Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince

I remember loving "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" back in 1994 when it was ubiquitous on the radio.This was freshman year of college, at a time when I was much more into grunge and punk and hard rock than Prince. Prince had always been there, I'd grown up loving his music. But at this point I'd set aside a lot of R&B and funk and soul that I used to love. Thankfully I came back to these genres once my musical tastes matured. But loving that particular Prince song at that time of my life was unexpected. I felt vaguely embarrassed by my affection for this blatantly sincere love song. The song broke through my ironic defenses and hit me right in the heart. Prince elevates and celebrates women in the song, in a way that's actually touching.

"The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" isn't the first Prince song I thought of after hearing of his death—in quick succession it was "Raspberry Beret", "Little Red Corvette" and "1999"—but it's one of many that meant a lot to me at a particular time in my life. Previously, his Diamonds and Pearls era had been eye opening during my early teen years—mostly because of the lyrical content and the videos, which were lusty, to say the least. Before that it was his soundtrack to Batman during the summer between the end of junior high and the start of high school, especially the video for "Batdance." And before that it was Purple Rain, the song, album, and movie, which my elementary school friends and I were attracted to even though we weren't quite sure what the hell was going on, we knew it intrigued us.

Prince is one of the last of the greats from that era. You could even say he broke the mold for that type of superstar musician. He melded so many disparate styles of music into one beautiful, gorgeous, and weird sound that was distinctly his own. There was no one like him before he burst on the scene, and there was no like him after either. It's rare to say that an artist is truly unique, but with Prince it's a fact. We'll never see another performer like him. Partly because that era when the members of Generation X grew from childhood through high school and college and into young adulthood is long gone and will likely never be repeated. Musical genres are too fractured now, too many niches with small but rapid fan bases. No matter what genre people loved, they loved Prince too. Musicians like Prince seemed like both Gods and mortals at the same time. They were otherworldly in their aesthetic and performance, but intimately real in the way their music spoke to us. When we mourn Prince, we're really also mourning a loss of a time in our lives that meant the world to us. Really the only response is to listen to Prince's music and let it wash over us in all its purple glory.

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