Friday, May 19, 2017

Purple Power Rankings #420-406: "Come" Already, Wouldja?

420. Push (Diamonds & Pearls, 1991)
--In which the Don of the Purple Mafia boasts about "snatchin' up kiddies like a circus clown" and uses "asunder" as a verb ("No man should asunder the joy that another man found"). I'm pretty certain both offenses could land one on a watch list of some sort. Much like on "Jughead," we get raps from Prince, Tony and Rosie, and finally Tony finds a beat on which he can outrhyme somebody. (Sorry, Rosie.)

419. The Arms of Orion (Batman Soundtrack, 1989)
--We just keep telling ourselves "it's from a movie." The problem with "Orion" is that it probably has less to do with its superhero source material than any other song on the Batman soundtrack. And very few of them have much direct connection in the first place. This one might have been more at home in a Disney flick.

418. Crazy You (For You, 1978)
--A ballad that casts into doubt some of the reputation of Prince's debut album. The production of For You went too long and cost too much, but "Crazy You" doesn't sound like it took much time at all. It's atmospheric, with some beautiful acoustic guitar work, but it's also a fragment. One clunky verse, one two-line chorus, and we're moving back to the dance floor. Thanks for stopping by.

417. Calhoun Square (Crystal Ball, 1997)
--Props for the shout to uptown Minny, but he did this better back in 1980, when the song was actually called "Uptown." You can lose your mind to the chorus, but again, you could on "Uptown," as well. And I'm not sure I want to know what "Don't be shocked 2 C your mother in the chair" means.

416. Extraordinary (Old Friends 4 Sale, 1999)
--The starkness of the piano arrangement is rivaled only by the cliche-ridden lyrics. ("Valentine's a little rough/But we survived cuz we had a love...") I'm not usually a fan of instrumentals, but this one would be best served with just piano, no microphone.

"Of course it comes in purple, Mr. Nelson..."
415. U're Gonna C Me (MPLSound, 2009)
--The piano-driven One Nite Alone version is prettier and more soulful, but the chorus remains catchy...especially if, unlike me, you're able to skate by the man's continuing shoutouts to obsolete tech ("Gimme a page on my 2-way/I'll hit U back with no delay..."). Well, it's gonna be some kind of delay while he finds a landline to holla at his girl on, right?

414. When She Comes (HitNRun Phase Two, 2016)
--The man who once gave us (and The Time) "The Walk" now gives us "the Waltz," layering accordion and lilting piano under lyrics invoking both "limoncello ballet" and "psychedelic cabaret." Bonus thesaurus points, and the song fits reasonably well into Phase Two's soul-centric vibe, but even in those laid-back surroundings, it borders on supper-club Muzak.

413. 3 Chains o' Gold (Love Symbol, 1992)
--No song on the Symbol album is hamstrung more by obsessive adherence to its rock-opera storyline than "3 Chains." If you don't watch the accompanying "movie," and I'm not sure I'm all that anxious to recommend doing so, then there is no mention of the titular chains anywhere to be found on this album. The track is a marvel of studio wizardry, splicing together a pastoral ballad, apocalyptic basso profundo invocations of doom and vintage Prince guitar pyro. Problem is, Queen was doing it all better back in 1975.

HAWT.

412. Come (Come, 1993)
--If I may get a little graphic here...I know Prince is trying to simulate the sound of cunnilingus during the latter half of this track's nearly interminable 11-plus minutes. But it's kind of like a movie foley artist trying to simulate the sound of a punch by breaking a celery stick, because I'll be damned if Prince eating pussy doesn't sound like a hands-behind-your-back watermelon-eating contest. "Don't B surprised if I make U my daily meal," indeed. The horns take charge like on the best James Brown tracks, but still, the whole thing meanders way too long while Prince busies himself with asking if he can suck and/or fuck you. It's almost a relief by the time he finally gets, um, down to it.

