“Prince Charming” is the ultimate Adam Ant record, but also weirdly redundant. It’s his manifesto – a series of commandments building up to a credo that’s come to envelop Adam’s whole era: ridicule is nothing to be scared of. But almost every one of Adam’s hit singles had worked like this: the man was a walking manifesto, in slogans and looks and actions and sheer presence. There’s something too harsh, too stark about “Prince Charming”, this undiluted concentrate of Ant-iness. In the midst of Adam’s total pop triumph his punky instincts resurfaced, and the song’s forward-march insistence verges on the didactic – the crossed arms of the Prince Charming dance a pre-echo of the straight edge X.
But, as another 1981 hit put it, “there’s always force”, and force is what gets “Prince Charming” through. It’s a deeply weird, abstract pop song, its climaxes hitting not on the “ridicule” chant but on those ecstatic interlocking whoops and war cries – “Aaah-HAH-oh-ehhh-HAH!”. This is the feral, playful side of Antmusic, an implied bacchanalia quite at odds with “Respect yourself, and all of those around you.” The music is startling too – beyond the simple acoustic chords there’s little but full, doomy drumbeats and a roiling grind of guitar that’s resolved into pop by Adam’s sheer willpower as much as anything. And why not? At this moment, he IS pop, and more: the flicker of mirror-Adams at the end of the video – Clint, Alice, Peter O’Toole, then himself – shows him stake his claim as the heir of pretence and storytelling across all pop culture. Prince Charming indeed! At some point, hubris would overtake him, and ridicule would have her revenge – but this is Adam Ant in the hour before the clock strikes twelve, the master of revels.