When My Brightest Diamond performed an intimate concert in our studios back in August, there was a moment when Shara Worden seemed uncertain of what song to play next. She walked over to her rack of guitars and chose a sparkly blue one.
After a few words about artistic inspiration, she casually launched into a traditional-sounding blues number. As the verse led into the chorus, many in the crowd recognized it as the 1982 Prince B-side "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore?".
In the context of Worden's concert, the song was more direct and mainstream than My Brightest Diamond's usual experimental and idiosyncratic style. After all, the Prince track has shown a remarkable longevity through a soundtrack appearance in Spike Lee's Girl 6, as well as covers by Stephanie Mills, Joshua Redman, and Alicia Keys.
Keys' version marked the song's biggest chart success and featured an accompanying music video in which she played an awesome clear piano. That version also was remixed by The Neptunes and featured vocals from a pre-"Sexy/Back" Justin Timberlake.
For my money, My Brightest Diamond's spare guitar-only cover is more evocative than Keys' much more produced versions. Allowing the tempo to ebb and flow with the emotion of the vocals is crucial in this song - and Keys' hip hop beat leaves no mystery around these grace notes.
Prince knew this song needed to breathe - and so, at last, does My Brightest Diamond.