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Presentation Abstracts

There will be no abstracts for the roundtable panels

Friday, March 31, 2023

5 MetroTech Center, Pfizer Auditorium, Brooklyn, NY


Vanity 6



Like a (Nasty) Girl’s Group?

How Prince Refashioned & Reimagined the Archetype of the All-Girl Singing Group

The beginning of the video for Vanity 6’s biggest hit “Nasty Girl” starts with three beautiful women emerging from what appears to be the ladies’ lounge of a nightclub. They are wearing matching form-fitting sheath dresses in different colors; not dissimilar to what many girl groups wore in previous years. Halfway through the song, they go back behind the doors and return wearing lingerie in styles revealing who they are underneath; Susan: the lolita, Brenda: the punk rocker, and Vanity: the sexy badass vamp. If the lyrics hadn’t already enlightened you, this wardrobe change was a definitive statement that this wasn’t going to be just another girl group.

This presentation will first examine the history of the “girl group” and the effect those performers had on fashion and style in their respective eras. Then, we will take a deeper dive to explore female sexual liberation of the 1960s, and the blaxploitation female action stars of the 1970s; what impact did they have on young Prince, and how was that conveyed through his vision for an 80s girl group? How did the lingerie-clad Vanity 6 make a statement of female empowerment for the modern 80s woman? Next, I will define the “characters” portrayed by Vanity, Susan, and Brenda. Finally, I will take a look at groups like TLC and Destiny’s Child and delve into the clear influence Vanity 6 had on them.


Baby, You're Much Too Fast!

Vanity 6 and the Sexual Aesthetic of 1980s & Beyond

Being born a Black woman is an unintentional revolutionary act. Not only are you set to experience a life that many believe doesn’t matter because of your skin color and the racism that comes with it, but you also have to deal with the misogyny that comes with being a woman. Specifically, a particular brand of misogyny reserved especially for Black women that combines both misogyny and racism into something called  “misogynoir.” Along with that are sexualized stereotypes that you must encounter while trying how to figure out how to express yourself as a sexual being without being exploited. This is particularly true of Black female musicians.

The first Black female musical group to gain worldwide recognition was The Supremes, coming out of Motown in the 1960s. In the 1970s there were groups like The Pointer Sisters, Sister Sledge, and The Jones Girls – all of whom were groups of siblings. By the 19880s, you began to see different representations of Black women in the groups Klymaxx, Mary Jane Girls, and of course among the first of these was Vanity 6. In the 90s, TLC challenged the notion of the female sex symbol in how they dressed and what they sang about, but by their second album, Crazy Sexy Cool, which contained a Prince cover, the group vastly changed their image and other girl groups of that era pulling from the 80s women and began crafting a new style of sexy Black women – in fact, there was an abundance of groups, mostly one-hit wonders, who followed this style as well and that style transformed a generation of young women born in the 70s and they inspired the women who came after them like Beyonce, Rihanna, and Lizzo.

A historical look at how the images of Black womanhood over time were ultimately challenged by Black female artists in the 80s.


Nasty Girls: Vanity 6 and/as Pornography

The rise of home video pornography in the late 1970s and early 1980s created a new boom in accessibility for sexually explicit media, with a concomitant influx of porn-inspired aesthetics in mainstream media. Arguably the most enthusiastic adopter of this new aesthetic in the music world was Prince, whose famous 1979 vow to “portray pure sex” was directly inspired by the visual and thematic language of softcore–and, occasionally, hardcore–porn.

If Prince, as writer Touré has argued, was the “King of Porn Chic,” then the self-titled album he wrote and produced for Vanity 6 in 1982 was his Deep Throat (Gerald Damiano, 1972): a heterosexual male creator’s attempt to grapple with the “problem” of female sexual pleasure, with all the ideological tensions such an arrangement implies. That makes Vanity herself, by extension, Prince’s Linda Lovelace: the ambiguous sex symbol upon whom he projected his fantasies, who by the end of the decade would bitterly reject the fetishized image created for her.

This presentation will examine Vanity 6 through both the aesthetic lens of pornography and the historical context of the “porn wars” that raged among feminist scholars and in American political discourse more broadly in the 1980s–ultimately enveloping Prince, whose 1985 branding as an exemplar of “Porn Rock” by the Parents Music Resource Center would alter the trajectory of his lyrical content for the latter half of the decade. A work of aural softcore as audacious as anything in Prince’s solo catalogue, Vanity 6 embodied the complexities of power and pleasure inherent in women’s subjective relationship with porn, while pointing the way toward the “sex-positive” movement that continues to shape contemporary discourses of sexuality in media.


Drive Z Wild: Vanity 6 and Gen Z

Although they only released one album, Vanity 6’s influence is still felt today, as artists like Beyoncé continue to incorporate the work of Vanity 6 into their performances. This presentation considers the generational impact of Vanity 6 by examining Gen Z’s assessments of Vanity 6’s self-titled album. In particular, we will explore the perspectives from enrolled students in the University of Minnesota’s “Prince, Porn, and Public Space” course. The class thinks through the intersections of music and sex culture in Minneapolis during the 1980s, and so the students’ responses—and this presentation—will pay particular attention to the place and power of race, gender, and sexuality on Vanity 6. In all, this presentation will highlight how students make meaning of Vanity 6, and how they find resonance with this groundbreaking all women’s band and their 1982 debut.

