The art of Kiss – Prince Blues

The passing of the artist ultimately known as Prince left a void in the music universe. (Geez, how many music icons do we have to lose this year…stahhhp…please…). Reams have already been written of his genius level contributions to the lexicon of pop music. To honor him, I thought we could take a look at his song Kiss.

Chords

Kiss is based on a 12 bar blues pattern in the key of A.
As a reminder, here is the chord progression to a standard* 12 bar blues:
*(I use the term “standard” very loosely. There are MANY ways to play a 12 bar blues.)

A7…A7…A7…A7
D7…D7…A7…A7
E7…D7…A7…E7

Each of those chords represents one measure. Line one is four measures of an A7 chord; line two is two measures of D7, followed by two measures of A7; line three is a measure of E7, a measure of D7, a measure of A7, and a measure of E7.

Prince alters this pattern of the last line replacing the last two chords by repeating E7 and D7 (with the addition of that signature funky E7 guitar strum right before he sings “kiss” after the last D7 chord). His progression looks like this:

A7…A7…A7…A7
D7…D7…A7…A7
E7…D7…E7…D7 (E7)

He also doubles the time of each measure, making each line feel like eight measures, instead of four. This extra time on each chord makes the progression slow and sensual. Prince is seducing us, taunting us, playing with us.

Melody

There are two main branches of blues melodies: the “minor” or “major” blues. For Kiss, Prince chose the more gospel influenced major blues scales, whose note degrees include:

1 2 b3 3 5 6

The notes of the major blues scale in the key of A are:

A B C C# E F#

Bonus note: Prince tends to end some of his melodic phrases on the flatted 7th degree, which is borrowed from the minor blues scale. TL/DR: Prince ends some of his lines on the note “G”.

Prince, singing in the upper limits of his falsetto, keeps the melodic range fairly tight, the majority of the action happens within a five note range except for a sneaky lower run when he sings “yeah”, and a brilliant push to a high A when he sings “You don’t have to be rich…” in the third verse. That high A is even more special considering it is the second note of a three octave jump. Wow!

Finally, and most importantly, the actual hook “Kiss” is further emphasised from a moment of melodic silence (not counting the five smooches!). The word kiss is brilliantly comprised of a descending, major 6 leap, emphasizing the two characteristic pitches of the major blues scale (the “3” and the “6”, in other words: the C# and F#).

Kiss by Prince 

You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on

I just need your body baby from dusk till dawn

You don’t need experience to turn me out

You just leave it all up to me, I’m gonna show you what it’s all about

You don’t have to be rich to be my girl,

You don’t have to be cool

To rule my world

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with

I just want your extra time and your

Kiss,

Oh oh

You got to not talk dirty, baby

If you want to impress me

You can’t be too flirty, mama

I know how to undress me, yeah

I want to be your fantasy

Maybe you could be mine

You just leave it all up to me

We could have a good time

Don’t have to be rich

To be my girl

Don’t have to be cool

To rule my world

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with

I just want your extra time and your

 

 

Kiss

Yes, oh oh oh

Ah

I think I want to dance, uhh, ooohh

Gotta, gotta, oh

Little girl Wendy’s parade

Gotta, gotta, gotta

Women not girls rule my world

I said they rule my worldAct your age, mama (not your shoe size) 

Not your shoe size

Maybe we could do the twirl

You don’t have to watch Dynasty

To have an attitude

You just leave it all up to me

My love will be your food

Yeah

You don’t have to be rich

To be my girl

You don’t have to be cool

To rule my world

Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with

I just want your extra time and your

Kiss

Kiss – Prince 

 


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