When Doves Cry Songwriting
Zero in on the lyrics for deeper meaning.
In "When Doves Cry," Prince uses several metaphors for purity to justify his anguish over his troubled relationship. Amusingly and controversially, he evokes both Christian ideas of purity and less sanctified cultural tropes of sexual carnality. In Christianity, the dove is a symbol of The Holy Ghost—and of the pure human soul in general. Prince sings of doves rather than people—"This is what it sounds like / When doves cry"; "Even doves have pride"—giving the impression that he and his lover share a pure and true romance. Psalm 123:7 describes the concept behind the symbolism: the soul is a free, pure thing caged by the body and bodily desires. Their romance is "meant-to-be." This idea builds off the Edenic quality of "Dream if u can a courtyard / An ocean of violets in bloom" and the gospel sound of the vocals.
But then Prince juxtaposes the Christian idea of purity with the naturalistic, primal nature of sex:
Animals strike curious poses
They feel the heat
The heat between me and u
Prince couldn't just stick to the one or the other, could he?
In addition, the child-like teasing of the line "Don't make me chase u" evokes young love. The fun of this, which is apparent in both the way that it is sung and in the playful chromatic xylophone run that turns up in the background, is another form of simplistic purity. Prince has all his bases covered in the romance—childhood innocence meets elemental sexual power meets spiritual unity. Sounds like true love to us.
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