Prince Career Retrospective (Plus a Super Bowl Pick)
by Scott Long
Most of the time, Super Bowl Halftime shows are as dismal of a television event as can be produced. With such illustrious performers as New Kids on the Block to the Miami Sound Machine, most of these halftime shows have as much to do with the spike in domestic violence (highest day of the year), as does the game itself.
If you think that maybe they are better in person, I would argue against your point. I was at the most famous Super Bowl of all-time, which took place in Houston's Reliant Stadium. Why it was the most famous was this was the SB Halftime when Janet Jackson let fly her star-spangled nipple. I didn't meet one person who was at the game who actually saw the unveiling, as between the smoke still covering the field from Kid Rock's pyrotechnics and all the fake enthusiasm being provided by the hired crowd next to the stage, it was hard to tell what was going on.
It took the NFL 37 years to have a performance that wasn't a joke. The first Super Bowl after 9/11 featured U-2 and they were so great that no one will ever match their magnetism. The NFL has finally figured out that considering how huge the spotlight is for whoever performs in this spot, they can get pretty much anyone they want. Thus, we have had Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones the past 2 years. Both had decent performances, but they are so old that instead of putting in earplugs and cranking up their guitars, the only cranking up they did is to the miracle ear's they installed in their heads.
This year seems like an inspired choice, as Prince is truly one of the greatest live entertainers this world has ever seen. While not in his prime, Prince has put out his most vibrant album in a decade. I can't think of an artist who appeals to more groups of people than him, as the purple freak mixes funk, rock, soul, rap, and pop in a blend that Sly Stone only hinted at.
If you are interested in my thoughts on the game, I think the Colts will win by 10, but it's just a small 2-star play. Instead of previewing the game, I thought I would use this space to give my rankings of the Top 15 Prince albums and the Top 40 Prince songs.
1. Sign of the Times
2. Purple Rain
4. Around the World in a Day
Sign is one of the top 20 records in rock history. It is Prince at his peak, melding every musical genre, while including biting social commentary.
Purple Rain made Prince a household name, which is pretty amazing considering how eclectic the movie and especially the album were.
Parade was the soundtrack to the horrible Under the Cherry Moon film, but the music shouldn't be penalized, as it is a great companion piece to Purple Rain.
The follow-up to Purple Rain was a disappointment to many, but ATWIAD shows him at his most psychedelic. Somewhere between the Beatles and Hendrix, if they recorded in 1985 is how I describe it.
While many would place 1999 higher, I just don't think the record holds up as well. Don't get me wrong, it's excellent, but the synth-heavy hooks sounded genuis in 1982, but now not so much.
One thing that should be mentioned is that Prince produced my Top 5 over just a 5 year period. This amazing production during a 5 year period can only be matched by The Beatles and the Stones (68-73).
6. Diamonds and Pearls
7. Love Symbol Album
8. The Gold Experience
9. Dirty Mind
If Prince would have released Diamonds after Sign of the Times, he might never have lost momentum on his world-wide domination. Instead Lovesexy came out in 1988 and despite being an interesting song-cycle, it lacked more than a couple stand-out tracks.
Number 7 on my list is when Prince started going by the symbol, which became a bit of joke, taking away from the rawest funk album he has ever made.
By 1995, he had started to be more of a fringe figure, as the best songs he produced on Gold were not radio-friendly.
Note that my 6-8 selections all came out over a 4 year period that is very underrated by critics.
Back in the 80's, both Dirty Mind and Controversy were appearing in critics Top 100 albums of all-time. I know many will slam me for putting them down this low, but the music just doesn't hold-up very well and both were short on songs. Put the best of them together and they are better than 1999, but as individual entities, they are classics during their timeframe, but not something I seek out much of today.
Truth be told, if I was listing complete records that had Prince's name on them, Graffiti Bridge would be number 7 on my list, as the contributions by the Time and Tevin Cambell are really top-notch. Bridge is a really great piece of music.
3121 is Prince's best work in the past 10 years, as it's the comeback that number 15 Musicology hinted at. 3121 is like a James Brown record, if the Godfather would have let his early sidemen, Jimi Hendrix, really let loose.
Batman catches a lot of flack for being kind of silly, but it's a fun record that holds up surprisingly well.
Top 40 Prince singles
1. When Doves Cry
2. Sign of the Times
3. Gett Off
4. Raspberry Beret
6. Alphabet Street
8. Purple Rain
9. Thieves in the Temple
10. Pop Life (fresh dance mix)
13. Take Me With U
16. Money Don't Matter Tonight
17. If I Was Your Girlfriend
18. When You Were Mine
21. Sexy M.F.
22. Pussy Control
23. Black Sweat
24. Erotic City
27. The Cross
28. I Wanna Be Your Lover
29. Ballad of Dorothy Parker
31. Pink Cashmere
32. Hot Thing
33. My Name is Prince
34. I Would Die for You
35. The Jam of the Year
36. The Morning Papers
37. The Beautiful Ones
38. Sometimes it Snows in April
39. International Lover
40. The Fury
Not going to go through all of these, so just let me mention a couple of things. I'm tired of Little Red Corvette and Let's Go Crazy, which is why they aren't here. When Doves Cry and Sign of the Times are in my top 100 singles of all-time. Prince has come out with a few different best of collections. These 40 would make up my 2 CD-set.
I haven't heard anything from Crystal Ball, N.E.W.S, or the Rainbow Children, but I have listened to pretty much everything else ever recorded by the most talented single performer in rock music history. His mastery of so many different instruments and genres of music is amazing in its own right. When you add to this his incredible dancing ability and spectacular showmanship, well it's hard to put anyone in his class. This is one halftime show where you won't want to miss the entertainment.