Prince: The Secret Backwards Message He Hid in ‘Darling Nikki’

Purple Rain remains one of Prince’s most popular albums. One of the most beloved songs from that album is “Darling Nikki.” At the same time, the track is one of the most infamous songs in Prince’s catalogue, and perhaps in all of 1980s popular music.

The song was scandalous to many people for its very graphic discussion of sex. However, Prince inserted a completely different, hidden message into the back end of the track. The meaning of the secret message might surprise fans who remember the song primarily for its sexual themes.

Prince posing against a wall | Virginia Turbett/Redferns

What makes Prince’s ‘Darling Nikki’ special

“Darling Nikki” is an extremely risque song. It’s about Prince meeting a woman named Nikki who is very interested in him. He gets intimate with her and get to watch her “grind.”

Part of what makes the song stand out is its sound. Many of the tracks on Purple Rain, From “I Would Die 4 U” to “When Doves Cry” sound very polished. “Darling Nikki,” on the other hand, has very raw production. It gives the song a sense of danger and darkness which encapsulates the character of Nikki.

Why ‘Darling Nikki’ became so infamous

Prince’s “Darling Nikki”

The sexuality of the song engendered controversy. Tipper Gore, an activist and the wife of Al Gore, learned her pre-teen daughter was listening to the song. She helped found the Parents’ Music Resource Center to try to prevent children from listening to music with adult content. Thanks to the PMRC, explicit albums are now saddled with Parental Advisory stickers.

Of course, not all of the song’s infamy comes from its lyrics. The track’s composition helped make it notable. Specifically, there’s a noise near the end of the track which many fans found frightening.

Near the end of the song, you can hear the eerie sound of a choir singing. They appear to be singing complete gibberish. However, this sound is actually the sound of a choir singing backwards. The secret message in “Darling Nikki” can only be heard if you play the record backwards.

What is the secret backwards message in the song?
The secret message in Prince’s “Darling Nikki”

Given the rest of the song’s content, fans might be surprised to know what the secret message is. It’s actually a Christian message about Jesus Christ returning at the end of the world. “Hello, how are you?/Fine, fine, ’cause I know that the Lord is coming soon/Coming, coming soon.” This line reflects a fascination with the apocalypse seen in other Prince songs like “Purple Rain” and “1999.”

The song came at a time when some Christians were worried about the prospect of musicians covertly exposing children and teens to negative messages through backwards vocals. It was certainly ironic that Prince was using backwards singing to promote Christian ideas!

Prince managed to combine sex and theology into one song. To some, this is blasphemy. To others, it’s just an example of Prince expressing himself in ways few others would. Regardless, “Darling Nikki” is a unique song whose eccentricities have helped it to live on nearly 40 years after it was written.

Also see: Freddie Mercury Would ‘Love and Hate’ Queen’s Current Singer, Said Brian May