It’s funny. Until fairly recently, I routinely sneered at people who grieved over celebrities they had never met. That was until Michael Jackson died in 2009. I grieved for Michael like he was a close family member – it was surprisingly, deeply upsetting and I thought I’d never feel that weird pain ever again.
Then Prince died.
Frankly, I still don’t believe it. And, like Michael, I don’t even understand it – how can Prince be dead? He is immortal, right?
One of the biggest regret of my life was never seeing Prince live, I had the chance to (twice), but I never took it and I’ll live with that for the rest of my life.
Anyway, instead of feeling sad and mournful, I thought I’d put together my top 10 favourite Prince songs. The mad thing about writing such an article is that it’s harder than it looks. Prince, unlike any other artist that I can think of, including the greats such as Michael, The Beatles, Dylan and so on, has B-sides that are lightyears better than his A-sides. Shit, he has songs that he never released that are better than many songs from world class artists.
10 – I feel for you
“Baby baby when I look at you, I get a warm feeling inside”
This song is indicative of the Prince style I love most. I guess like most people my age, I heard the Chaka Khan version first, which is cool, but this feels like a completely different beast.
The song has absolutely no right to be as funky as it is, as at its core its a traditional pop track. I mean the funk, together with the syrupy sweet melody tips it over the edge for me.
9 – If I was your girlfriend
“If I was your one and only friend, would you run to me if somebody hurt you, even if that somebody was me?”
If someone asked me to chose one song to show that Prince was an exceptional songwriter I would choose this song. The concept is weird, surreal, and oddly romantic.
I remember the first time I listened to this track I absolutely hated it, but slowly its genius started to shine through. It is utterly unique and I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a song quite like it since.
8 – International Lover
“If for some reason there is a loss in cabin pressure. I will automatically drop down to apply more.”
I love this song because, well, I find it hilarious and ballsy. I wish I had Prince’s confidence. I don’t think many artists could get away with the over-the-top nature of this song. With other artists it would sound cheesy, but with Prince it works.
I have always envisioned Prince conceiving this song on a piano, dressed in a purple robe and behind him, a bed full of women.
7 – Private Joy
“I strangled Valentino. You’ve been mine ever since. If anybody asks you. You belong to Prince.”
My heart says that this song should be higher on the list, either way this song is just sheer heaven. I can’t tell you where it falls – it’s not funk, it’s not just a disco track or a pop track. It sits in a musical limbo where only few artists get to play.
One thing I haven’t been able to get my head around is why this song isn’t one of Prince’s hits? My understanding is that he barely performed it and it has never appeared on a ‘greatest hits’ package. It’s a shame because this song is fantastic and severely underrated.
6 – New Position
“I can make you H-A-P-P-Y. I can make you feel good.”
This song is essentially about Prince suggesting a way to revive the passion of a failing relationship, but you’d never guess it because it is one of the funkiest, fun, funniest and sexiest song you’ll ever hear. Ever.
And it’s so minimal that it gives When Doves Cry a run for its money on the lack of instrument side.
Oh, and it has the dopest use of the steel pan I have ever heard.
5 – Head
“But I’m just a virgin and I’m on my way to be wed. But you’re such a hunk, so full of spunk. I’ll give you Head.”
How Prince got a way with this song, I’ll never know. What makes me smile is that it didn’t produce nearly the same amount of controversy (ha!) as Darling Nikki, which was released four years later. Nikki is tame compared to the goings on in this song.
This is where Prince seduces a bride-to-be and convinces her to give him… well, head. And that didn’t lead to a congressional hearing and it didn’t lead to the parental advisor sticker?
Head is an absolutely fearless, pumping funk track and, just as important, it represents Prince at his purest minimalist funk essence. It is brilliant.
4 – Purple Rain
“I never wanted to be your weekend lover. I just wanted to be some kinda friend”
It’s almost boring to put Purple Rain here and I toyed with leaving it off the list, but that would not only be wrong, but it would be dishonest.
I always compare Purple Rain to Michael’s Billie Jean, simply because they’re totally distinctive (most people would identify both songs from the first 5 seconds), they transcend genres and they’re iconic artistic statements.
Most will call Purple Rain a ballad but I have always seen it as a gospel track – only because I can’t help but put both my hands in the air, close my eyes and sing along as loudly as I can when the second chorus kicks in.
It’s a beautiful, thrilling and very empowering song that never fails to make me emotional.
3 – Little Red Corvette
“Girl you’ve got an ass like I’ve never seen”
Little Red Corvette is a better song that Purple Rain, When Doves Cry and Kiss. I would say that in a court of law, or in front of god (whichever one).
This song is severely underrated. It’s a genius track which has no business being as great as it is. There are so many tempo shifts in this song, but they feel seamless and makes this track feel like the musical equivalent of a rollercoaster. The guitar rhythm and the shuffling thud of the drums still make the hairs on the back on my neck stand up.
And here is Prince, a black r’n’b star who dabbles in funk and pop, going toe-to-toe with the big hair, white power rockers of the time (1980s) and completely smashing it.
Let me say again, Little Red Corvette IS a better song than many of Prince’s commercial hits and don’t let anyone tell you any different.
And the lyrics, the story of this song, the metaphor is so deceptively simple it masks the genius of this man. This is not only a song about a one-night-stand, it’s a song about Prince weighing up the risks of such an encounter. Running through the doubts he has in his mind about the ‘Corvette’ and whether he has what it takes to please her.
Again, Little Red Corvette IS a better song than the majority of Prince’s wonderful discography and I struggle with not putting it at the top of my list.
2 – Electric Intercourse
“Don’t you wanna make love?”
This son-of-a-bitch never released this song. I only heard it less than 3 months ago and I have absolutely no qualms putting it number two on my list.
Simply put, it is not only one of the best Prince songs, it is one of the best songs I have ever had the pleasure of listening to.
On it’s surface it is your average seductive, playful and metaphorical Prince number, but what makes it so different is that it is utterly beautiful. This song isn’t driven by Prince’s charisma or sex appeal, it stands tall because it’s flipping beautiful and surprisingly sincere considering its subject matter.
It’s a wonderfully crafted song. It deserve to be a song book standard.
There isn’t a funk note to be heard here. The progression of the piano driven melody is familiar but takes wonderful detours at odd moments in the song.
I am still absolutely flabbergasted not only because it took 29 years for me to listen to this song but because this song was never officially released.
1 – She’s always in my hair
“Maybe I’ll marry her, maybe I won’t”
There’s something about this song that I just can’t shake. It has haunted me for years.
She’s always in my hair is one of those rare things that always manages to make me feel the exact same way every time I experience it. Every time I hear this song, it’s pure joy.
But there has always been a nagging question at the back of my mind, is this really a love song? I have always read it as a love song. It feels like a love song but the title has always giving me doubt. Also, the way he describes the woman who is always entangled in his hair, well, she sounds like a nagging wife – which isn’t a bad thing.
Despite my doubts about the true nature of this song, what has never left me is the view that I am a much better person because this B-side (!!!) is in my life. It was my gateway drug to Prince (it was on his ‘Hits/ The B-Sides’ collection) and without it, I am not sure I would be as big of a fan of Prince as I am.