The Beginner's Guide to Prince
    • TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2017

    • Posted by: Robert Steiner

    Dig if you will, a picture: You've heard about Prince. You know he was a super important and widely respected artist, but you don't know specifically why. You want to know more about the legend's highly influential work, but when you take to Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube to see what you can discover, the Purple One's music is nowhere to be found. At the time, your journey through the world of Prince might have been over then and there, but on Sunday, that has all changed for the better. Just in time for the Grammys and Bruno Mars and the Time's scorching tribute to the man himself, Prince's entire discography was brought back to streaming sites.

    With the Purple One's return to streaming, there is no better time to get yourself acquainted with his massive collection of hits and chart-toppers. To help give you a head start, I've broken down Prince's career into a few parts and picked highlights from each. Bear in mind, with such an amazingly eclectic artist, you could literally spend hours, maybe even days, digging through Prince's discography, so simply consider this introduction a "funky shovel" of sorts to help you start your exploration. Without further ado, dearly beloved, let's go crazy.


    Every artist had to start finding their sound somewhere, and Prince's first few albums are very much rooted in smooth late-70s funk. Prince would go on to branch out into multiple genres, and you can hear the early hints of experimentation on the tracks from Controversy, but no matter how far he ventured, funk always provided a solid base for everything he did in his lifetime.


    When people talk about how awesome Prince was, this is usually the era they're referring to. Honestly, I was tempted to just throw on Purple Rain in its entirety just because it's that good. Hell, go watch the movie if you can find it. As far as cheesy music movies go, it's pretty good, and it's a hell of a lot more enjoyable than that garbage Sgt. Pepper movie with the Bee Gees. This was definitely the point when Prince was at the top of his game, blending in pop, funk, disco, and Hendrix-esque rock far better than anyone who had tried before him. If none of these songs want to make you get up and dance like there's no tomorrow, or at least passionately make out with someone, then I don't know if anything will.


    The later half of the 1980s marks Prince's transition to more experimental and rock tendencies, though with still some very solid results. He trades out the sonic chaos of Purple Rain for a tighter and more focused sound, bringing a slight return to his funk roots while also becoming more ambitious with detail and song craft. Oh, and he also helped make Batman cool at a time when the only point of reference was Adam West. No small feat indeed.


    The 1990s onward is admittedly not as strong as his previous work, but it's still an interesting look into how far Prince had come, and how willing he was to musically shake things up this far into his career. While Prince was always, to put it mildly, confident in his sexuality, it was this point in his career where things really blatantly hot and steamy, with song titles like "Gett Off" and "Sexy M.F." killing off subtlety faster than a moth to a flame. This was also when, in a fight against his record label possessing full ownership over his masters, Prince infamously adopted the untranslatable symbol (copyrighted as "Love Symbol #2") as his stage name, ushering in the age of "The Artist Formally Known As Prince." The name change only lasted a few years, but Prince never stopped being relentlessly protective over his artistic property, hence why it's always been so hard to find his music online until now.

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