411. When U Love Somebody (Newpower Soul, 1998)
--I love the line "Who needs love when U got protection?" However, the pedantic chorus keeps killing the momentum:
"'Cause when U love somebody/Every now and then it might rain/When U love somebody/With every sun shower there's pain/Whenever something's lost, something's gained/When U love somebody..."
Pretty sure vampires are the only ones pained by every sun shower, but whatever. Again, the horns put in yeoman work, but Prince can't decide if he's the willing cuckold ("Same tired line that I heard a dozen times/But still I gots 2 give in") or the swaggering pimp ("Yeah, do yo dance/But I'm the 1 U're dancin' 4"). Pick a side, boss.

410. The Flow (Love Symbol, 1992)
--I think this might be the last time we hear from Tony M. for a while, if not until we get to the songs that are so bulletproof that even he can't fuck them up (see "Sexy MF" and "My Name is Prince"). Prince begs valid questions about why we're so celebrity-obsessed--and lays into the journalists who profit off said obsession--but his rap is more of a rant, a free-association string of syllables that doesn't ride the beat so much as step all over it.

409. Whitecaps (Plectrum Electrum, 2014)
--Think No Doubt strung out on whatever Fleetwood Mac was on when they made tracks like "Songbird." This is not truly an insult, but "Whitecaps" would almost have fit as a 3rd Eye Girl cameo on HitNRun Phase Two. When placed alongside roaring guitar blasts like "Aintturninround" or "Fixurlifeup," it's a caesura in an otherwise propulsive set that spoke to 3EG's potential. In the wake of Prince's passing, it's almost 3EG's eulogy, similar to what "Sometimes It Snows in April" constitutes to the Revolution.

408. The Latest Fashion (Graffiti Bridge, 1990) 
--The Kid and Morris Day working together? Bah. Kills what little concept the movie had. "Fashion" is still better than its Pandemonium-closing doppelganger "My Summertime Thang," but that's a hella low bar. The groove is strong, until it drops out for Prince to let loose a rap that makes Tony M. sound like Rakim by comparison. Dude, are you "harder than a heart attack" or "the cure for any disease"? Make up our minds already.

407. An Honest Man (Crystal Ball, 1997)
--Sounded better when Kristin Scott Thomas was reading the lyrics in Under the Cherry Moon. The extensive vocal overdubs detract from the soul-baring, beautifully confessional lyrics.

Does give a whole new meaning to "gimme some head," though.
406. What Do U Want Me 2 Do? (Musicology, 2004)
--The "grown and sexy" vibe of Musicology was even reflected in his approach to the opposite sex on this mid-tempo stroll. He dresses down (not literally, for once) an overly thirsty chick who's out to ditch her man to be with a man who's already got himself a woman, thank U very much. A little jarring, though, to hear a beheading reference in a song about a would-be romantic relationship.

NEXT TIME: If Damien Thorn was a chick, another poorly-Timed Graffiti track, and a crazy-overrated Purple Rain-era B-side (no, they weren't all classics).

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Purple Power Rankings #433-421: Yes, "Poom Poom" is About What U Think It Is

"Hmm, tastes like...what was her name again?"
433. Until U're In My Arms Again (Newpower Soul, 1998)
--Aural diabetes. A ballad so saccharine, it would make Diane Warren puke.

432. My Little Pill (Old Friends 4 Sale, 1999)
--It's easy to look askance now at any reference to popping pills in Prince's music--and in his later years, there were many, even on otherwise upbeat tracks like "$". This leftover from the aborted I'll Do Anything soundtrack was probably the first, and it's easily the bleakest. This is what depression sounds like, and it was only slightly less disturbing then than it is now.

431. Somewhere Here on Earth (Planet Earth, 2007)
--Prince had an avowed distrust of cell phones, and it left him open to ridicule about continuing to reference obsolete technology ("In this digital age, U can just page me/I know it's the rage, but it just don't engage me"). The singer's Luddite tendencies aside, this cloying ballad simply ends up somewhere close to "Solo" in its overwrought attempts at emotion.

