Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Few Words On Prince

So is Prince cool anymore? Like, in today's modern music scene, does he have an audience?

I'm not talking about his public persona, because as most of us know, Prince has been all over the place since Musicology came out back in '04. In fact, nowadays he's been acting as modern music's ultimate pop badass, exerting his in-your-face attitude (kind of an overused term, but it describes him perfectly) into almost every little guest-appearance he's made. When Prince pops in unexpectedly on a TV show, he's not just there to plug his album and have some fun - he is there to prove, without argument, that he is better than you.

I mean, we all know about his sizzlin' opening performance at the 2004 Grammys with Beyonce, but that's only a fraction of how much ass Prince has ruled in recent years. That same year he performed "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" as a tribute to George Harrison for his Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, performing with the likes of Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne; while they played most of the song in standard reverent fashion, Prince decided to rip the shit and perform a blazing guitar solo that outshone everybody else there. Then there was his last-minute performance on the finale of American Idol, in which he came on unannounced, performed two songs from his new album, and left immediately, his mission of proving himself better than any of the finalists accomplished with little to no effort. Simon Cowell was reportedly very upset, but he's a hack so who gives a shit.

Oh yeah, almost forgot his little spat with the Foo Fighters. They covered his song "Darling Nikki," so Prince basically told them to fuck off and perform their own fucking songs (so to speak). Then, as retaliation, he performed a cover of the Foo Fighter's "Best of You" during his totally badass 2007 Super Bowl performance, a cover that even the Foo Fighters' drummer thought was better than their own. Oh, and before that performance, he did a Super Bowl press conference in which he cut off a reporter's question with yet another badass cover of "Johnny B. Goode"... ok, I don't need to go into any more detail here. The list of Prince's recent elusive badassery goes on and on. When he performs, we are his music slaves.

But that just brings me back to my earlier question - is Prince hip anymore? I would say that if you're a cool 20-something music fan nowadays you're either way into pop/R 'n B/emo or you're an indie kid, and I don't think that Prince's music would appeal to either. In my eyes there are two reasons for this. First and foremost, Prince's music - specifically his 80's output - is unabashedly tied to its time. By that I mean, when you listen to "Purple Rain" you can be sure as fuck that it is an 80's album - you've got synthesizers up the wazoo, distorted voices, filtered guitars, the whole nine yards. This puts off a lot of people my age because to us, the 80's is still irreparably associated with shitty, cheesy music (unless the Killers do it, then it's cool and retro), so hearing Prince's heavy funk-synth R'nB would probably not appeal to most Shins fans who like their music boring yet intelligently droll. Hell, sometimes he doesn't even bother with anything BUT synths, like on "Kiss" or "Delirious". What self-respecting 2000s music fan would wanna listen to THAT corny shit?

Secondly there is the fact that Prince sings about sex. All the time. That's all there is to it. He is an impish black man who loves to get laid, morning noon and night. And he DOES get laid morning noon and night, and he sings about it in almost every song he has ever recorded. And not just normal kindsa sex neither! Sure, he's recorded simple love songs, but he's also got songs about mutual masturbation, fucking his sister, luring a woman away from her wedding and eating her out, and so on and so forth. The lyrics to his song Darling Nikki are actually single-handedly responsible for the creation of the Parents Music Resource Center - that's how filthy he is. To alter a Tim and Eric quote a little bit, Prince can fuck ANYTHING. And he will, and has! Angels! Demons! Women! Animals! His sister!

Oh, he also likes to dress like this on his album covers. Yeeeeeeesh.

But yeah, point being, not many hipster-indie kids would find Prince's constant sex mewing to be very appealing, nor would many cool modern R'nB fans who like their music slow and formulaic. Maybe they're just scared of Prince's absolutely raw, ambiguous sexuality - well, yeah, lots of people are! But I dig it when Prince sings about sex, because goddamnit, he loves sex, so much so that he likens it to a religious experience - in Prince's view, sex = God, any kind of sex (which automatically puts it above, say, Smell Yo Dick). He also loves partying, and hates war, mostly because it interrupts said party. So partying, sex, and God - how do any of these subjects fit in with a music scene that either celebrates safe indie quirkiness or thinks that "SexyBack" is the hottest club jam ever written?

Maybe it's better that way, though. Prince is like an alien - even in the 80's, the peak of his career, people didn't really "get" him. Maybe nobody ever will. For now, I'll just put on "Dirty Mind" for the umpteenth and hope with all my soul that he shows up randomly during a Justin Timberlake concert, kick his honky-ass of the stage and put on a REAL show. Long Live the King of Funk!

"Look here martian, I'm not sayin' this just 2 be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste outta your mouth
Can U relate?"
-Prince, "Let's Pretend We're Married"


Adam said...

Have you seen Prince on Muppets Tonight? Good episode. Featured a one-off character named "Purple Rain Man," which was pretty funny. Yeah, a bunch of people on my floor and I watched that episode and it got me thinking, "You know I really oughtta check out Prince" but never followed through, probably because I was too busy sucking Nick Cave's cock at the time. I guess I might have to check out some Prince now, though.

I'm familiar with some of his stuff, and certainly the fact that he got Tipper Gore pissed off enough to start the PMRC had earned him my respect many years ago. Plus, I've been listening to lots of Zappa anyway so I might as well continue down my streak of depravity.


That's a great album cover too.

Where do you recommend I start, Sean?

I just don't know about the King of Funk... Sly Stone? George Clinton?

Okay that's all again.

Sean Rose said...

I'd say start with "Purple Rain." It's just all-encompassing greatness.

As far as calling him "King of Funk", I was just on a kick.