Someday, when Michael Jackson and Madonna are still part of the pop cultural conversation, Prince will be forgotten. Despite his talent, his fascinating and difficult persona and truly impressive body of work, there will come a day that no one will remember Prince.
A woefully bad self-editor and a terrible curator of his own music, Prince never constructed an album as perfect as Thriller. A supreme egotist and a singular visionary, Prince lacked either the interest in or ability to reinvent himself like Madonna.
The further we get from Prince’s 1984 peak, the less likely it is that he will gather new fans. He has over 30 albums, most of which are mostly terrible, and even his best greatest hits collection is three songs too long.
But, still, he possesses more raw musical talent than his two contemporary ’80s pop megastars. He plays a million instruments, expertly. He’s a versatile, expressive singer. He’s a visionary musical producer. He’s a prolific songwriter. And he’s a master showman.
Also, he’s a compelling weirdo, and his music is suffused with a sinister undercurrent that makes the prospect of his songs getting atomized as iPod mixes honestly a little unfortunate. For example great as “I would Die 4 U” is on its own, it’s transcendent in the context of its original album.
This is a long wind-up for a short pitch: I bought two Prince Albums recently, “1999” and “Purple Rain.” They were on sale, respectively, for $6.99 and $7.99. If there was ever an opportunity for exploring the Prince cannon, I figured this was it.
I know from past experience that buying Prince albums can be exercises in disappointment, having bought the album with “Kiss” on it in hopes of finding more slithering electro-funk and getting a cassette-full of dull songs punctuated by one moment of seemingly effortless perfection (evidently, Prince wanted to keep “Kiss” off of that album. This is probably the most telling illustration of how Prince is a terrible judge of his own work).
Both of these albums were better than “Parade,” AKA the album full of garbage that also happens to contain “Kiss,” mankind’s slinkiest minimal funk tune. More to come tomorrow.