NEW YORK – Prince (search), now a Jehovah's witness, has toned down his mojo, but the Purple One can still pack a political punch.
His new music video, "Cinnamon Girl," is a big-budget production that follows the hardships and confusions of a teenage Arab-American girl in a post 9-11 America.
It stars Keisha Castle-Hughes (search) ("Whale Rider") who concludes the video by imagining herself detonating a bomb in a crowded airport terminal.
The video, directed by Phil Harder (a seasoned veteran of music videos from Incubus to Liz Phair), visualizes the lyrics of Prince's four-minute rocker. It uses a stylized type of illustrated animation, with Castle-Hughes filmed over a background of high contrast tints of black and beige.
Following an airplane crash, presumably 9-11, Castle-Hughes is beset by racism and prejudice because of her Arab ethnicity. After being chased by her schoolmates, she watches Arabic storefront signs be replaced with English ones and is chided by her more traditionally Islamic parents.
Prince sings, "Cinnamon girl mixed heritage/ Never knew the meaning of color lines/ 9-11 turned that all around/ When she got accused of this crime."
Disillusioned and angered, Castle-Hughes' character detonates a bomb in an airport terminal, exploding herself and others. However, a reverse motion immediately following the explosion reveals that it is only a thought of hers.
"I kind of think about it as how far can her imagination go when the world comes down on her pretty heavy," says Harder. "None of it's literal, but you get the picture."
Prince only appears in the video intermittently playing guitar and singing. He gave Harder much room for creativity, but was very involved in the video, following its production throughout.
Seeds of controversy are already beginning to grow, even though the video — the first from Prince's new "Musicology" (search) — will not begin running on MTV until next week. (It is currently viewable on Yahoo and on Prince's pay fan club site, www.npgmusicclub.com.)
But Harder says, "Kids are seeing real death and war on television. Kids are smarter than people think and know what's going on in the world." He adds, "The main motivation is to get people to talk about it."