And the world might have been a slightly different place if an 11-year-old Karenna Gore could have prevented her mother from listening to her “Purple Rain” cassette: “Darling Nikki” has the near-mythological honor in pop trivia of being the song that compelled Tipper Gore to co-found the Parents Music Resource Center with other congressional wives, who in 1985 successfully pressured big record companies to create a warning-label system for pop records.
Two slutty decades later, “Darling Nikki” is back, having been faithfully remade by the multi-platinum modern rock band the Foo Fighters.
Kids today, when they’re not allegedly pirating media online, send instant-message come-ons to one another in the same shorthand that Prince wrote lyrics. (U C it in their homework.) Open-mouth kissing between girls in the school cafeteria is a Nikki kind of phenomenon. Britney Spears is nothing but a Nikki. The Hilton sisters are Nikkis. Pink is a Nikki.
Nikki was originally supposed to suggest something coarse, scurrilous, vulgar. Prince used to surround himself in Nikki-equivalents — women in lingerie with names like Vanity and Apollonia — and when he decided they were used up, he moved on to Sheena Easton. (Vanity and Apollonia both have made appearances in VH1 retromentaries about the ’80s; both have found Jesus.)It’s worth noting that in the movie the song was used to illustrate Prince’s character, “The Kid”, at his worst. His bandmates and the club producer were looking to toss him after his defiant rendition of the song.