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    Sasha Frere-Jones Articles


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    Sasha Frere-Jones Articles

    Post by Mace2theO on Sat Mar 20, 2010 1:28 pm

    Sasha Frere-Jones is the pop-music critic of The New Yorker, and has written some funny stuff about Prince. I had posted two of his articles on the old Forum, a series called "Design O’ The Times: The Art Direction Memos". They are included below, with two other articles: enjoy!

    Design O’ The Times: The Art-Direction Memos
    Posted by Sasha Frere-Jones
    My colleague Ben Greenman and I are both enormous Prince fans. (Two years ago, I documented the nature and scope of my feelings about Prince in the magazine.) That said, we think that the gap between the quality of Prince’s music and that of his album covers is possibly the widest in all of popular music, at least where gifted musicians are concerned (though there is some strong competition).

    When Prince was signed to Warner Brothers, his album covers were not as egregious as they have become recently, but neither were they a sure thing. After Prince left Warner Brothers, the situation deteriorated acutely. After having a series of speculative conversations (“Does Prince have an enormous ‘Earth Pix’ folder? Or does he have to buy new satellite pictures of Earth each year?”), Ben and I decided to write a series of memos imagining what art directors would have said to Prince over the years.

    The first installment concerns the 1999 album, “Rave un2 the Joy fantastic.”

    August 5, 1999

    Dear Prince:

    Thank you so much for including me in the project. I am an enormous fan!

    Here is the first draft for the cover of “Rave.” I understand that you’ve been feeling unsure about the symbol, and might be using the name “Prince” again. Whatever you decide—it’s your parade!—I think the symbol is graphically strong, and you will see that I have given it a prominent place on the cover.

    I am familiar with your proprietary spelling system. (U always make me smile!) If I read your first memo properly, I have rendered the title the way you wanted me to. One question: did you mean to capitalize only the word “Joy”? You told me to “feel the freedom inside my heart,” but you also wrote that I should “do what must b done.” I think the texture of the symbol matches the fabric of your suit, though I had to approximate a matching blue for the title text.

    I know you were worried about the “teen-age girl” effect of your early albums, so I have used some Photoshop tricks to make your braids look more aggressive. As for your note about “partying with the inside love of the Earth,” I think we might run into trouble if we ran the image you sent me. We don’t know who (or what) took that photograph of Earth and, without permission, we can’t use it without risking legal action. I have added a single curved line to imply the presence of the Earth. When I positioned you too close to the curve, though, it looked like you and the Earth were getting kinda cozy. I thought that might get us into hot water with the larger box stores—u know what eye mean!—so I added some space between your groin and what would have been Mozambique.

    The “superhero 4 love” look is really strong now. I did remove the purple wings, as they might have confused retailers who are looking at some big Christian releases and a Winger box set this Christmas season. It seemed wisest to stick with the “blue reptile angel” look.

    O.K., let me know what you think! I am pretty sure you have my number.

    Design O’ The Times: The Art Direction Memos, Vol. 2
    Posted by Sasha Frere-Jones
    I wrote last week about how Ben Greenman and I discovered a cache of memos relating to the questionable art direction of Prince. Here's a memo concerning the 1990 album, “Graffitti Bridge”:

    Dear Prince,

    I got your note about the font. I think you’ll agree that it’s hideous enough now. Oh, and I’m not sure if I understood exactly what you meant by “let’s get a hella-slammin’ different thing going each time—new power!,” but I tried to distinguish this significantly from the “LoveSexy” font we used on the last album. I didn’t deal with the “Batman” soundtrack, of course, because, well, that’s someone else’s deal, and it’s fine enough if you like elegant, iconic design.

    O.K. So that’s the font. Now on to the image. I have listened to the phone message about your wishes regarding the content of the illustration. (I guess technically it’s a song rather than a phone call, but you left it on my answering machine, so I’ll refer to it as a call, even though it was “written, arranged, composed and produced” by you and features verses, a chorus, and a guitar solo.) So I did the effect where the sky is peeling away to show the wall beneath. I did the thing where the top of Ingrid’s hair blurs into the sky. I’m worried about the stubble, though. I am not sure I got it exactly right. I tried. It took me about fifteen hours of airbrush painting. My shoulder was killing me. But does it look like “a newly born faun / or the dew before the dawn”? You’ll have to be the judge of that.

    Design O’ The Times: The Art Direction Memos, Vol. 3
    Posted by Sasha Frere-Jones
    Ben Greenman and I are thrilled by the public’s enthusiasm for the Prince album art-direction memos we’ve uncovered. Word has spread so far that citizen archivists are now coming forward with documents we have been unable to find, including this long-sought-after memo about “Crystal Ball,” the three-disc collection of unreleased material that was a great source of vexation for Prince fans in 1998.

    Dear Prince Nelson:

    Hey Your Highness!!!!

    I am not very Familiar with popular radio—my Mother says it is *NOT OK* with the Lord—so I do not know all of your songs. My Mother was NOT excited about this assignment, but I was able to use my Step-Father’s CorelDRAW®️ and a scanner at the Kinko’s my girlfriend manages, so I think we have the HIGH-TECH stuff covered!!!!

