The Agony and the Ecstasy: In Memory of Prince
    • THURSDAY, APRIL 21, 2016

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    On 4/21, music icon Prince passed away at the age of 57.


    You can't overstate the impact that Prince had on popular music for the last 30 years. One of the greatest guitarists to ever live. A transcendent fusion of sexuality, soul, and every pop influence of the past, present, and future. An artist always standing up for artists rights and pushing the boundaries of the frontiers of digital music consumption. Gave the greatest Super Bowl halftime show of all time. Proved that masculinity is what a man wants it to be and not what the patriarchy says it has to be.

    Losing Prince hurts so much because, like the loss of David Bowie four months ago, Prince's legacy will extend further than his music (though having one of the richest catalogues in the history of popular music is an integral part of that legacy as well). Prince was the consummation of the pop fantasy. He was a living, breathing embodiment of the idea that we can be bigger than ourselves, we can filter our desires and fantasies into a version of ourselves that is us at our very best. We don't have to subsume our personality to the expectations of society at large.

    And Prince lived out that fantasy through his music. "Little Red Corvette" is about the sexiest one night stand you've never had (and also one of the most clever lyrical puns for the female anatomy ever made). Prince lived that fantasy out through the way he dressed. He was glam when glam rock was dead. He was androgynous and queer despite being one of the most famous, heterosexual lovers on the planet. And through all elements of his public persona, Prince was a reminder that you are who you want to be and you shouldn't make time for anybody that says differently.

    For women who wanted a pop star who was in tune with their sexual desires and for queer men who wanted an affirmation that masculinity wasn't the rigid definitions they'd been given their whole lives to anybody out there who just never quite fit in, Prince was your patron saint. There was nobody else like Prince, and we'll never anybody else like him.

    And all of that praise is true and we've barely mentioned the music. Any list of the greatest album not just of the 80s but of all time that doesn't include Purple Rain somewhere in the top 10 isn't worth paying attention to. "When Doves Cry" might be the sexiest song ever written, and when Prince starts wailing halfway through the track, he doesn't even sound human. He captures the ecstasy and the agony in a single moment of pure pop transcendence. 1999 created the entire language of dance pop as we understand it in 2016. He wrote "Nothing Compares 2 U" nearly a decade before Sinead O'Connor would turn it into one of the biggest hits of the 90s. He took my favorite Beatles song (aka my favorite song by my favorite band in the history of music), "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and made it better at the induction ceremony for the late George Harrison in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. There wasn't a genre that Prince couldn't get his hands on and make better by the virtue of his presence. The only other two artists who can make similar claims are Bowie and Miles Davis.

    And Prince was only 57 years old. He'd been hospitalized for the flu earlier this month, but nobody saw this coming for another decade or two. You were one of a kind, Prince. And we'll miss you, and the world will mourn you for a long time to come.

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