430. Circle of Amour (The Truth, 1999)
--Just when "The Truth" and "Don't Play Me" lead us to think we're tracking toward a more grown, honest lyrical bent over an acoustic instrumental bed, Prince blindsides the listener with an aural Skinemax feature masquerading as a French art film. Spoiler alert: Four girls ditch school for a circle-jerk. Sure, it's an effective encapsulation of teenage melodrama and ennui, but if you're going to try for pretty and poetic, don't drop the ball in the third verse ("4 hands in the place where the feet connect/Circle of sex").

429. Ronnie, Talk 2 Russia (Controversy, 1981)
--Prince's faith in music's power to change the world could come off as endearingly sweet or annoyingly naive. Examples of the former: "Still Would Stand All Time" or "Free." "Ronnie, Talk 2 Russia" is the nadir of the latter, the sound of a man quivering in fear even while he tries to fling tough-sounding doggerel at the leader of the free world ("Ronnie, if U're dead before I get 2 meet ya/Don't say I didn't warn ya"). The song is suitably frantic for the decade that gave us Reagan's "Star Wars" and "The Day After," but is still somehow less urgent than the party groove of "1999."

428. So Blue (For You, 1978)
--Like "Tangerine" in the previous post, "So Blue" isn't necessarily a bad song. It's just sort of...there. Stuck between the lively "My Love is Forever" and the "holy shit, this kid can play rock guitar too?" throwdown of "I'm Yours," a pretty yet cliche acoustic love ballad just won't stick in the memory banks for long. Clunky lyrics (you know, the kind an 18-year-old might write) like "I feel just like the sky/I'm so blue" don't help, though.

427. Emale (Emancipation, 1996)
"You wanna do WHAT with that money?!?"
--There's online chess, a robbery of some sort, a dude threatening to kill both a girl and her boyfriend...and somehow, this gets her wet? ("Read like a threat that crept in2 her like a sex machine") Cybersex was still quite the novelty in 1996, so no one was quite sure of the best way to do it. This, however, was most certainly not it.

426. Silly Game (Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, 1999)
--The lyrics read like a series of direct shots at ex-wife Mayte, especially after one reads through her book. Biased source material and all that, but the two are total he-said/she-said night-and-day opposite accounts of their relationship. Believe who you will. As for this song, it fits nicely into what I dub "The Self-Pity Suite," a depressing stretch on the back end of Rave that makes you want to shake Prince by the shoulders and tell him to LET IT GO, MAN! (Oh, sorry, "Letitgo, man.") Between this, "I Love U, But I Don't Trust U Anymore," and "Strange But True," there's almost no sense of fun left in an album that didn't have a ton of it to begin with.

425. Resolution (Planet Earth, 2007)
--There's that naive streak again. "The main problem with war/Is that nobody ever wins" sounds like a lyric written immediately after he finished a 3 AM screening of War Games. Despite the heavy subject matter, the song is hardly a head-knocking protest full of the same fire that propelled classics like "Fortunate Son" or "Masters of War." Instead, "Resolution" packs as much wallop as a cotton-wrapped pool noodle and makes a disappointing closer to the already spotty Planet Earth album.

424. Poom Poom (Crystal Ball, 1997)
--What happens when you've written so much about sex that you've officially exhausted the English language? This:

This isn't the mix that appears on the Crystal Ball collection, and fortunately, the original mix is only slightly less annoying than this infernal edit. Lyrically, the sex boasts were starting to wear thin by the time he penned rhymes like "4:58 and I'm hard straight/Licorice and goldenseal is all I ate/If U were here I wouldn't masturbate/Wishin' I was kin 2 your PoomPoom." Refer to a woman's genitalia as the "PoomPoom" a few too many times and masturbation may become a mortal man's only option.

423. Deconstruction (The Rainbow Children, 2001)
--Another patented Rainbow Children segue. It furthers the story and little else. Kind of like this write-up.

