true to his word. They divorced in 2007 and Prince never married again.
As the song unfolds, Prince even delivers a nod to the Beatles hit, but from an Upside Down perspective, by singing “I don't want to hold your hand / 'Cause I would just follow you everywhere.” In Prince’s world at this moment in time, love is a losing game. “I don't want to see you dance / 'Cause I don't even really want to take a chance of falling in love with you baby.”
In the re-recording for 3121, Prince ups the intensity, spending the last, additional minute of the track at first taunting the woman of his affection and rejection, “I could find another just like you anywhere,” before pleading to her in a callback to the desperate coda of “The Beautiful Ones” by singing, “Oh baby, baby, baby, it’s just not fair.”
In an Indigo Nights after show concert circulating on the bootleg circuit, Prince opens his set with an instrumental of “The Dance”, losing none of the intensity while being at a total loss of words.
According to PrinceVault, the only other time Prince released two different versions of the same song on two different albums was when versions of “U’re Gonna C Me” appeared on One Nite Alone… (2002) and MPLSound (2009).