“if a girl answers (don’t hang up)” – vanity 6 (1982)

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Just recently, Prince’s discography was made available for digital streaming online across various platform including Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, and others.  Prince was very particular about how his music could be accessed and he was a strict opponent against online streaming.  Less than a year after his death, one of his most valued beliefs was compromised.  On one hand, I like the idea that Prince’s music is more accessible.  On the other, this development is against his wishes.  I’m conflicted.  Regardless, Prince is gone.

A few days after his music was published to all the music streaming sites, I added the Prince station to my Pandora account.  I only listen to Pandora during my morning routine and I like listening to pop and dance music to start my day on a bright note.  Listening to the station, I’m hearing Prince’s hits, his more obscure tracks, and music from his contemporaries or artists influenced by Prince.  It’s a great blend of funky soul.

One thing Prince doesn’t get enough credit for is how he mentored new acts.  Primarily, he liked to mentor new female acts.  Prince was a feminist who believed women should have a bigger presence in pop music.  He would write songs for these acts, produce their albums, or even contribute music and vocals.

I was reminded of Prince’s musical feminism when Vanity 6 appeared on my Pandora station.  I was so excited by this because I hadn’t listened to that album in a long time.  I hadn’t even heard any Vanity 6 or Vanity solo tracks come up on Pandora, so I assume this was included with the rest of Prince’s discography when his catalog was made available online.

Vanity 6 was a female vocal trio and only released on album in 1982. Their eponymous release, Vanity 6¸ is a fuck pop and R&B album filled to the brim with sex and attitude.  The group was led by Vanity, Brenda Bennett, and Susan Moonsie and who did all the vocals as well as background vocals.  Prince wrote most of the songs on the album as well as produced and arranged instrumentation.  He would often credit his work to other musicians or credit his work under the fictional studio name “The Starr Company.”

The song that played that made me remember the group also happens to be my favorite song from their album.  “If a Girl Answers (Don’t Hang Up)” is a funky, funny, and cleverly written rap song.  Despite being the best song on the release, it was never released as a single leaving Vanity 6’s other songs like “He’s So Dull” or “Nasty Girl” to be the most remembered.  Regardless, this catty rap song is a girl group treasure and an overlooked gem in Prince’s lexicon of work.

In the song, the girls of Vanity 6 want to go to a party.  The problem is that they need a ride.  Vanity wants to call her boy toy Jimmy, but is afraid of what happens if a girl answers.  She’s told to not hang up and just talk about it.  Then, drama ensues.

The phone picks up with Vanity asking for Jimmy.  The girl on the other end of the line is Prince with an affected voice.  Immediately, Prince’s vocals are confrontational, charged, and funny as he claims that Jimmy is in the shower.  Getting wise, Vanity asks if taking out the trash is the reason why and Prince replied “No, that’s something he used to do. Now he’s taking out me.”  Vanity and Prince continue taunting each other over the line and throw out amazing insults like “Tramp, I’m dating your dad” and “I’m sorry, baby, but I never go to singles bars.”  The phone exchange happens during the first half of the song until the phone gets hung up.  Prince tries calling back, but there’s no response.  Just a funky backing track.

Vanity 6 disbanded in 1983.  Vanity was getting more attention in the group from Prince than Susan and Brenda.  Also, Vanity had moved on to record with Motown.  She had even dropped out of acting opposite of Prince in his 1984 hit film Purple Rain with the role ultimately going to Apollonia.

Unfortunately, that’s how things worked out.  Vanity 6 is, by far, my favorite of Prince’s side projects.  They released one great album and would’ve undoubtedly released several more.  Vanity 6 is a funny and nasty record and never fails to put me in a good mood.  So, go online to your favorite streaming service, put on the Prince channel, and enjoy what comes your way.

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