In true Gemini fashion, Prince contained multitudes. While the Purple Yoda was crafting serious mission statements for himself, he was also taking time to indulge his more frivolous side. The artist on the “Cool” 45 was “The Time”, but you were hearing Prince’s songwriting, his instrumentation, his voice. Morris Day was The Time’s lead singer, but he was following Prince’s guide vocals. Hell, you can hear Prince’s falsetto quite clearly in the post-chorus. Although Prince attempted to deflect attention given to him on his side projects via the Jamie Starr alias, his contributions are almost blatantly obvious now. Ah, memories of a much less media savvy world.
“Controversy” and “Cool” are synthesizer and bass-heavy in a way that suggests they were recorded in close proximity to one another, but “Cool” was much lighter in mood. If “Controversy” highlighted the “punk” in punk-funk, “Cool” leaned heavily in the opposite direction. It also heralded a new era in funk, contributing to the introduction of a relatively spartan instrumental sound to the genre. One person on a synthesizer (or maybe two people if The Time was performing live) took the place of a keyboardist and horn section.
While we now know Morris Day as an almost cartoonish personality, he wasn’t full-on Morris at the time “Cool” became a top 5 Black hit. The elements are there, but there’s no Jerome. No “yesssssss”. Very interesting to see a character in the development stage in a pop song. Not that a less outrageous “Morris” personality detracts from the fact that “Cool” is still a banger.