Saturday, April 1, 2023

370 Jay Street, Rm 202 (Auditorium), Brooklyn, NY


What Time Is It?



Keeping Time with The Time: Rhythm, Rejection, and "777-9311"

Ever since the release of The Time’s sophomore studio effort, What Time Is It? (1982), “777-9311” has repeatedly proven to be a steadfast favourite amongst both fans and critics alike. Undoubtedly one of the track’s most striking and noteworthy characteristics is the intricate and syncopated Linn LM-1 drum pattern that serves as the rhythmic bedrock upon which the entirety of “777-9311” is predominately based. However, while the technical intricacy of the track’s complex rhythm pattern has been afforded a great deal of attention in the intervening forty years, the lyrical component of “777-9311” has largely not been subject to the same degree of rigorous critical engagement. Indeed, while “777-9311” initially appears to strike the same amorous tone that lyrically characterises much of the content featured on What Time Is It? (1982), upon closer inspection, the track’s striking lyrical singularity becomes readily apparent. Furthermore, by shedding light on the singular lyrical nature of “777-9311,” we are likewise able to discern the manner in which the track’s aforementioned noteworthy Linn LM-1 drum pattern rhythmically evokes these same emotional concerns at a musical level.


Hit 'n Run

How The Time's "What Time Is It?" Disrupted Prince's Brand Strategy


Creating an image: Morris Day’s Autonomy in the Prince Universe

The narrative of Prince as “creator” of The Time and acts such as The Family, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Carmen Electra, and others evokes Ovid’s “Pygmalion” myth from Metamorphoses. The artist, Pygmalion, sculpts his version of the ideal woman in ivory, falls in love, and she in turn comes to life thanks to Aphrodite’s divine intervention. This myth of creating and curating the object of one’s desires exists solely on the erasure of the “creation’s” autonomy. Prince put The Time together for myriad reasons, including the desire to have musical peers, an additional outlet for his artistic production, and some healthy competition, but this narrative ignores Morris Day’s agency. This presentation will explore the iconic style of Morris Day and the Time in the 1980s while deconstructing the myth of Prince as Pygmalion-creator of musical groups and pop stars in the purple universe.


We Wear the Mask: How Prince Used The Time to Widen His Artistic Range and the Perceived Humanity of African Americans

The Time is a definitive example that we have of Prince exploring and grappling with who he is as an artist. On his early records, Prince deals with introverted subjects in which he muses to himself aloud. With The Time, Prince is externally musing about who he is by recreating himself as an entire band. Even though many believe, as retold in Dave Hill’s Prince: A Pop Life, that The Time may have been primarily founded to pay a musical debt to Morris Day, it is obvious that The Time is an alter-ego of Prince, created to hold Prince’s R&B audience while he explores other musical genres. Where Prince is introverted, abstract, and whimsical, singing about social revolution through sexuality and individuality while waiting on the Armageddon to deliver us all, The Time is extroverted, realistic, and straightforward, singing about being hip and cool and identifying with a particular race of people. Where Prince is indefinable in clothing and music styles, The Time is black. In a period when Prince is attempting to explore all of his possibilities of being a rock star, The Time allows him to stay in touch with his R&B roots, write songs about partying, chasing girls, being cool, and being in love without being trapped in the genre. Ultimately, Prince uses The Time to force America to face the misconceptions about the dimensionality of the black race.


What Did Prince Do This Week? #WDPDTW



What Did Prince Do This Week? 1983 Week 13

What Did Prince Do This Week? #WDPDTW is an interactive, online, weekly book club, every Saturday at noon ET at @polishedsolid on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitch to discuss what Prince did during the parallel week, beginning in 1983. It is a very, very slow read of Prince and the Purple Rain Era Studio Sessions: 1983 and 1984 (Expanded Edition) by Duane Tudahl over the course of two years. Since the beginning of the year, we have been reading about the 1999 tour and songs Prince recorded while on this tour. We’ll be up to week 13 during the symposium. De Angela L. Duff and Michael Dean will co-host the book club in-person from the symposium.



Presentations #1


Be Glad That You Are Free



Who's The "Lady Cab Driver"? 1999: Discipline, Class, Transit, and Freedom

While we all know Jill Jones performs the role of the “Lady Cab Driver” in the song, I would like to reflect on this character—who she is, what else she might say—in order to get at the question of 1999 and its (if we can coin such a term) “working-class-ness.” Prince’s music spoke to, for, and about the Black working class from the very beginning, but 1999 advances the story by depicting an anxious struggle for liberation in a world where movement is restricted, and existence is under threat of annihilation. The industrial automation and the grind of capitalism evoked by the Linn LM-1 drum machine become the rhythms which turn discipline into pleasure on a computer-age dance floor; “movement” starts to take different forms: bodily, geographical (“carceral” vs. “abolition” geographies, scholar and activist Ruth Wilson Gilmore might argue), and political. In this presentation, we will “read” 1999 through the lenses of historical context, racial capitalism, and intersectionality in order to illuminate the album’s class dynamics.


