Title: Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart Title: I Would Die 4 U
Artist: Alicia Keys Artist: Prince
Year: 2009 Year: 1984
Album: The Element of Freedom Album: Purple Rain
Try this link for Prince song. (No YouTube.)
I'm getting started a little late tonight so forgive me if I fall as short on insight as I am on time.
To me, "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart" and "I Would Die 4 U" are sisters born 25 years apart. And good for Alicia Keys and Co. for taking a risk and producing such a touching and understated record. Not since Giorgio Moroder met Donna Summer has a diva been so firmly held in check by swirling synth lassoes. Keys's breathy—nearly breathless—delivery of phrases of uneven length gives the song a sense urgency that is masterfully echoed by the rising synth line that immediately precedes the chorus. I love the way the filter is gradually burned off the top and that nice analog fuzz is allowed to emerge. It warms my robotic heart.
I'm not the first person to compare "Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart" to 80s-period Prince but I found it a challenge to put my finger on exactly which song makes for the best comparison. I chose "I Would Die 4 U" for a few reasons, not the least of which is the similarly spare electronic drum beats that insistently plant themselves front and center of each track. Prince delivers a squarer phrase (at least during the first verse) and the song tends to limp where Keys's strides. They both employ the type of three-part harmony Prince trademarked in those early years with The Revolution although Keys's is more politely consonant. In the end, I think Prince takes more risks vocally but, given that the whole album was a risk for Keys, we should cut her some slack for taking a more traditional approach to phrasing and tone color.
Frankly, I think they're both great songs and it feels right to reunite them after all this time apart. Good night!