422. The Same December (Chaos & Disorder, 1996)
--A very long-winded renunciation of everything that should seem important in the music industry, like record sales and awards:
"There once was a golden idol that went 2 the winners/Needless 2 say, it didn't make 'em feel any less a sinner/Cuz the very next mornin' the whole damn world was the same/Yes it was/The idol's still shinin' but the voice inside it said,/"There ain't no winners in this game"
Pictured: the unamused.
Of course, the cynic might snark that "The Artist Formerly Known" had little memory of any of the industry's "golden idols" by then. Remember, though, this was still only a couple of years post-"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," his last substantial commercial breakthrough before Musicology put him back on the map in '04.

421. Race (Come, 1993)
--This one's a shame, because the beat is one of the more effective hip-hop beds he'd ever produced, and Jearlyn Steele's "FACE THE MUSIC!" bellow is a truly galvanizing hook. Unfortunately, Prince starts rapping over it. "If the air is a little thick in this room 2nite/I reckon it's the result of an onslaught of separatist rookies/Overcome by this colorful sight" is the overly cluttered bar that kicks off an indictment of rappers who big up their race by denigrating others'. A noble sentiment, but Prince's rhymes are too sporadic to carry it effectively.

NEXT TIME: 12 minutes of porn soundtrack, a "Bohemian Rhapsody" knock-off, and environmental posturing. With extra cheese.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Purple Power Rankings #448-434: How U (Don't) Wanna Be Done

It's hard to question the methods and madness of genius. After all, theirs is a lane which most of us will never be capable of hitchhiking next to, never mind driving on.

Still, even Prince's most die-hard fans can point to the odd track that simply makes them ask, "Brother, what the hell were you thinkin'?" In a career that spanned almost 40 years and probably 1000 songs, released and unreleased by himself and others, there were bound to be several lapses of inspiration.

Even under the restrictive guidelines of this Project, there are quite a few royal missteps. With this inaugural edition of the Purple Power Rankings, we present the most egregious.


448. Tell Me How U Wanna Be Done (Crystal Ball, 1997)
--A pointless remix of the second half of Love Symbol's "The Continental." This was included on Crystal Ball while joints like "Electric Intercourse," "Neon Telephone" and "Wonderful Ass" were bypassed.

This was my most severe bone of contention with the Crystal Ball compilation, as "Dark" and "Pussy Control" also got retreaded with inferior remixes. But their originals rate near-classic status on my board, so they're more forgivable than this waste of time.

447. Wedding Feast (The Rainbow Children, 2001)
--This was aural Russian roulette, as Prince took the chance that his listeners wouldn't simply yank the CD and pitch it into the garbage once this operatic assault began. Points for the absurdist sense of humor ("Not just a vat of chitlins/Or turkey meat U C/We R what we eat/So we must eat a leaf"), but damn. Sticking around was a great reward ("Everlasting Now" and "Last December" are a tremendous closing pair), but how many survived Prince's channeling of Mel Brooks to get there? 

446. Orgasm (Come, 1993)
--"Private Joy"'s guitar line, crashing waves, and 10-year-old squeals from Vanity. Exhibit A for Come's cut-and-pasted reputation.

445. Arrogance (Love Symbol, 1992)
--It's a jarring attack butting in on the end of the sumptuous, jazzy "Damn U." It's a frantic jumble of wailing voices and horns. It's a plea for help, as it sounds like our hero is working through some self-loathing issues ("What make a man wanna play guitar?/A double A double arrogance/Same thing that make him wanna be a star/A double A double arrogance"). But, the samples from classic N.W.A. and Rakim tracks are the closest we got to seeing him collaborate with good rappers until Chuck D was largely wasted on "Undisputed." So points for that, I guess?

444. Solo (Come, 1993)
--The man had vocal range for days, and this song shows it off to absolutely absurd effect. Almost as absurd as some of the lyrics. "The curb looks like a skyscraper"? Oy.

