For over three decades, a mystical figure has ruled the pop music charts – you may even say he’s the Prince of pop. In his case, what we call pop is actually a mind-bending combination of hip-hop, funk, R&B, jazz, disco, and psychedelia. With 39 albums that span from 1978 to the present year, Prince has dominated the music world with his multi-instrumental talent, most recognizable in the form of funky bass lines, enticing guitar riffs, and falsetto vocals. His influence has held sway over generations of artists, with the likes of Justin Timberlake, Beck, Pharrell, D’Angelo, Lenny Kravtiz, and many more citing him often as an inspirational force. On The Chappelle Show, Charlie Murphy recalls a bizarre evening spent playing basketball and eating pancakes with Prince, and in Questlove’s amazing musical memoir Mo’ Meta Blues he writes about the time he went rollerskating with the legendary musician [read the excerpt here].
Not only is he a music legend of the highest order, but he’s also widely regarded as a fashion icon (who managed to make regency ruffles and dandy dressing a thing) and also, perhaps, the quirkiest man alive.
In 2015, Prince decided to up the game again, releasing two albums – HITnRUN Phase One and HITnRUN Phase Two, respectively – which were both recorded analog in studio over a four-year period and featured his insanely talented all-girl backing band, 3rdeyegirl. In fact, HITnRUN Phase Two dropped just a week ago and was a surprise release with little forward promotion. While Prince’s music has generally dealt with relationships, love, and the boudoir, on his new album he ventures into the political sphere with a protest song called ‘Baltimore’. He returns to business as usual with light dance-y tracks ‘ROCKNROLL LOVEAFFAIR’ and ‘Look at Me, Look at You’. Meanwhile, ‘Stare’ recycles the famous guitar riff from ‘Kiss’ (1986), underscoring his mastery of the sound he pioneered – this time approached with fresh new vigor. If you grew up on Prince, you’ll be pleased to discover that his output in 2015 is still going strong and hasn’t veered into the land of the obscure and inaccessible like some of his other pioneering peers (See: David Bowie).
While he’s the master of visuals and a maverick provocateur, Prince is also famous for his suspicion towards the digital music sphere; he regularly scrubs his catalogue online, where both videos and live performances are concerned, essentially making it difficult for a new generation of listeners to discover his music. On the strength of a stellar musical year, now is the perfect time to be reminded of his greatness.
Prince performing with his all-girl backing band, 3rdeyegirl, at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards.
Prince accepting the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2010 BET Awards.