R.I.P. Prince: 11 Deep Cuts From the Purple One's Vast Catalog
The incalculably talented and influential musical genius notched a massive run of hits on various Billboard charts during his nearly 40-year recording career, but as we try to cope with the idea of a world where Prince doesn't exist, we're thinking about some of his deeper cuts that the casual fan might not know.
From album tracks to b-sides, here are 11 of our favorites. Because of Prince's long-standing antipathy toward the Internet, many of these songs aren't on YouTube or music streaming services -- with Tidal being the notable exception. Regardless, download them ASAP (most of these songs are on iTunes) or head over to Tidal to stream these stone cold classics.
"Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance"
After a few years in the late '90s where the musical genius seemed somewhat lost, the Purple One returned to the music that inspired him to start playing in the first place -- hard-grooving party funk -- on the 2004 album Musicology. "Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance," a weird and witty tale of a sugar mama and her trophy boyfriend who "hips her to the funk in exchange for the finance," is one of that LP's standouts -- and one of his late career highlights.
"Condition of the Heart"
While this isn't one of the big hits from Around the World in a Day, it's certainly one of that 1985 album's best moments. Synths rarely sound spiritual in music (at least without sounding corny at the same time), but with Prince, all things are possible. His contemplative piano intro and space-y synths set the scene for one of the prettiest lovelorn songs in his catalog.
"Under the Cherry Moon"
While most people ignored Prince's follow-up film to the wildly successful Purple Rain, that film -- Under the Cherry Moon -- does boast a brilliant soundtrack in Parade. "Kiss" got most of the attention from that LP, but an equally durable song from Parade is the gorgeous, seductive ballad "Under the Cherry Moon." With romantic '40s vibes, this song demonstrates that Prince would have been an acclaimed songwriter had he been born in any decade.
"Another Lonely Christmas"
Probably the saddest Christmas song of all time, and definitely the most underrated Christmas song of all time. Prince reflects on sweet, erotic memories of a deceased lover, who died on Dec. 25, with his voice and piano growing increasingly despondent as the track works up to a heart-wrenching conclusion. At this point in his career, Prince was so good he could relegate classics like this to b-side status.
For reasons that may never be fully known, Prince recalled The Black Album just before its release in 1987. It would eventually see brief release in 1994 after years of bootlegging, which is as it should be. The admittedly bizarre but brilliant album features one particular highlight in "Bob George," which finds Prince assuming the role of a violent misogynist while slamming Prince as "that skinny motherfucker with the high voice."
As Prince moved from the secular to the spiritual later in life, he never quite left his profane urges entirely behind. One example is "Lolita" from 3121, a funky dancefloor throwback that found the Purple One considering cheating on his lady with a younger girl, but ultimately deciding against it with this cheeky little couplet: "Lolita, you're sweeter / but you'll never make a cheater out of me."
"Tick, Tick, Bang"
Graffiti Bridge is definitely one of Prince's weaker albums, but anything Prince released still had touches of genius. One of the worthwhile tracks from this release is "Tick, Tick, Bang," a leftover from Controversy sessions that includes a sample from Jimi Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover."
"Gotta Stop (Messin' About)"
A U.K. single that didn't make much of an impact, "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" is nevertheless a must-hear slice of the Minneapolis sound. It's funk meets synthpop meets New Wave with references to sex and masturbation aplenty. Prince stopped being outright filthy decades ago, but you'll still need a shower after listening to this.
"Ronnie, Talk to Russia"
Just before deciding the nuclear holocaust was inevitable on 1999, Prince released the quickie political plea "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" on Controversy, urging Reagan to deescalate tensions with Soviet Russia. Delivered like a cutesy kids' tune but sung with an underlying anxiety, Prince demonstrated that protest songs directed at presidents don't have to be dull, sanctimonious affairs.
"It's About That Walk"
While he mastered a variety of musical styles, Prince always sounded most relaxed when toying around with the old-school funk sounds that preceded his debut album by just a few years. This track, from the leftovers album The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale, kicks off with sassy horns and a saucy lead vocal from Prince, who describes an "ass like a fine curved diamond" with so much attitude you can almost hear him winking through the speakers.
When Prince replaced the crisp drumming of his Revolution days with a more machine-like beat on some '90s recordings, it didn't always yield the best results. One exception is "Pheromone" from the 1994 album Come (yes, the album title means exactly what you think), which demonstrates that his funky, teasing falsetto can turn any song into a sweat-drenched sex romp.