If Dirty Mind was where Prince had started to become Prince, Controversy was where he would refine his sound and polish it a bit more. The bluntly sexual lyrics are still there ('Jack U Off', anyone?), but there is an angrier edge to this album. Dirty Mind's closing track more or less served as a foreshadowing device for what would follow. A slew of political songs like 'Ronnie, Talk to Russia' and the starkly experimental 'Annie Christian', self-deprecating songs like the title track, balanced out by the lighter material. If you could call 'Jack U Off' and 'Let's Work' light.
All in all, Controversy is a great album on its own terms but this is Prince we're talking about. What this means is that it pales in comparison to the albums it's sandwiched between. While we do get the first classic Prince slow jam via 'Do Me, Baby' and the first use of his beloved Linn drum machine, the rest of the album is not as striking. For instance, 'Sexuality' is essentially a retread of 'Uptown', 'Private Joy' and 'Annie Christian' sound like prototypical 1999-era songs and the album kind of struggles to find its overall thematic concept. I should stress that these flaws don't detract from Controversy's merits and the stronger variety in lyrical content. In hindsight, this is a major transitional album for Prince, who would take the notable parts and further beat them into shape, just in time for his commercial breakthrough. Happy 40th anniversary.
By the way Joey, talk to your people before it's too late.