2004 has been an amazing year for Prince. With a new major label contract and album, he set out early this year on a tour that has turned out to be one of the top tours of the year. His tour has been nominated for the first Billboard magazine award for tour of the year alongside Madonna and Shania Twain.
In addition, after getting SoundScan to agree to count the giveaway copies of the new album Musicology as legit sales, Prince has spent much of this year in the Top 10 of the album chart. Not bad for an artist who had not reached the Top 10 of the album chart since 1995′s The Gold Experience.
Finally, in a move that would make Madonna envious, Prince has ignited one of the biggest music video controversies in years. The video for his song “Cinnamon Girl,” the 3rd single from Musicology, features Whale Rider star and Academy Award nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes. She portrays an Arab-American girl who, following victimization in the aftermath of 9/11, dreams of blowing up an airport with a suicide bomb.
As would be expected, the video has prompted outcry from the right wing of the media. The New York Post screamed that it “might be the most tasteless video ever,” and Fox News complained that Prince was “causing trouble.” A voice from within the Arab-American community, Rana Abbas, a deputy director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, believes the video is “shocking but in a good way” as it portrays the issues and discrimination average Arab-Americans have faced in the aftermath of 9/11.
Beyond the controversy, the video is quite attractively filmed by director Phil Harder (past credits include videos for Incubus and Matchbox 20) with live action set against an impressionistic Minneapolis landscape at times menacingly washed in fiery orange, yellow and red. Keisha Castle-Hughes is as convincing as a teenage Arab-American as she was a pre-teen Maori. The controversy lies solely in personal concerns about the content, not anything connected with the way the video is filmed.
Is the video deserving of the controversy? Unfortunately, it seems that for some in the post-9/11 U.S. anything that suggests an ounce of American culpability for Arab hatred and violence is deserving of attack. The truth, as reported multiple times from the Middle East, is that American response to 9/11, particularly the war in Iraq, has bred greater hatred and most likely led to additional recruiting of violent suicide bombers. Prince’s video simply lays out the warning in the song…that impressionable individuals, in this case a teenager, can contemplate a violent response in the wake of unwarranted hatred and persecution. Is this unusual or difficult to understand?