Filthy Cute: Image, Style, and Dance in ‘Cream'

“Hail the grown-up ‘gangster glam’ image”: George Kalogerakis described Prince’s aesthetic as such around the release of the Diamonds and Pearls album in his article accompanied by a now-legendary photoshoot by Herb Ritts for Vogue’s January issue of 1992.  Prince’s newly polished and refined image, which Kalogerakis pronounced as a bizarre mashup of the aesthetics from the films Godfather III and Barbarella, centered on an exquisite “typhoon” hairstyle, “reorganized” five-o-clock shadow, and entirely reconstructed wardrobe by new head of design, Stacia Lang. Diamonds and Pearls proved his most successful album since Purple Rain in 1984, with four singles in the Billboard Top 30. His second single “Cream” claimed its place “on top” as the last of his five number 1 hit songs in his career. Often critiqued as merely a “production-tooled” and “empty” track created solely for commercial success, the “Cream” music video belies significant depth below the surface of pastiche, camp, and self-conscious lyrics and references. This presentation will analyze the aesthetics, style, and choreography of “Cream” as the crystallization of Prince’s “gangster glam” and “pop dandy” image, showcasing the completed transition from his late 1980s rebranding before his tumultuous legal and artistic journey into the 1990s.

Karen Turman

Karen Turman Ph.D. is a Preceptor of French in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. She earned her B.A. (2001) at the University of Minnesota, and her M.A. (2008) and Ph.D. (2013) in French Literature with an emphasis in Applied Linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her interdisciplinary research interests include 19th-century Bohemian Paris, music, and dance during the Jazz Age, fashion and popular culture studies, community engagement scholarship, and topics of social justice and sustainability in the language classroom. Dr. Turman’s publications on Prince include an essay on Josephine Baker, Claude McKay, and Prince entitled “Banana Skirts and Cherry Moons: Utopic French Myths in Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon,” and “Prettyman in the Mirror: Dandyism in Prince’s Minneapolis.”