Prince’s Explicit Lyrics Inspired the Trend for Artists to Release ‘Clean’ Versions of Albums

In many ways, Prince’s impact on music isn’t yet understood. He was immeasurably important to rock and to the music scene during his life, but his music lives on. It will continue to influence young artists, and music will never be the same.

Many people know Prince for his own songs, like the famous “Purple Rain,” off of the album by the same name. But he actually had a wider reach than most people realize. He wrote songs for other artists as well, including “Manic Monday,” by the Bangles, “I Feel For You,” by Chaka Khan, and “Nothing Compares 2 You,” made famous by Sinead O’Connor.

Prince clearly influenced other artists in many ways, including one that may surprise fans. 

Prince is responsible for ‘clean’ versions of songs and albums 

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Although the artist formerly known as Prince didn’t decide to make a ‘clean’ version of his albums on his own, his songs kicked off a series of events that would change music forever.

Apparently former Vice President Al Gore’s daughter was a big fan of Prince. She loved the song “Darling Nikki,” which is one of Prince’s more explicit songs. The second daughter was only 11 at the time, and her mother, Tipper Gore, was scandalized by the lyrics. 

Any parent would think twice about letting their child listen to a song like “Darling Nikki.” Its lyrics are basically one big reference to sex and masturbation. However, it isn’t as explicit as some more modern music. There are no swear words. 

Tipper Gore pushed for a music rating system thanks to Prince

Prince live in concert
Prince | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before 1985, there was no rating system for music. Movies had ratings telling parents wherever or not the content was appropriate for children, but songs didn’t. That all changed thanks to Prince.

Tipper started the Parents Music Resource Center. The group lobbied the recording industry for reform and won. Songs with graphic content would get a warning label similar to R rated movies. 

Even though it meant his songs were labeled not suitable for children, Prince didn’t mind the new system. He was one of the first artists to embrace it, and create clean versions of his albums and songs to release simultaneously. That would start a trend that continues to this day. 

Prince’s song “Darling Nikki” is still popular today 

Despite the racy content of the song, “Darling Nikki” was very popular when it was released, and it’s still on the radar today. It was written for the Purple Rain movie. While Prince often sang about sex, this song was one of the first to gain popularity. Most of his singles had tamer content. In fact, “Darling Nikki” wasn’t released as a single at all. The album was so popular that even non-singles made it into the mainstream.

The Foo Fighters covered “Darling Nikki” in 2003, but that wasn’t the first time “Darling Nikki” inspired other artists. In 1996, Tupac Shakur sampled the song for “Heartz of Men.” The Fresh Prince of Bellaire referenced the Prince classic as well. In one episode, Will Smith comes up with alternative lyrics to the song. 

Despite the song’s popularity, there was a time when Prince himself stopped performing “Darling Nikki.” The singer became a Jehovah’s Witness in 2001, and distanced himself from songs with suggestive lyrics like “Darling Nikki.” He began performing the song again in 2007.

Interestingly, even though it was written before Prince’s spiritual awakening, “Darling Nikki” does contain religious references. The end of the track sounds like a gospel choir when played forward, but when played backward Prince can be heard singing the words “Hello! How are you? I’m fine, ‘Cuz I know that the lord is coming soon… Coming, coming soon!”