I’ll be the first to admit that Prince music is an acquired taste.
My generation didn’t have the luxury of growing up surrounded by the full scale pop culture assault that Prince created in the 1980s. Desperate to understand why so many musicians and critics spoke so highly of his work, I picked up a compilation of his hits as a teenager and only really connected with a small handful of songs. I liked “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When You Were Mine” immediately, but the rest sounded dated.
I was young and immature. My palate wasn’t ready and I didn’t have all the facts.
I was quick to disregard Prince as a fading pop star without substance or timeless talent. This was a mistake. A few years later I learned that nearly all of Prince’s music was produced, arranged, composed and performed entirely by Prince and that little detail changed my entire perspective.
Like most humans, I am drawn to authentic artistry and talent but pop music is too often the product of entire teams of musicians, executives, marketeers and studio wizards with the pretty pop star serving as a mere figurehead of the music without any actual authority over it.
While I have an unabashed love of all things pop, this distance between the product and the artist requires a sort of suspension of disbelief. I want to believe that my beloved modern pop heroes Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry are heavily involved in every level of their craft but in the back of my mind I am acutely aware of that distance between creator and creation. And despite our ever growing access to the personal lives of some of these characters, it can still be difficult to separate the authentic material from the pre-cooked stuff.
I have a lot respect for pop artists who at least attempt have a heavier involvement in the creation of their music. Bonus points for artists who started out as songwriters for others before becoming a star like Bruno Mars, Sia and Lady Gaga.
Making music that is universally accessible or close to it is not an easy thing. Those who have the audacity and the authority to make it their own and make it great deserve our respect.
After developing this pop paradigm, I was invariably drawn back to Prince. A few years ago, I decided to make concerted effort to explore the catalogue of the Purple One. This time around I found myself entirely captivated by his artistry, his musicianship, and above all an unquestionable connection with the creation and performance of his music.
Prince is a rare talent.
Next week Prince will release two new albums. Art Official Age is a solo album and PLECTRUMELECTRUM is a collaboration with his touring band 3RDEYEGIRL.
Prince is primed for comeback and in honor of His Purpleness I will spend the next week exploring some of my favorite songs, videos and anecdotes from the artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince.
Part 2: That Time Prince Destroyed Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and Jeff Lynne on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Part 3: The Story Behind the Breakfast Can Wait Artwork
Part 4: The Studio Recording of Purple Rain is Not A Studio Recording
Part 5: PLECTRUMELECTRUM Reviewed