In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of Prince’s pair of new albums, we’re picking our favorite songs from the Purple One.
The mere existence of 1986’s Under The Cherry Moon proves that after the success of the Purple Rain film and soundtrack, Prince could do whatever the fuck he wanted to do—including direct a black-and-white comedy on the Mediterranean coast. The film stars His Highness and Jerome Benton (frequent Prince team player and The Time’s version of a hype man) as American gigolos in the French Riviera who are out to make a fortune off wealthy, bored women before making their way back to Miami. Prince plays Christopher Tracy, the (supposedly) suave one, where Benton is his clownish sidekick, Tricky—though both men tax their limited acting skills by playing up the buffoonery.
Clearly taking a page out of Federico Fellini’s book then attempting to build a comedic partnership out of Prince and Benton’s antics, the movie can claim several ignoble accomplishments: It flopped at the box office, not even making back its budget; it was the feature film debut of Kristin Scott Thomas, though she was probably leaving this performance off her reel as early as 1987; and it was the directorial debut of Prince himself—after he fired the original director, Mary Lambert. The flimsy plot hinges on a romance between Tracy and Scott Thomas’ French heiress, Mary, but the two share absolutely no romantic chemistry on-screen. In fact, for much of the love scenes—of which there are many—she seems repelled and he overcompensates.
Despite all these detriments, Under The Cherry Moon joins the ranks of abysmal movies with damn-good soundtracks. The accompanying Parade boasts several great songs: the dreamy, wistful (movie) title track, the funky “Anotherloverholenyohead,” the quintessential Prince jam “Kiss.” But one of my favorite tracks from this album rarely gets any love when people start talking Prince.
A few bars of “Sometimes It Snows In April” can be heard in the movie’s final scene, but other than that, it’s pretty absent and separate from the film. The song opens with a solid 90 seconds of just Prince humming on top of the piano and guitar parts before launching into the first verse, which introduces a solemn ballad lamenting the death of Christopher Tracy. But then it moves into the affecting chorus, “Sometimes it snows in April / Sometimes I feel so bad,” backed by gentle harmonies courtesy of Wendy & Lisa, and it becomes so simple yet lovely, you can almost forget this train wreck of a movie—almost.
Unlike most of the more serious-minded Prince tracks (“America,” “Sign O’ The Times,” “Seven”), it doesn’t go in for much preaching; it’s not really a message song. And there’s this magical moment on the second chorus where he slides right off of the melody for a moment to belt out an improvised moan, and it transcends whatever silly plot point Tracy’s death is supposed to be and becomes something else: a heart-wrenching, gut-punching breakup song. It’s Prince at his subdued finest, and that’s probably the best thing to be said about a tune inspired by a nonsensical pseudo period piece/musical that’s all about “chasing drawers” in the French Riviera.