At the end of 1984, when the song was released, I was eight. A mess was something I made in my room with my toys. Why the hell was Vanity, a woman who clearly was out of my age range, singing about making a “pretty” mess? It wasn’t until I was watching some random VH-1 countdown just a few years ago that it all clicked for me.
She’s singing about some dude jizzing all over her.
I can’t imagine that being much of a surprise to Vanity’s older fans. After all, she made a name for herself as the original “Prince girl” — she was the featured attraction in his successful protege group Vanity 6, whose self-titled debut album went gold and spawned the dance club classic “Nasty Girl.” Prior to her discovery by Prince, she was a B-movie actress named D.D. Winters, and rumors persist that some of those B-movies may have run a little closer in content to films that are usually rated with a letter towards the end of the alphabet. At any rate, sexually suggestive material was par for the course for Vanity, and the video was certainly innuendo-laden. Or am I reading the rubbing of the pool cue the wrong way?
“Pretty Mess” was Vanity’s first single after breaking free from the Prince camp during the filming of Purple Rain (at which point she was promptly replaced by Apollonia Kotero). I’m still trying to figure out whether her departure was a good or a bad move — it’s not like being a Prince chick did Kotero any favors. Recorded for Motown, the song hit #15 R&B and #75 pop in early 1985, and wound up being her biggest pop hit. She recorded one more album for Motown, but was more successful (relatively speaking) as an actress. Neither The Last Dragon nor Action Jackson was a box-office smash, but both remain cult classics to this day. After falling into a spiral of drug addiction (aided by her romance with Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx) and health problems, Vanity became a born-again Christian in the Nineties and currently tours the world as an evangelist. She released her autobiography, Blame It on Vanity, several years ago.
As a wise man once told me: “sometimes you freak so hard, the only thing left for you to do is to find Jesus.” Somehow I feel as though it might apply in this case.