I’ll be the millionth writer to note that 2016 has been absolute murder on legendary musicians so far. And now Prince is gone.
I don’t have a full obit, a critical reappraisal or anything terribly profound to add; just a few musings on record shopping that are too long for a Facebook status update.
Many artists of Prince’s stature and longevity usually leave behind a trove of posthumous recordings, so that they remain platinum-selling artists years after their death. And, of course, now their holograms can go on tour in support of those new records (the future is a strange place). But Prince was a legendarily prodigious recording artist. It’s not an unusual year that sees Prince out out two or three new records! (or, rather, saw; the past tense doesn’t feel right yet). And, so, Prince is the rare artist who has dozens of pre-posthumous recordings ready for purchase. So, before you bemoan the fact that you will never hear a new Prince song ever again, there are hundreds – perhaps thousands – of hours of Prince music that is new to you, waiting to be picked up and taken for a spin.
When I got married, I heard my record collection through new ear’s: my wife’s. Kate sort of played DJ with my records when we first moved in together, and put in heavy rotation some discs that I might have only spun once every other year previously. Prince was one of those. Embarrassingly, I only had The Very Best of Prince, when everyone knows that greatest hits are for housewives and little girls. So, out of a renewed appreciation, and a desire for a little more variety, I started picking up more Prince CD’s every time I visited a used record store.
I never really bought new Prince records. His stuff was much more of a used record store hunt for me. And there’s a ton of them in every used record store. Music going digital caused a lot of fans to tell their copies of Purple Rain and 1999 (of which there are millions!) to make some room and a buck. But I was also able to score the one-and-done discards of fans who actually bought the new records to sort through whether it was a good one, a great one or a mediocre one. Emancipation, Musicology, 3121 – that whole blur of records that he put out after regaining his name and artistic freedom just in time to watch the music industry basically collapse.
And so, the only profundity that I will leave you with is this: go out and buy 3121. It’s the best recent Prince record that I’ve heard and you probably have not. It feels classic and new and like listening to an old friend all at once. Plus, he interrupts one slow jam with a falsetto command to “Turn off your cellphone,” which, if nothing else, would make a great ringtone.