"A further landmark in ]Prince and Michael Jackson's] uneasy rivalry came when [Quincy] Jones suggested to Jackson that Prince duet with him on the title track of his Bad album. "So we invited [Prince] over to Michael's house at Hayvenhurst. He came in and he had an overcoat on, and he had a big white box labeled camille. He called Michael 'Camille.' " Prince, it seems, had brought a gift for his host. "The box had all kinds of stuff—some cuff links with Tootsie Rolls on them. Michael was scared to death—he thought there was some voodoo in there. I wanted to take it, because I knew Michael was gonna throw it away."
- interview with Quincy Jones, GQ
"The conceptual and technical masterstroke of “Girlfriend” is the gender-morphing of Prince’s vocals... pitch-shifted to create the feminine alter-ego Camille.... Prince-watchers instantly grasped that this was the wholly logical, yet completely unexpected and surprising, extension of his androgyny, his compulsion to dissolve borderlines and barriers.... In another sense, the artificially high-pitched Camille voice was simply a technological expansion upon what Prince already did vocally: sing falsetto in the soul ‘n’ funk tradition of Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up,” where the “the sound of a woman coming from a man,” as critic Michael Freedburg wrote, served “to demonstrate to his intended lover that he understands her fears and desires as if he were female himself..... "... These forcibly etherealized vocal sounds generally connote the angelic, the extra-terrestrial, the cosmic and otherworldly. They can also be the sound of those who feel alienated from mundane normative existence, who feel like they are from some other place.
"Some Prince-ologists say that the singer chose the name “Camille” for his alter-ego after a 19th century French intersex person generally known by the name Alexina Barbin but who later called themself Camille. Barbin was brought up as a girl but was reclassified as male at the age of 22 and came to use “Camille”—in French, it can be both a female and male name—to describe the masculine phase of their short life.... Partially reproduced in a 19th century medical paper, Barbin’s memoirs were rediscovered and published in 1980. Philosopher Michel Foucault, who was gay, wrote an introduction celebrating Barbin as a sort of exemplar of the sexual misfit, whose biography spoke to and for all those “virile women” and “passive men” who live in a “happy limbo of nonidentity.” But Barbin’s story leaned more to the tragic: grappling externally with uncomprehending medical and religious institutions, and internally with persistent feelings of “vague sadness,” “inexpressible uneasiness,” and “strange perplexity,” culminating in lonely suicide at the age of 30. If it is in fact true that Prince’s “Camille” was inspired by Barbin’s tale, it’s possible that he didn’t get it from the republished memoir but from the 1985 movie Mystère Alexina.
"Prince originally intended to release a whole album of material using the Camille alter-ego and the pitch-shifted, feminized vocal sound. But the self-titled, eight-song LP Camille was scrapped, with most of the tunes resurfacing later as album tracks or B-sides..."
from my Pitchfork memorial to Prince.
The mystery deepens - was "Camille" really Michael Jackson, the androgyne king of pop, whom Prince admired, envied and wished to dethrone? Would the Camille album have been his attempt at magical substitution, displacement, even incorporation, of his rival?