Jack Hues of Wang Chung cites this as one of the Top 3 songs of the '80s. He broke it down for Songfacts
. "This song struck me the moment I heard it for the stripped-down economy of both the production and the actual songwriting," said Hues. "It begins with the bass drum, shaker and a sort of electronic conga part. They are all syncopated and occupy their own spaces in the rhythm, but all slightly 'off.' When the straight snare comes in with the bass guitar everything lines up and sounds funky as hell even though, on paper, it should be a bit of a mess. But this is part of Prince's genius: to use simple, disparate elements and let them groove.
The first verse goes back to the intro arrangement - no harmony, just a descending melody for the vocal. The lyrics are direct, serious and straight to the point. The second verse is just as spare with an enigmatic bell sound providing decoration. Guitar enters on the second line with a great blues sound playing minimal licks and preparing to groove on the chorus, which consists of one word: 'Times.'
The move to the middle eight is perfectly timed and the chord contrast is classic - listen to the synth pad sound and how it drifts around quite extended harmonies without really stating anything definitive. The second middle eight goes even further out. No bass in this section, apart from a few little twitches, so when chord one returns you really have that feeling of 'home.'
The vocal performance holds center stage throughout and is definitive - I can't imagine it sung differently. I have tried playing this song live. It's great to do it, but it's something to do among friends with compassion - you're never going to get close to Prince's feel on this track."