Friday Song: “Kiss”
A minimalist masterpiece, Prince's 1986 hit still sounds fresh and fiesty
Originally written by Prince for the band Mazarati — founded by Prince’s bass player and signed to Prince’s Paisley Park record label — “Kiss” was dashed off as a minute-long demo on a mini-tape recorder. Mazarati recorded a complete version, but when Prince heard it fully fleshed out, he realized he wanted the song for himself, envisioned something different sonically, and recorded his much more stripped down version in a few hours.
As compensation for the switch, Mark Brown, the founder of Mazarati, received a writing credit on the song, but never received the big payday he expected.
The song hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, followed by another Prince composition — “Manic Monday,” performed by the Bangles. “Kiss” also earned Prince the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Performance.
The song has been covered extensively, from Tom Jones to Maroon 5 to Nicole Kidman in the film Happy Feet. However, the original remains startling in its barebones composition — there is no bass line, for instance — and with its obvious nods to James Brown via guitar riffs. Prince’s vocals also beggar belief, reaching the stratosphere in many forms — plea, clear line, scream — with plenty of chest voice interspersed in ways you might not notice at first.
The backing vocals from the Mazarati version were used, making this one of the rare songs where the lead singer is singing higher than the backing singers.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that some of the lyrics remind us how Prince viewed the women in his life — as equals. Not only did he fill his bands with great female musicians, but his lyrics — “women, not girls, rule my world” and “I just want your extra time and your kiss” — stood out from the more typical female objectification fare of the time.