It’s really hard for me to imagine Prince smoking a cigarette.
Maybe that’s just me putting Prince on a pedestal, but I cannot imagine Prince having two cigarettes on his person. Which he claims to in “17 Days.” I cannot imagine Prince having any cigarettes, but maybe, like me, he just likes the word cigarette, and how that word rolls off of his teeth, rather than tasting the nicotine on his tongue.
I have given this a lot of thought, clearly.
This song is the B-side to “When Doves Cry.” Perhaps it’s worth noting that B-sides used to be like Easter eggs for the truest of fans, the extra songs we cherish as if they could disappear. These days, iTunes is coming for all of our secrets. I see you, iTunes.
This song refuses to be lost. And given its maudlin A-side companion, it’s only right that “17 Days” be one of the saddest songs you’ll ever hear. Yes, he has two cigarettes, and he also has “this broken heart.” He calls his girl over and over, knowing that she’s not answering because she’s with another lover. The days of dialing bae’s phone number only to hear a stagnant dial tone are long past, but doesn’t that just add to the heavy-hearted vibe? This is an affair existing in a kind of lover’s limbo that could only be provided by a sort of Shroedinger’s voice-mailbox in 2018.
What breaks my heart most about “17 Days” is that it has a beat. Like, a danceable beat. A struttable beat. A beat that says “I’m walking away from your bullshit and having a badass life without you.” Except the beat lies. The beat is hiding pain and heartache and a lack of additional cigarettes and you can imagine Prince lying in bed (purple sheets and pillows, obviously) reaching for a rotary phone on the nightstand, ready to dial again, steeped in melancholy.
Perhaps it’s worth noting that the first time I really, truly noticed this song, I was dancing my heart out. At a giant fucking party. Lonely and anxious as fuck. “17 Days” hurts so good, y’all. And years later, I still can’t imagine Prince smoking a cigarette. I have decided not to Google it. Nobody tell me if you remember a time Prince smoked a cigarette that I have willfully forgotten. He is too pure. Just go listen to this song. Unlike B-sides of yore, this one is available on iTunes. Download, turn out the lights, let the rain come down, and dance.
(Song recommendation by E. Kristin Anderson)