    Here is where I am now, and I think you will agree that we are all having a “crystal ball” together. When you spoke to me from your helicopter, somebody in the background was saying something about the “plastic ball” and “keeping costs down.” My friend, who is into he**y m**al rock, says you were going to put the whole thing in an actual crystal ball or maybe a plastic ball. I didn’t understand him because he was drinking beer while he was talking to me. (Don’t worry—that’s not My Thing.) The ball sounds pretty cool. I added a dumb little plastic circle in the mockup but I don’t think you’ll want to use it. I was just catching the “vibe.”

    Since I do mostly Children’s Parties and Grand Openings, I have a wide selection of “celebration fonts.” Because of the excitement people have about your Recordings, I decided to use one of my 3-D fonts, which I have only used once before for a party on a Cruise Ship. I think it conveys how exciting and mysterious this album is going to be! Since you were unwilling to let me hear any of the music, I had to sort of imagine what your music is like. I don’t have a “nas-T purple mind” or a “deep connection 2 a sexual powerwave,” so I hope I used the kind of colors you like. One of your albums is about purple stuff, so I went with purple.

    I got real confused by that long thing you wrote on all those taped-together Tower Record receipts about “Earth” and how you are larger than Earth and stand above it with “tha funk.” (I was worried when I saw that F word at first!!!)

    Right now, this cover says PARTY and COLORFUL. My Mother is here, so I am going to have to send this disk with a different writing on it. I am going to write HOT DOGS on it, because she knows I have purchased hot dog clip art through the mail before.

    We never discussed payment but if you click on my NPG website—Nestor’s Party Grotto—you can just look under “party with utensils.” I think that rate is fair. (PS: Why did you say you want to take legal action against my site? You mean give me a law degree? Can you do that as a Prince? Awesome!!!!)

    Anyway. I look forward to hearing from your assistant, Cumin, really SOON.

    Graffiti Bridge, Uncrossed
    Posted by Sasha Frere-Jones
    Claire Hoffman recently wrote about visiting Prince in Los Angeles, for Talk of the Town, and Thessaly La Force expanded on the experience for the Goings On blog. It seemed like the right time to share a minor story about almost meeting Prince.

    I saw Prince play in Las Vegas in March of 2007, and wrote a column about it. A few weeks after the piece ran, I got a call from someone in Prince’s camp. Prince apparently enjoyed the column and wanted to reprint it on his Web site. My guess was that Prince liked the column because it contains many positive statements about him. Reprints are not my department, so I handed the matter over to the appropriate party. I assumed that this phone call from Prince’s amanuensis would be as close as I got to the hem of his garment.

    I was wrong. A week later, another purple helper called to ask if I would write something else about Prince. It was not clear what type of writing Prince wanted, or where it might appear. I am contractually prevented from moonlighting and, in any event, I didn’t want to repeat myself. The prospect of meeting Prince, though, was as enticing as the phone calls were vague. There was no apparent synchronization between the assistants. No one I spoke to seemed to know what the others had said.

    After some volleys, I found out that Prince wanted someone to write on the walls of “his museum.” I couldn’t find any evidence of a Prince museum, though there is a Prince section in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Writing graffiti doesn’t break any house rules, so I figured I would say yes and come up with a word rate for the assignment. Ha. After two minutes, I abandoned such dull, landlocked rationality. What if Prince wanted me to write “[symbol] is the most gr8est thing 2 happen in 4ever”? Would I charge him $400 a word? No. I would just do it. What if I showed up and sipped mint tea while he practiced piano down the hall? Also fine.

    I told one of Prince’s people that I was willing, and we agreed that the next step was to meet. I said I could fly to either Los Angeles or Minneapolis, but this turned out to be unnecessary. Prince was coming to New York and would be staying in midtown. Fantastic. We agreed to meet at 9 P.M. on a Monday evening. I was told that his driver, Raul, would be calling me.

    Expecting some fluidity in this plan, I stationed myself at a bar between my home and the nearest west-side subway. Around nine, Raul called to say that we would meet closer to ten. At ten-fifteen, Raul said Prince was having another dinner, and was running late: we would meet closer to eleven, perhaps downtown. At eleven-thirty, Raul said Prince was wrapping up his meal and asked if I would like to come uptown. (He didn’t say where, just that it was “near Central Park.”) At midnight, Raul invited me to come to Prince’s hotel, on Fifty-seventh Street, around 1 A.M.

    At this point, I returned to dull, landlocked rationality. I suspected 1 A.M. might become 3 A.M., and that my kids would not be interested in my legendary evening when we next met at 7 A.M. I told Raul that we should probably reschedule and meet when Prince was less busy, in the city of his choice. I never heard from anyone in the Prince cabinet again.


    Anybody care to imagine the memos for the design of LotusFlw3r.com? chock bash

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    Re: Sasha Frere-Jones Articles

    Post by maxim9691 on Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:02 pm

    Idea !!!

      Current date/time is Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:30 pm