But hey, nice mic drop, bro.
443. Had U (Chaos & Disorder, 1996)
--A series of two-word verb-subject couplets reads less like a final goodbye to a spurned lover (or a longtime record label) and more like an assignment I had in sophomore English class. The dark, brooding gloat is an appropriate bookend to a Warner Bros. career launched with the angelic harmony showcase "For You," but it's hard to sympathize with contract difficulties largely of his own making.

442. Tangerine (Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, 1999)
--Light and airy as a...well, as that tangerine-colored negligee that he sings about. This song slips by before it's able to make any kind of impression. It's not that it's bad, it just may be the single most forgettable song on any Prince album.

441. Animal Kingdom (The Truth, 1997)
--Prince never got as strident preaching about politics or religion as he did here, going HAM in espousing his newly adopted vegan lifestyle. (So, I guess HAM's not the proper term, then. Maybe TOFU: Totally Over-the-top and Fucking Unappreciated?) I share his stance on the "funky, funky blue cheese," but I'm not here for a guilt trip over my next pizza.

(Oh, plus my longtime favorite domestic terrorist organization, PETA, loooooooved this song. And if PETA digs it, I'm out.)

440. Get Loose! (Crystal Ball, 1997)
--Could have easily rubbed elbows with last place up there.

Work 4 U, Carmen?
As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of remixes unless they do something truly revolutionary with the source material. The additions made in "Gett Off (Houstyle)" or "The Good Life (Big City Mix)" damn near made them into completely new songs. This one is largely instrumental, most effective as a stripper anthem if the album liner notes are any indication.

439. Right the Wrong (Chaos & Disorder, 1996)
--Certain words just don't sound right coming out of certain people. Prince using the word "grandpa" is one of those moments, especially when he's affecting a cornpone country-singer drawl. Is this what a Minneapolis hootenanny sounds like?

438. Boytrouble (Plectrum Electrum, 2014)
--The 3rd Eye Girl girls are a killer rock band. As a pop-rap backing group, though? Meh. This sounds like Prince trying to produce a J.J. Fad comeback single. A little fun, but a very jarring contrast to the Zep-via-Runaways vibe on the album's highlights.

437. Da, Da, Da (Emancipation, 1996)
--There's an interesting concept here: Scrap D is a down-on-his-luck Minneapolis dude trying to find a job, being bitched at because he can't get out of Mama's house and getting fed up with it all, his "blunt and gin" being the only sources of comfort. Out of nowhere, Prince arrives to function as the voice of reason:
"Ask yourself your destination/What the source of your inspiration be
And you will find a spirit tryin' 2 get back 2 the mind
How you was in your mama's belly
Live and let live was the order of the day
What you say?/Love 4 one another is the only way"
 ...to which we can only assume Scrap mumbled, "da fuq?" and snuffed out his latest fattie, thinking it was laced or some shit, before he staggered outside to get some fresh air and ponder about this odd hallucination. As I said, interesting concept. Terrible execution. One of only a few joints on Emancipation that aid the listener's enjoyment by being skipped.

436. Jughead (Diamonds and Pearls, 1991)
--Aaaaaaaaand speaking of mediocre rappers:



"Jughead" is nowhere to be found on YouTube, for obvious (and perhaps fortunate) reasons, so try to endure as much of "Goldnigga" as you can to understand the Purple Army's disdain for Tony M. I don't think it's unreasonable to claim that Rosie Gaines is the best rapper showcased on "Jughead," as she's even an improvement over Prince, who saunters in like he's already bored of his own creation. The song's ostensibly about a dance of some sort, but I'm not too interested in seeing a demo.

435. Digital Garden (The Rainbow Children, 2001)
--A glorified segue in an already narrative-heavy album, but thankfully not too long to derail the promising momentum from the title track and "Muse 2 the Pharaoh." The only real fun to be had here comes from imagining a stoned Matthew McConaughey sitting in on bongos.
No points for guessing which one takes longer to do their hair.

