Yesterday the Purple One celebrated his 57th birthday, which seems like a perfect time to do a blog post on the five best Prince songs. You can find the playlist at the bottom.
As you may or may not know, The Curator Podcast is an offshoot of the music website I helped found called Daily Dischord. For some years we ran a weekly ‘Monday Mixtape’ feature where each week a member of staff would chuck together a playlist of five songs based loosely around a theme.
I always liked the format and I’ve decided to resurrect it for this podcast blog (after all, they say that blogging is an extension of podcasting in our current new media/social media landscape). Only it’s gonna be in a fortnightly format, not a weekly one,
Half of the following content is repurposed from the original blog post – which you can find here, if you are so inclined to look at the source material – only updated a little. I’ve changed a couple of songs because that was three years ago! Also, not all tracks were available on Spotify. Sad face 🙁
5 of the Best – Five Great Prince Songs
Prince – When You Were Mine
It’s no secret that sex and love are huge themes in Prince’s music, and even when both themes are deployed with youthful naivete like on ‘Raspberry Beret’ or this early Prince cut, ‘When You Were Mine’ still somehow manages to deploy raw sexuality. Even when Prince is hopelessly naive and clueless in love he somehow still comes off sounding like he’s the man. This upbeat number is quite good for a summer day I find, and for some reason it reminds me of the Small Faces.
Prince and the New Power Generation – Endorphinmachine
I played this on my old radio show and it still stands as easily one of my favourite Prince songs and it’s not hard to see why. After disbanding his backing band The Revolution at the end of the Parade tour in 1986, Prince would later go on to form a new backing band called the New Power Generation in 1990. In my opinion, whilst being perhaps the most talented outfit he has ever assembled they just never really had the same creative spark with Prince that The Revolution had. When Prince decided to stop using his real name in favour of using the unpronounceable Love Symbol in 1993, in order to get out of a contract with Warner Bros., he handed the record label two albums – Come and The Gold Experience. The Gold Experience was designed to be Prince’s big statement of the 90s, his Purple Rain of the 90s if you will, and it demonstrated that he could write immense pop records whenever he wanted. Prince subsequently became jaded with the record, even though it yielded two massive hits in the form of ‘Gold’ and ‘The Most Beautiful Girl in the World’, and refused to promote it. Which is a shame really because it’s choc full of great tunes and this is just an example of that.
Essentially a big loud rock song with the funk turned up to eleven and a huge stomping riff, this could have taken Prince to a whole new audience in the 90s. But it didn’t, and even though Warner Bros. released it two years after Prince handed it to them (to critical acclaim in 1995), it was overshadowed by some truly amazing records by other artists which were released in the same year (with Radiohead, Blur, Oasis, Smashing Pumpkins and PJ Harvey being just a few of those who released stunning records in 95). It could have been huge, this song proves that, and if you only listen to one song on this mixtape make sure it’s this one.
Prince and The Revolution – Darling Nikki
And speaking of The Revolution and Purple Rain it would be downright wrong not to include something from his most successful Oscar and Grammy winning record. All the singles from it were ace and all the songs on it are ace. A prime example of Prince at his downright filthiest, this slow rock infused RnB jam was single handedly responsible for Tipper Gore’s PMRC and the crusade of censorship which hit the US music industry in a pretty hard way in the 80s. But really, if she didn’t know Prince was filthy and decided to buy her daughter a record which contains a song like this then really, she should have done her homework.
Prince – I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
Ah yes, now the reason I say that Purple Rain isn’t Prince’s best record is because Sign o the Times is definitely his magnum opus. After losing the backing band and deciding to go completely solo, The Purple One changed tack entirely for the dark, multi-layered, multi-faceted and even more genre bending double album Sign o the Times, with the result being a collection of songs which are mind blowingly good. Wendy and Lisa, The Revolution’s guitarist and keyboardist respectively, later said that when they heard this album they realised that they were not only “gone” from Prince’s legacy but they were “so gone” and the results speak for themselves. Having dealt with him for a number of years they were acutely aware at just how hard he worked: playing shows, after show parties and recording on the road, but no one was ready for this. ‘I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man’ is Prince in pop mode, giving us a massive chorus, hooks aplenty and his best guitar solo. It’s a song which displays all of Prince’s many talents, doing so to such a staggering degree that it’s hard to see beyond his genius. Really, if this song doesn’t make you a fan then there’s no hope for you.
Prince – Breakdown
We move to the modern day for this last tune. Last year Prince released his 33rd and 34th albums ARTOFFICIALAGE and Plectrumelectrum respectively, the latter with his utterly brilliant new backing band 3rdeyegirl. Both albums were the first new material from him in three years which is a positively extensive wait from a man who was fond of dropping at least an album a year for over 30 years.
‘The Breakdown’ is taken from ARTOFFICIALAGE and I’ve included it because it’s something of a rarity in the Prince oeuvre in that it seems to verge on the personal. An oddity for an artist whose defining lyrical traits absolutely do not consist of anything even approaching self reflection. The result is a quietly powerful piano ballad which for a very short time offers a glimpse under the Purple and Gold veneer of The Kid. At times tender and heartbreaking, it may not be one of Prince’s best songs, nor one his most musically ambitious efforts but it’s definitely one of the most insightful.
Image courtesy of Mojo Magazine
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