Several Versions of Prince’s ‘If I Could Get Your Attention’ Compete for Yours: 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.
There are as many takes on “If I Could Get Your Attention” as there are ways to spell it. Versions of the song were recorded with different artists during three different decades. As the song evolved, the “I” was swapped out for an “eye” (or if you’re a purist, the eye emoji) and the “your” became “Ur”. This is also one of the rare Prince tracks where his solid vocal version is the least strong of the three versions that made it into circulation.
According to PrinceVault, the song was initially tracked at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles in 1986, around the same time he was recording incidental music for Under the Cherry Moon. Essentially, “If Eye Could Get Ur Attention” is Musicology's “If Eye Was the Man in Ur Life” sung from the woman’s perspective, so perhaps that’s why it sounds better in the first officially released version, by Taja Sevelle -- on her 1987 self-titled album that included one other Prince-penned track, “Wouldn’t You Love to Love Me?” -- and an unreleased take by Jill Jones.
The two-minute Jill Jones version from 1986 makes the most sense within the whole Prince mythology. During these years, Prince was busy with many love interests (including Jones, Sheila E., Susannah Melvoin, Apollonia Kotero and Vanity) -- not to mention touring and recording albums and vault tracks with the Revolution, the Time, the Family, Sheila E., Jill Jones and others. “I don’t know what to do / You’ve been working every night ‘til a quarter past 2,” Jones sings. When she snarls, “Do I have to scream at the top of my lungs?” Jones hits one of the vocal high notes of her career.
Sevelle does an equally admiral job with the vocals on her version. Her track becomes the definitive version by adding an extra minute that’s primarily comprised of one of Prince’s best studio guitar solos of the era.
Prince dusted off the track in 1993 for possible inclusion on his then-girlfriend Mayte’s debut album, then titled Latino Barbie Doll. By the time Child of the Sun was released in 1995, Mayte’s version didn't make the final cut. Twenty years after that, Prince revisited the song himself. His version drops back below the three-minute mark by deleting the guitar solo; Prince stays true to the original lyrics but the woman he's talking to in the song never riles him up the way Jones and Seville do when they are likely addressing him.
Around the time of its November 2015 release as Tidal’s Purple Pick of the Week, Prince gave the song perhaps its only known live appearance in a piano and microphone set at Paisley Park. You won't find the track on any Prince CD, but it remains on Tidal to this day, available as a MP3 and a lossless FLAC download.