434. 77 Beverly Park (LotusFlow3r, 2009)
--We get about 30 seconds of "Slave"-ish industrial stomp, then suddenly, we've downshifted to some airy Mediterranean guitar. I wouldn't have been terribly surprised to hear Kristen Scott Thomas reprising her Under the Cherry Moon role over the top of this. At the album's end, this feels like a cool-down before the thumping "Wall of Berlin"/"$"/"Dreamer" trio, but it damn sure don't start out that way.


NEXT TIME: Nos. 433-421 include our first few pre-'90s selections, including his warm-up for "1999"'s full-on nuclear anxiety. Oh, and teenage lesbians.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Get Yo Groove On (All of Them, In Fact): Prince's Songs and the Project

"Dearly beloved, we R gathered here 2day 2 get through..."

...what, exactly? What is this Purple Power Project?

As discussed before, it's an attempt to compare and contrast Prince's different eras and styles, tracking his evolution from doe-eyed charmer to fire-strumming sexual evangelist to label-baiting cypher to grown-and-still-sexy soul man. The central thrust (heh) of this effort will be the Purple Power Rankings, which are exactly what they sound like.

Various publications have done their top 50, 100, or whatever Prince tracks, but here we go all the way. These rankings will encompass ALL the unique songs (448 of them, give or take) from 36 official, widely-released Prince albums. This means:
  • The previously unreleased tracks and B-sides from The Hits are included, but other B-sides only found on their respective singles ("Rock & Roll is Alive," "Loveleft, Loveright," etc.) are not. These will likely be broached in their own separate post;
  • "Moonbeam Levels" is included thanks to its official release on 4Ever;
  • Remixes from other compilations, like Ultimate Prince, are not included; 
  • Remixes included on two different albums ("Funknroll," "Pussy Control," or "This Could B Us") are included, but "When 2 R in Love" is not included twice, since it was unchanged from The Black Album to Lovesexy;
  • NPG Music Club albums like The Slaughterhouse and The Chocolate Invasion are not included. Neither are N.E.W.S. or One Nite Alone...Live;
  • Crystal Ball and The Truth are included separately, despite the fact that the latter was not available separately in the shops. Kamasutra, however, is not included;
  • Goldnigga and Exodus are not included, since they're credited to the New Power Generation and lead vocals are mostly handled by Tony M. and Sonny T., respectively. New Power Soul, however, is included because it's a Prince album in all but name, with his picture on the front and his vocals on every track;
  • Albums by proteges like Sheila E., Jill Jones and The Time are not included, regardless of his level of creative input;
  • And finally, in case you're wondering, yes, the rankings will be revised on the fly once the Purple Rain remaster hits in June. The third disc of Vault gems like "Electric Intercourse" and "Father's Song" will be added.
We'll make the occasional diversion into other topics, to be sure, but everything will keep veering back to the Rankings (or the Big Board, as I'll sometimes refer to it). The current goal is to get out two posts per week, each about 10-15 songs deep. Tell your friends, because I need as many people as possible to keep me accountable.

So, we'll get started in a couple of days with my selections for Prince's 15 WORST songs. What are your picks?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

One Year Later: Even After His Death, Prince Remains the GOAT

Collage courtesy neil-moodie.com
I suppose it's appropriate for a new Prince-related site to launch with a simple sentiment of great significance to the purple faithful. And that sentiment is:

Welcome 2 the Dawn.

As I compose this post, we're closing in on midnight, bringing us to the one-year anniversary of the icon's transition to "the Afterworld," as he termed it in the indelible intro to "Let's Go Crazy." Celebrations of his life and legacy abound in Minnesota, locations all over the world, and on countless media outlets across the dial.

BET is blowing up its various platforms to pay tribute. Minnesota radio station The Current is devoting practically its entire weekend to his recordings. And of course, his devoted fam worldwide will be pulling out their favorite (or even least favorite, it's all good) albums and blasting them from the car speakers at maximum deciballs.

