Prince's fifth album came right before the lascivious multi-instrumentalist became a huge star with his 1984 film and soundtrack, Purple Rain. But Prince had already proved himself to be the most audacious talent to emerge in the 1980s, and 1999, the bulk of which features Prince on all the instruments, reflects the dance-rock styles that he also brought to the acts he produced, particularly the Time.
Prince knows how to run a one-man-band individual instruments don't blend together as much as they compete in a funky showdown which allows tracks like "Automatic," "D.M.S.R.," and "Delirious" to sustain their long playing times. But the album's two enduring hits, "1999" and "Little Red Corvette," outshine the rest, and define the essential roles that rock and funk play in Prince's music.
"Little Red Corvette" is a sexy song about a car, which would have been enough to make it a terrific rock song even if it didn't also boast an infectious chorus and a great guitar part. As for "1999," count on it being the dance song of the millennial year.