Greatest Album of All Time: Prince’s Sign O’ the Times

Photo courtesy of DJ Johnson on

Recently, Kaleidoscope Newspaper published an article from staff writer Reyva Jamdar on what she thought was the greatest album of all time. Her pick was British singer Harry Styles’ 2019 pop album, Fine Line. In this article, I wish to dispute that claim by analyzing and discussing what I think is the greatest album of all time: Prince’s Sign O’ the Times.

Released in 1987, Sign O’ the Times is regarded by many as Prince’s best album, fully showcasing the breadth of his skill and artistry. The album covers many styles, including funk, soul, psychedelic pop, electro, rock, and R&B. In addition, the album touched upon relevant issues of the time, like gang violence and the AIDS epidemic. Here is my track-by-track analysis:


Sign O’ The Times: In the album’s title track, Prince sings about the tragedies of his time: drug addiction, gang violence, AIDS, poverty, the Challenger explosion, and more. The song, however, manages to avoid feeling melancholy through a signature Prince beat: groovy, unique, and something anyone can dance to. In essence, “Sign O’ the Times” asks the listener: why? Why are all these bad things happening? The listener doesn’t leave the song with an answer to this question but does leave with Prince’s antidote to the times: love.

Play in the Sunshine: To follow the serious “Sign O’ the Times,” “Play in the Sunshine” is quite the opposite. The song is a psychedelic pop explosion of joy that makes the listener want to jump up and dance with Prince. “Play in the Sunshine” is about enjoying life, and Prince will be damned if he doesn’t.

Housequake: In “Housequake,” Prince creates yet another song that sounds completely different from the previous two. A classic beat and fun instrumentals give this song its simple but riveting appeal. It’s a song that makes the listener want to clap along, stand up, and groove out.

The Ballad of Dorothy Parker: In a direct contrast to the previous three tracks, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” is simple and laid-back, with a uniquely jazzy feel. In this song, Prince tells a story, that of a waitress he has a fling with. “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” is enchanting and proves that, when listening to Prince, one must expect the unexpected.

It: “It” is, once again, a song that sounds unlike anything that we’ve heard from Prince on Sign O’ the Times. It does, however, very much feel like a Prince song, capturing his funky yet unconventional essence. In short, it is captivating in a way that is difficult to put one’s finger on, but is very easy to get pulled into the song by.

Starfish and Coffee: Despite the uniqueness of every song before it, “Starfish and Coffee” is the most shocking development on Sign O’ the Times thus far. The song is not unique because it’s unconventional, it’s unique because it is quite the opposite. The song is classic soul and follows conventional song structure. Despite this, “Starfish and Coffee” is beautiful, and a nice change of pace for the album.

Slow Love: Maintaining the classic theme of “Starfish and Coffee,” “Slow Love” is a classic jazz ballad that captures the listener with the smooth saxophone feature. The song is familiar and lovely. To put it simply, “Slow Love” is a great song.

Hot Thing: “Hot Thing” is a return to Prince’s signature style of song: a dance beat, synthesizer instrumental, and unexpected vocals. The song is very fun to listen to, and a refreshing departure from the less Prince-like previous tracks.

Forever in my Life: Prince’s vocals are the main event on this track. Not afraid to cut down instrumentals when it serves the music, in this song, Prince only features a drum and a bass guitar. This gives the song a more personal feeling. “Forever in my Life” isn’t complex because it doesn’t need to be, and is a great example of well-used restraint in music.

U Got the Look: From the moment it starts, “U Got the Look” is an instant hit. The song combines elements from both rock and funk, and features a fantastic electric guitar feature. “U Got the Look” is fun, plain and simple.

If I Was Your Girlfriend: This song is Prince’s return to his funk roots, sounding much more like his less popular work in the late 70s than anything he did in the 80s. Prince’s lyrics stand out in the track, and they have a feeling of casual intimacy, unlike any other song. That feel, coupled with the laid-back stripped funk instrumental, makes “If I Was Your Girlfriend” a very personal sounding track, and a personal favorite of mine.

Strange Relationship: This track is another feature of how skillfully Prince can cross and blend genres, in this case being rock, funk, and soul. Past that, “Strange Relationship” is a perfectly solid track with some standout gospel-style vocals.

I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man: This song continues Prince’s genre-blending, with a heavy emphasis on rock in this case. The song places much of the musical burden on the electric guitar, which proves able to tell a story all on its own. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” is not distinctively Prince, but is enjoyable to listen to nonetheless.

The Cross: As one can infer from the title, “The Cross” is Prince’s most religiously charged song, and it reflects his lifelong grappling with religion. Beyond that, “The Cross” also features one of the best-executed musical buildups in a song, once again highlighting Prince’s musical prowess.

It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night: Sign O’ the Times’ second-to-last track mimics i’s second song, “Play in the Sunshine.” Like “Play in the Sunshine,” “It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night” is an expression of joy, though this time it is presented in a funky and jazzy style. After the more serious tones of the previous few tracks, this song brings the listener back into a joyous headspace.

Adore: To round out Sign O’ the Times, Prince presents “Adore”. “Adore” has a classic slow-dance sound, with beautiful lyrics about love. A love song is the perfect ending to Sign O’ the Times because that’s what, in essence, the album is about. To Prince, love was the solution to the problems he grappled with in the first track. By writing a love song, he was doing his part to solve those problems.


However, it is not one single track that makes an album the greatest of all time. When looking at Sign O’ the Times in totality, two factors emerge that speak to the album’s greatness. The first is the pure musical skill that is featured within the album. In each track, Prince gives the listener a vastly different experience in vocals, instrumentals, beat, and genre. Listening to each song in succession makes one realize how impressive this is. To make sixteen different tracks each sound different from the last is indeed no easy feat. This achievement is unparalleled by any other album.

The other factor that makes Sign O’ the Times the greatest album of all time is its relevance. The album explored concepts like love, religion, longing, sex, and, of course, the pains of modern times, which are still relevant today. The messages the Prince imparts upon his listeners are still valuable thirty-four years later.

Whether you’re a fan of Prince or not, Sign O’ the Times is worth a listen. Everyone can get something out of it, be it the music, the message, or both. That is truly what gives it its everlasting appeal and the title of the greatest album of all time.