I got that last out of the way with a couple of runs through Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic earlier this week. Calling Rave, or any album, his weakest--more on that in time--is like calling Martha Hunt the least attractive Victoria's Secret Angel. You're still not going to find too many pieces of superior work on God's green purple Earth.

The hard part about evaluating one's favorite artist is finding the desire to avoid hyperbole, lest you come off as a slobbering fanboy/fangirl. I have a friend who considers 311 the greatest band of all time, a position which strikes me as exceedingly difficult to defend, but you do you, right? The thing with Prince is that I always refer to him as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time, for the acronym-challenged), and to my mind, that position is extremely easy to defend.

The purpose of the Purple Power Project is to do exactly that: defend the position of Prince as the greatest pure musical force in rock 'n' roll history, while simultaneously maintaining the self-awareness to point out those moments when he dropped the ball. Even Babe Ruth struck out from time to time, and Prince was a man much more concerned with prolific production than exhaustive quality control.

My second favorite artist of all time, George Michael (yes, 2016 TRULY sucked in terms of vanishing idols), was quoted after his passing as saying that Prince "didn't know how to edit himself." It sounds fairly harsh, but doesn't it occasionally ring true? Say, on the middle third of Chaos & Disorder?

That prolificity, however, is the very quality that separates Prince from all the other pretenders to the summit of rock's Mount Olympus. Think about this one simple test: How many individual musicians throughout history could you lock in a studio alone on a Friday night, then let them out on Monday morning and be handed a fully written, recorded and produced album?

John Lennon? Quite possible. Same with Paul McCartney.

Bob Dylan? Maybe.

Bruce Springsteen? Sure, but the album may just be stark acoustic guitar (see Nebraska).

Elvis? Shiiiiiiiiiit, no. He's on the Mount Rushmore of performers, but it took a village to build his extensive catalog.

Madonna? Michael Jackson? Not hardly.

For all the shit that hip-hop artists catch for not being "real musicians," Kanye West could damn sure crank out an album from scratch over a weekend, but even in such a producer-centric genre, he's an outlier. Maybe current performers like Lady Gaga or Ed Sheeran could one day reach that level of productivity, but none of them will ever crank out genuinely interesting work with the staggering regularity that Prince managed in his prime.

Perhaps that's what hurts most in knowing that he died at such a comparatively young age. It took the Grim Reaper to dam that waterfall of sound.

We can't look forward to a potential collaboration with Kanye, Bruno or Kendrick, or a true studio duet with Beyonce.

We have to look backward, wondering what other scraps are in The Vault (capital letters deserved) and how they compare with the pieces that he did deem worthy of inclusion on some of his 32 (or 39, or 42, or even 51, depending on how broad your definition of the term "Prince album" may be) official releases.

"Not what I meant by Pussy Control, Donnie."
We can only imagine how a man who was already legendary for throwing epic shade would have aged into that unfiltered, zero-fucks-left-to-give state that makes you an asshole if you're under 70, but amusing once you pass it.

And perhaps most intriguing of all: How in the world would the sparingly political Prince have reacted on November 9 to the news that "President Donald Trump" was officially a thing?

As a white guy from Indiana who's pushing 40, I tend to get asked why I identify so intensely with Prince, as opposed to, say, fellow Hoosier homeboy John Mellencamp or Michigan neighbor Bob Seger.

It can't just be my age, because all three were doing yeoman work when I was coming up during the '80s, albeit with Seger on the downslope of his mainstream popularity. Besides, it may sound truly odd, but the song that first smacked me across the face and said, "PAY ATTENTION, DAMMIT!" wasn't "Kiss" or "Sign o' the Times" or even any of the Purple Rain behemoths, although I was well aware of and enjoyed all of those tracks.

Nope, it was this one:


Don't ask me why the MTV world premiere of "My Name is Prince" was the moment I knew I had to race to the mall and start snagging cassettes that following weekend (and yes, I started with the Love Symbol album). I thought the accessories were cool, especially the gun mic. The track remains slammin' to this day (although I now have enough knowledge of good hip-hop to realize just how, um, underqualified Tony M. truly was).

