Prince has translated his landslide triumph this year into long coattails for his supporters. Minneapolis' Purple Rainmaker wrote a top-10 single, "I Feel for You," for Chaka Khan and produced a top-10 single, "Glamorous Life," for Sheila E., the opening act for his seven sold-out shows at the Capital Centre this week.
Prince's popularity has also led to album releases this year for such present and past associates as Vanity, Apollonia 6, the Time and Andre Cymone. Even Cyndi Lauper recorded one of his songs, "When You Were Mine," on her top-10 album.
Some of the candidates on Prince's ticket are more deserving than others; imitating him is a risky proposition. Prince translates his raw eroticism into a challenge to social and sexual hypocrisy. Those who imitate the eroticism without the challenge often end up looking silly.
On her debut solo album, "Glamorous Life," Sheila E. matches Prince's music better than anyone else has and does it from a female perspective. Morris Day and the Time have adapted Prince's music into funk's best vaudeville act, which mocks rather than challenges. By contrast, Chaka Khan proves too glitzy and upscale for Prince's sexual provocation, while Cyndi Lauper proves too dizzy and silly.
Prince's handpicked female prote'ge's -- Vanity and her replacement, Apollonia Kotero -- reduce his erotic challenge to shallow, sexist pandering. As one element in his own music, such escapist fantasies are a disappointing flaw; as the main point to Vanity and Apollonia 6, these innuendoes become a bulwark of sexual hypocrisy.
When Vanity 6 toured with Prince and the Time in 1982, Vanity, Brenda Bennett and Susan (last names are scarce in this Prince's kingdom) did burlesque grinds in scanty camisoles. They spoke/sang the kind of contrived monologues one finds in badly printed porno novels. The music was full of Prince trademarks that were reduced to mere formulas.
Vanity departed the Prince fold when she reportedly quarreled with him over her role in the "Purple Rain" film. Prince simply replaced her with Kotero, who joined Bennett and Susan as Apollonia 6. Vanity has released her first solo album, "Wild Animal" (Motown 6102ML), and Apollonia 6 have released their first album, "Apollonia 6" (Warner Bros. 9 25108-1). Both are nothing more than soft-core porn monologues set to funk rock music.
Vanity has replaced Prince with Bill Wolfer (the man behind Shalimar's "Dancing in the Sheets"), who composed, arranged, performed and produced all the music on the album himself. If possible, Vanity's lyrics are even more explicitly raunchy here than they were with Vanity 6. She invites a race-car driver to "glide down my highway"; she tells a vampire "when you bite me, I scream in delight." Vanity has a nice but unspecial voice; Wolfer is a slick West Coast funk producer, but he's no Prince. One needn't be a born-again Christian or radical feminist to object to these songs; one is likely to reject them simply for their tired predictability.
The same objections can be made to "Apollonia 6"; moreover, she has such a thin voice that she doesn't so much sing as breathlessly coo. The music is often delightful, though. Written and played by Prince, the Revolution and Sheila E., it often has an exhilarating surge and sass. It's too bad it's wasted on negligible songs. At times the record descends into embarrassing silliness, especially on the giggling pajama party conversation that opens "Oo She She Wa Wa." None of the women in the trio is a convincing singer, and except for Prince's squealing guitar solo on "In a Spanish Villa" and the catchy Sheila E. song, this album is easily dispensable.
Though Chaka Khan's new album, "I Feel for You" (Warner Brothers, 9 25162-1), is named after a Prince song, it reflects little of his style or sound. Khan, who appears at the Warner Theatre Dec. 1, has returned from the lush romanticism of recent outings to the fiery mainstream pop-funk of her Rufus roots. She calls on no less than nine producers to find new variations on that sound.
"I Feel for You," which was an intimate sensual song with buoyant synth and falsetto on Prince's second album, becomes a public extravaganza for Khan and producer Arif Mardin. Every trick in this year's book is used as Grandmaster Melle Mel opens the song with a tongue-tripping rap tribute to Khan, followed by a trademark harmonic solo by her former mentor, Stevie Wonder. Khan belts the song out as a brassy declaration that's less personal but much showier than Prince's version.
David (Hawk) Wolinski, Khan's old partner in Rufus, wrote and produced "Hold Her," which proves to be the perfect vehicle for her big voice. Wolinski's fast, staggered bass line creates the momentum that Khan seizes as she goes wailing off into the stratosphere.
Modern hip-hop studio effects provide an effective contrast with her old-fashioned soul singing on "This Is My Night" by the hot New York writing team of Mic Murphy & David Frank. The album's best ballad is Burt Bacharach's "Stronger Than Before," which is beefed up by booming electric drums. Khan's pleading, heartbroken lead vocal is expanded by her overdubbed backing vocals, which stretch the harmonies into dizzing falsettos.
Several other songs are less successful: Philippe Saisse's two-side closers are more synth vamp than real songs; David Foster's ballad, "Through the Fire," limps through lyrical and musical cliche's. Nor does Khan ever put a strong personal stamp on her material the way Tina Turner did on similar music this year. Nonetheless Khan has one of the biggest, most exciting voices in pop music, and it's showcased far better here than it has been recently.