Sign 'O' The Times (album)

Sign o' the Times (album)

Sign o' the Times
Studio album by Prince
Released March 31, 1987
Recorded 1982–1986 at Paisley Park, (Minneapolis, Minnesota) and Sunset Sound (Los Angeles, California)
Genre R&B, rock
Length 79:58
Label Paisley Park/Warner Bros.
Producer Prince
Prince chronology
Sign o' the Times
Singles from Sign o' the Times
  1. "Sign o' the Times"
    Released: February 18, 1987
  2. "If I Was Your Girlfriend"
    Released: May 6, 1987
  3. "U Got the Look"
    Released: July 14, 1987
  4. "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"
    Released: November 3, 1987
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars
BBC Music (favorable)
Blender 5/5 stars
Robert Christgau (A+)
Entertainment Weekly (A)
Q 5/5 stars
Rolling Stone 5/5 stars
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars
Spin (favorable)
Stylus Magazine (favorable)
Wiki letter w.svg This table needs to be expanded using prose. See the guideline for more information.

Sign o' the Times, stylized as Sign “☮” the Times, is the ninth studio album by musician Prince, released March 31, 1987 on the Paisley Park record label. The album is the follow-up to Parade (1986), and Prince's first "solo" album following his departure from The Revolution; the symbol between the quotes is a peace sign. Sign o' the Times features lyrical themes such as the depressing state of the world in the title track, gender identity/androgyny in "If I Was Your Girlfriend", party funk in "Housequake", sexual lust in "It", replacing a loved one in "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man", and spiritual enlightenment in "The Cross". The album also had an accompanying concert film of the same name.


The double album was a synthesis of three projects from 1986, including some work with The Revolution. The bulk of the tracks originate from the final Revolution project known as Dream Factory and a later solo project called Camille. These projects, along with some other songs, merged into a 22-track, 3-LP opus called Crystal Ball. Prince's record company, Warner Bros. Records, balked at the idea of a 3-LP album, considering both the lukewarm performance of Parade and Prince's second film, Under the Cherry Moon, and it forced Prince to trim the album down.

With the arrival of this album, Prince also debuted a new look from his previous dress suits, hats, and shorter hair; he changed his look to glasses, long coats, and 1999-esque curly hair.


As with many of Prince's early '80s albums, this album features extensive use of the Linn LM-1 drum machine on most songs. In addition, many songs on the album (such as "If I Was Your Girlfriend") feature minimal instrumentation, and use of the Fairlight CMI, a then state-of-the-art digital sampler. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Prince simply used the stock sounds of the Fairlight to create the title track. Two of the album's standout songs, "U Got the Look" with Sheena Easton and "If I Was Your Girlfriend" offer sped-up vocals, ostensibly the voice of "Camille", Prince's alter ego of this era.

Prince was known for recording his vocals in the control room area of the studio. Typically, in the recording process, a vocalist records in the recording booth, separated from the control room by a window or soundproof door. To have privacy during vocal recording process, Prince usually asked his engineer, Susan Rogers, to leave the room. Rogers recalls:

We'd get the track halfway or three-quarters of the way there and then set him up with a microphone in the control room. He'd have certain tracks on the multi-track that he would use and he'd do the vocal completely alone. I think that was the only way he could really get the performance.

On some occasions, Prince simply recorded vocals with his back to her. Rogers monitored the vocals with a pair of headphones so Prince's recording microphone would not pick up the speakers she would usually have used. Prince typically used a Sennheiser 441 dynamic microphone (recommended to him by Stevie Nicks) for recording vocals at this stage in his career.

Though Sign o' the Times was regarded as "less polished" than his earlier efforts, Rogers points out that "we spent more time and money on Sign o' the Times than anything he'd ever done. Much more work went into it."


Two of the album's songs were first recorded in 1982: "Strange Relationship" and "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man". Prince did additional work on both for their placement on the Dream Factory project and involved the "Wendy & Lisa" partnership of Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman on the former. When the project was canceled, "Strange Relationship" was further updated for Camille. The remaining tracks were recorded between March and December 1986. The surviving Camille tracks feature a playful sped-up vocal. "U Got the Look" was also recorded in this manner, though it was not intended for the Camille album.

The double album was Prince's most diverse album to date, featuring a wide array of musical styles — rock, pop, soul and funk - with various cues taken from dance, electronic, and jazz styles as well. The album marked a return to Prince's self-contained recording process, with the artist performing and arranging nearly all the album's music single-handedly. As a result, many of the tracks have a sparer, more funk-oriented, and at times, more electronic feel than Prince's previous few records recorded with The Revolution. In addition to the album's eclecticism, many critics have identified the record as one of Prince's most adventurous, with radically minimalist, experimental arrangements on songs like "Housequake", "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker", and "Forever in My Life".


The album yielded three top ten hits, the most from Prince since Purple Rain in 1984. Though its sales were modest, somewhat akin to those of Parade, Sign o' the Times was almost universally applauded by critics and has been cited as his greatest work. In 1989, Time Out magazine ranked it as the greatest album of all time. It was ranked #16 on the New Musical Express list of the All Time Top 100 Albums, 3rd in Hot Press magazine's list of the 100 Best Albums of All Time, and #35 on VH1's 100 Greatest Albums. The album was also placed 8th on Nieuwe Revu's Top 100 Albums of All Time. The Times listed Sign o' the Times as the 29th greatest album of all time. In 2003, the album was ranked number 93 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. In 2006, Q magazine placed the album at #12 in its list of "40 Best Albums of the '80s."

Track listing

All songs composed, written, and arranged by Prince unless otherwise listed. Some songs were listed on the package with incorrect time; only the correct times are listed below.

Side one

  1. "Sign ☮' the Times" – 4:57
  2. "Play in the Sunshine" – 5:05
  3. "Housequake" – 4:42
  4. "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker" – 4:01

Side two

  1. "It" – 5:09
  2. "Starfish and Coffee" (Prince, Susannah Melvoin) – 2:50
  3. "Slow Love" (Prince, Carole Davis) – 4:22
  4. "Hot Thing" – 5:39
  5. "Forever in My Life" – 3:30

Side three

  1. "U Got the Look" featuring Sheena Easton – 3:47
  2. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" – 5:01
  3. "Strange Relationship" – 4:01
  4. "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man" – 6:29

Side four

  1. "The Cross" – 4:48
  2. "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" (Prince, Doctor Fink, Eric Leeds) – 9:01
  3. "Adore" – 6:30

Chart history





External links

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