The true music junkie discovers every artist through one particular song, sort of like the other kind of junkie stumbles in through a "gateway drug." And "My Name is Prince" was my gateway drug. From there, the highs kept coming. Given that I was 14 at the time--and already thinking about getting laid approximately 4,794 times per day--the frank way in which Prince approached sex was shocking, titillating and addictive all at the same time.

First came the unedited version of "Sexy MF," which made me dream about entering a school talent show with some benign pop ditty, then switching that out at showtime for some true nasty. On other albums, tracks like "Let's Pretend We're Married," "Sexuality," and "Darling Nikki" melted my synapses in a totally different way than they did for people like Tipper Gore.

Then we reconcile that with his more spiritual bent, which lends balance to all the lust and ably sums up the struggle inside all of us--you know, the one that our more evangelical brethren fight their hardest to disavow.

"And God Created Woman." "Thunder." "The Cross." "The Ladder." Even "Temptation," which put the chaste/sinful dichotomy on full blast, up to and including the inner dialogue with the Almighty. Only Marvin Gaye or perhaps Leonard Cohen (seriously, fuck 2016) have ever managed to straddle the extremes with effectiveness approaching Prince's. (If you're not quite familiar with Cohen's freak flag, read this.)

I've never been a man of any spiritual denomination, having absolutely no use for any form of organized religion. But the way Prince brought the church home to his listeners on tracks like "The Cross" made God sound like the coolest, most loving cat in all the cosmos. The sex was the sugar helping the gospel medicine go down.

Toure broke it down for us thusly:

"This is the erotic intertwined with the divine. The Judeo-Christian ethic seems to demand that sexuality and spirituality be walled off from each other, but in Prince’s personal cosmology, they were one. Sex to him was part of a spiritual life. The God he worshiped wants us to have passionate and meaningful sex."

Most artists can only handle one niche, whether it be raunchy sex songs, chaste love songs, "uplifting" self-empowerment anthems or strident political songs. The trick is to find the sweet spot enough times and mine it for all the sales one can generate before the public catches on that you're simply saying the same things over and over again. It's bound to happen to Kelly Clarkson sometime soon, right?

Prince had no such concerns, bouncing between concepts like a Superball and hitting all of them at least once on nearly every album. The politics may not have always sounded convincing (see "Baltimore"'s naive rhetoric about "[taking] all the guns away"), but dammit, it was 10 times more effort than Bruno Mars was putting in, and I mean no disrespect to Bruno whatsoever.

Finally, the sheer breadth of musical styles blew me away. Even on Symbol, the pounding funk of "My Name is Prince" and "Sexy MF" gave way to the artful power balladry of "The Morning Papers," the torchy seductiveness of "Sweet Baby" and "Damn U" and the gospel-drenched soul of "The Sacrifice of Victor." Now, the less said about misguided hip-hop like "The Flow" or the overwrought cabaret of "3 Chains o' Gold," the better, but again, they were still risks worth taking.

What, CNN, run out of room to mention Bernie Worrell?
It didn't span the globe the way Sign o' the Times did, but neither has ANY OTHER ALBUM IN HISTORY. (Yeah, I said it. Fight me.) Soul, rock, funk, R&B, electro, French chamber pop: Prince made at least a pit stop in nearly every genre short of Norwegian death metal or soul-food opera (whoops, forgot "Wedding Feast"). Who else could spin you around so often in so many ways? David Bowie (thanks again to 2016 for being the rampaging bitch of years) was one of rock's greatest true chameleons, but he changed from album to album more than song to song.

Even songs that haven't aged as well as the evergreen Purple Rain classics are still, at the very least, fun to listen to in the right mood. And in the end, that--and not some quest for mythical depth and significance--is what music needs to be about.

NEXT: So what's this blog about, then?