I have kind of a “love/hate” relationship when it comes to Prince’s music. There are some of Prince’s songs that I really like and that I think are brilliant. However, there are also songs of his that I just can’t stand. Personally, I think the best era for Prince’s music spans from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s.
One of the earliest albums of Prince’s that I remember would be the Purple Rain soundtrack. Of all the songs on that soundtrack, “When Doves Cry” would be my favorite. When I first heard the song I was nine years old, and just thought it sounded like a cool song. Years later, I have come to truly appreciate how brilliant this song is. If you listen very carefully, you will hear that “When Doves Cry” doesn’t have a bassline. But even though there is no bassline, it’s a song that you can still dance to. Musically, there’s a bit of an “erotic” sound to the song as well. Also, I love some of the lyrical imagery of “When Doves Cry.”
Another standout from the Purple Rain soundtrack is the title song. It’s a roughly eight minute long piece, with a long guitar solo at the end. I like how Prince is able to combine the lyrics, the music, and his performance to evoke a strong emotional reaction from the listener. Admittedly, I’m usually not a big fan of Prince’s slower songs, but this song is by far a standout in his catalog.
Over the years, I’ve also liked “Raspberry Beret,” from the Around the World in a Day album. It’s a “story song,” and it tells the story of a guy working part time in a five and dime store. One day, he’s “busy doing something close to nothing, but different than the day before.” And then, he sees a girl come in wearing a “raspberry beret, the kind you find a secondhand store.” In fact, she makes quite the entrance; she walks “in through the out door.” During the story, these two characters end up getting together… and you can listen to the song to learn how the rest of the story goes. Like “When Doves Cry,” I was younger when I first heard it, so I didn’t entirely understand the song; again, it was a song that just “sounded cool” at the time. Now that I have a better appreciation for music, I can see there’s more to “Raspberry Beret” than a poppy beat.
Prince’s 1987 album, Sign ‘O’ the Times, has a couple of my favorite Prince songs on it as well. The title song really offers a snapshot of the mid-to-late 1980s. There are references to the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, drug abuse, AIDS, gangs, Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” project, and fear of nuclear war. The only “black mark” against this song is a cheesy line right near the end. Other than that, I think it’s a fantastic song. Another favorite of mine from that album is “U Got the Look.” Admittedly, it’s one of those songs where there’s nothing entirely earth-shattering about it. However, it’s got a great, poppy beat, as well as guest appearances by singer Sheena Easton and drummer Sheila E.
In 1990, Prince released the soundtrack for the film Graffiti Bridge. While the movie itself didn’t do well at the box office, one of my favorite Prince songs comes from it. That song is “Thieves in the Temple.” Musically, I really like how this song builds in intensity. By the end of the song, it’s very clear that Prince is singing about the end of a relationship, and that he’s not happy about how it ended.
My favorite song from the 1991 Diamonds & Pearls album is the title song. It’s a slower song, but there’s just something about it musically that attracts the listener. Thematically, the speaker is saying to their significant other that if they could, they would give them the world, but all they can do is offer their love. Rosie Gaines of the New Power Generation also provides vocals, and Prince and Rosie’s vocals blend together wonderfully in the song.
In late 1992, Prince released an album that was titled with an unpronounceable symbol. I really like “7,” the second single from the album. It tells a story of love, set around an apocalyptic tale. While this may sound strange on the surface, the listener can understand how it all comes together when listening to the song. Not only do I like how Prince used elements from apocalyptic tales in the lyrics, I also like the music style he used for the song. Another song I liked from this album is “The Morning Papers.” It’s a slower song, and tells a simple story of first love; in this case, the first love is for the female character in the song.
Outside of this, the only other songs of Prince’s I can say I truly like are “Little Red Corvette,” “1999,” “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man,” “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World,” and “Betcha By Golly Wow!”; however, it should be noted that “Betcha By Golly Wow!” is a cover song. I really haven’t been interested in anything Prince has released since 1997.