Dez Dickerson and Prince's Purple Rock

In a February 1981 Rolling Stone feature, “Will the Little Girls Understand”, Bill Adler writes, “Prince may be the unlikeliest rock star, black or white, in recent memory.” But what led Adler and his journalistic peers to continually refer to Prince’s music as “rock” when his biggest accomplishment before “Little Red Corvette” was a “soul” hit called “I Wanna Be Your Lover”?

Focusing on Prince’s use of lead guitarist Dez Dickerson, this presentation will examine the “bridges” that Prince used to connect his music to listeners outside his core audience group. It will demonstrate how these bridges continue to be used to inform and present Black American music in popular culture. And it will ask, what if Dez stayed in The Revolution during the Purple Rain era?


Thinking Inside the Box: The 1999 Super Deluxe Edition Revisited

This analysis reviews the 1999 Super Deluxe Edition box set released in 2019 in the context of the original 1982 double album release and in relation to established archival reissue norms. The presentation examines the visual representation and the audio compilation, reviewing several decisions related to the repetition, inclusion, or exclusion of Prince’s recorded work from this era.

Sunday, April 2, 2023

The 1st panel of the day is virtual only

The rest of the day is at 370 Jay Street, Rm 202, Brooklyn, NY




Presentations #2


The Art of 1999

The 1999 era was possibly Prince’s first Gesamtkunstwerk. This German term for “total work of art” – popularized by composer Richard Wagner – describes an artwork, design, or creative process where different art forms are combined to create a single cohesive whole. This “total work of art” includes most music, concerts, and videos from the era, from Prince himself but also Vanity 6 and The Time. Within that “total work of art” album artwork plays an important role. This presentation takes a deep dive into the artwork created for the 1999 album cover, which has long been obscured from view by the small booklets of the CD era and the current age of streaming. Blown up to its original 12-inch size, it reveals not only a visual representation of the album’s contents, but also a roadmap for Prince’s entire career.


Welcome to Satisfaction: Fashioning the Love God

Adopted by the counterculture in the 1960s, the frilly shirt found its way onto the sweat-glistening chest of Prince in the early 1980s. The frilly shirt, in its many guises, evokes images of romantic historicism dating back to the seventeenth century and holds connotations of performative seductive and desire to this day. This talk will focus on two disruptive embodiments – the ruffled tuxedo shirt and the poet blouse worn by Prince during the 1999 era and ask how these garments played a role in honing Prince’s provocative yet accessible image to fans and beyond.

As Prince’s stardom rose in 1983, there is a move away from thrift-store finds to a custom wardrobe. A focus will also be placed on the role of costume designers Louis Wells and Vaughn Terry Jelks, highlighting their influence on Prince’s burgeoning style and fashion’s corresponding role in Prince’s increasing popularity on the run-up to 1984.

Drawing on existing research on men’s fashion, the paper will explore the origins of the ruffled tuxedo and poet shirt and trace the garments’ ties with eroticism, nostalgia, and theatricality. Using the V&A collections, live performances, advertisements, and close textual analysis, I will discuss the ‘frilly shirt’ as a sartorial vehicle for desire and analyse the relationships between Prince, audience, and star image.


Party’s Over: The Death and Rebirth of the Minneapolis Sound

1999 marks the final album of a triptych that firmly established the blueprint for what is known as the “Minneapolis Sound.” A sparse and distinctive fusion of new wave, funk, and pop, it was the foundation upon which Prince created his masterwork Purple Rain. But Purple Rain represented a far more maximalist version of the aesthetic, adding many more layers of overdubs, strings, and effects. As time went on, Prince’s solo work would move further and further away from the formula he had created early in his career, returning to it only periodically. The Minneapolis Sound would continue through his side projects the Time, the Family, and Apollonia 6, and find new evolutions, such as in the work of former Time members Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.

In this presentation, musician and bandleader Adam Rudegeair will define some of the distinctive characteristics of the style, analyse their use on the 1999 album, and explore its domination of the pop music world for the rest of the 80s.


Are You Ready? 1999 as the Prototype for Prince’s Crossover

Prince entered the music industry during a time of overt segregation. As his former guitarist Dez Dickerson observed, there was white radio and black radio, white audiences and black audiences. So, while Prince enjoyed great success with black audiences from his debut album forward, systemic racism denied him access to the resources and wealth that accompanied “crossing over” to larger, white audiences. However, that changed with his fifth album. This presentation will explore how with 1999 Prince debuted the strategy he would deploy at different stages of his career to achieve crossover success.

370 Jay Street, Rm 202 (Auditorium), Brooklyn, NY


Special Presentation


Human Time, Machine Time: Prince and the LM-1

The Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson is not affiliated, associated or connected with the ‘Prince #TripleThreat40 Symposium,’ nor has it endorsed or sponsored the ‘Prince #TripleThreat40 Symposium.’ Further, the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson has not licensed any of its intellectual property to the producers, advertisers or directors of ‘Prince #TripleThreat40 Symposium.’