Vanity 6 was a female vocal trio assembled by Prince in the early 1980s. They released one album, which blended the sounds of pop, New Wave, dance music, R&B, and funk.
In 1981, Prince, himself a rising musical star, suggested that his three female friends?his girlfriend Susan Moonsie, Boston native Brenda Bennett, and his personal assistant, Jamie Shoop form a girl group that would be called "The Hookers". Prince's vision was that the three women would perform in lingerie and sing sensual songs with lyrics about sex and fantasy. Prince had been wanting to mentor a girl singer or group since the late 70s when he saw the film A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.
The original trio recorded a few demos before Prince met Denise Matthews, a nude model and Canadian B movie actress, in January of 1982. Prince was so taken by Matthews' charisma that he decided she would be the perfect frontwoman for his "Hookers" project. Around this time, Prince and Matthews began a romantic relationship. With Matthews' arrival, Shoop was dropped in a flash. Matthews was eventually re-christened Vanity. (Some versions of the name's origin have Prince suggesting that Matthews use the stage name "Vagina" (pronounced "Vageena"), but she refused and renamed herself "Vanity" instead; other versions of the story suggest that it was Prince himself who coined the name "Vanity", as he said that looking at Matthews was like looking in a mirror at the female version of himself.)
With the new trio finalized, Prince renamed the group Vanity 6 (the number representing the group's breast count). He provided the group, now dressed in lingerie and high heels, with provocative songs (although within the album credits, group members were sometimes given sole writing credits). Their first single, "He's So Dull" did not do much on the charts, but did appear in the film National Lampoon's Vacation.
The second single "Nasty Girl" was a hit on both the U.S. R&B chart and U.S. Dance chart (where it hit number one), and it also made an appearance on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. The song was featured in the film Beverly Hills Cop, although it was not included on the soundtrack. Members of the group also provided backing vocals on Prince's albums during their existence.
Dissension and dissolution
The third single, "Drive Me Wild", was another minor hit. Music videos were shot for all three singles. Their self-titled album (which would turn out to be their only release) was eventually certified gold. The group opened up on the Triple Threat Tour, between 1982 and 1983, which also featured The Time and Prince, as the headliner. The fact that The Time played behind a curtain while Vanity 6 performed caused a rift between the bands and friction within those friendships.
To the other group members' dismay, Prince chose Vanity to pose with him for a Richard Avedon photograph used on the cover of an issue of Rolling Stone magazine. The issue also contained a two-page Avedon photo of Vanity 6.
In 1983, Vanity recorded a demo for a new song, "Sex Shooter", and started reading for her lead role in Purple Rain opposite Prince. Prior to the shooting of the movie, later in 1983, Vanity abruptly decided to leave the Prince camp and relinquish her role in the film. Many reasons were given for her sudden departure, including money, the end of their romantic relationship, and, most importantly, Vanity having been offered a lucrative solo deal from Motown Records.
Vanity was replaced in Purple Rain by Patricia Kotero, who would later use the stage name Apollonia. She also inherited the lead role in Vanity 6, which was renamed Apollonia 6, alongside Bennett and Moonsie. The new trio also recorded what would be their only album in 1984, but that album went on to outsell the Vanity 6 album, mainly on the strength of Kotero's newfound fame, thanks to her movie role and its popularity.
In the years since the group's breakup, Matthews renounced her Vanity persona and music and became a born again Christian.
1982 Vanity 6
1982 "Nasty Girl"
1982 "He's So Dull"
1982 "Drive Me Wild"
Scheduled for Vanity 6
A number of songs were in fact intended for the Vanity 6 follow up album, but due to Vanity's departure, these songs ended up performed by others.
"Sex Shooter" was released by Apollonia 6. Vanity 6 did in fact record at least one version of this song which has been leaked on the internet extensively. The arrangement on this version is sparse and somewhat loose in performance which may indicate that this version was merely a rehearsal or demo version.
"17 Days", the B-side to Prince's "When Doves Cry", ended up being released by Prince, with Bennett's background vocals still on the recording.
"The Glamorous Life", which became the debut lead single and signature track for Sheila E
"Vibrator", which has been leaked extensively online. This song is unique because it features Prince in a comedic sketch as well as Jill Jones. The song is about Vanity feeling ignored by her lover only to find solace with her (actual quote from the song) "body massager" which midway through the song loses power prompting Vanity to go purchase batteries at 2 different stores. The song is set in three distinct parts: 1) verse and chorus portions then 2) the comedic sketch and finally 3) Vanity achieving an orgasm with her vibrator.
List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
All Vanity lyrics
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