Earlier today, Brandon Weigel discussed witnessing a cathartic Bruce Springsteen show Wednesday night and how it was recast the next day when it was announced the Prince had died. Below, two City Paper staffers, Lisa Snowden-Mccray and Brandon Soderberg reflect on Prince's work and its impact on their lives as well. You might also want to read Soderberg's review from last year of Prince's "Purple Rain" because in case you missed it, the Senator Theatre will screen the movie three times next week (on Apr. 29, 30, and May 4). And if you're about to head out this evening, James Nasty is playing Prince tracks upstairs at the Ottobar starting at 10 p.m. and it's free.
So, random fact about me: I wasn't actually allowed to listen to music that wasn't explicitly about The Lord until I was old enough to figure out how to do it surreptitiously. As a result, I don't have the memories of Prince albums played around the house or parents who spoke about the Purple One like a brother. In that respect, it almost feels like blasphemy for me to write about him. The people I know who loved Prince loved him in a detailed, precise way—they understood how important and impressive it was that he knew how to play just about every instrument imaginable, understood the creative risks he took with his sound.
For me, though, Prince is community. He's the "The Dave Chappelle Show" and the hilarious stories Charlie Murphy told about him and Chappelle's own spot-on impersonation (so good, in fact, that Prince used a photo of Dave as him as cover art for his 2013 release 'Breakfast Can Wait'). Prince is a member of a pantheon of great musicians through which black people can communicate, smile, and dance. For me, Prince is music played at parties and cookouts. He's random showings of "Purple Rain" on BET. The boy in college with the impossibly cool taste in music. Prince, like Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Luther Vandross, represented peak black music, the kind 80s babies like me could listen to with parents (well, not my parents), cousins, aunties, uncles—everybody. (Lisa Snowden-McCray)
On Tuesday night, I was at the Crown and before karaoke kicked off, the Red Room played Future Islands' howling break-up album "In Evening Air" in full and then right after that, Prince's punk-funk album about fucking "Dirty Mind." I thought about how it was a casual, clever curatorial choice on the part of whoever picked it: Both of those albums kind of sound the same and more importantly they feel the same—exuberant and existential and unabashedly goofy and just like raw and real and ecstatically, ridiculously truthful. That's way more of a compliment to Future Islands than it is Prince, but hey, it does speak to the way Prince, who died two days after this was all spinning around in my head, touched all the music that came after him.
"Dirty Mind" is a mesmerizing album that sticks together because of new wave guitar riffs, George Duke-ian synth-farts, Camile Paglia-esque sexual politics, and some cornball whoosh sound effects that give the illusion that the whole thing is one track and I'm going to try and just focus on that one here because his discography is just too much to think about, especially right now. Other favorite Prince things real quick though: 'Another Lonely Christmas'; the hopped-up classical strings on 'Take Me With U' from "Purple Rain"; the proto- Tim and Eric cheez of the 'Raspberry Beret' video; his dick and thighs in the poster that came with "Controversy"; when he calls himself, "That skinny motherfucker with the high voice" on 'Bob George' off "Black Album"; scrawling "SLAVE" on his face because well, white supremacy and capitalism and also as some kind of warning for another generation of screwed over and misunderstood black artists such as Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, and Kanye West; the hot garbage that is 'Batdance'; and being a totally awkward weirdo talking to Dick Clark on "American Bandstand."
So "Dirty Mind." It features, among other tracks, 'Sister' which is about fucking your older sister ("Incest is everything it's said to be!" Prince exclaims) and 'Partyup,' a jammy little thing in the vein of the Time's epic 'Get It Up' or the extended version of 'I Would Die 4 U' that is also a kind of half-assed anti-war track? I like this Prince—goofily provocative Prince—the best. Though to pick a kind of Prince you like is to violate his fluidity because goofily provocative Prince feeds into political Prince and Christian Prince and queer Prince and guitar hero Prince and shy, introvert Prince and kitschy Prince and Douglas Sirk-ian Prince and all the rest. It was, as I already blabbed on Twitter, his gender-fucked style, mixed with dude bro-appealing guitar skills and individualized blackness that all added up to a legendary affront to the rock canon and the powers that be have yet fully reconcile any of this even though they honor him as a great and all the rest. He is incredibly well-known and respected and now because he is dead, internationally mourned, and still kind of underrated somehow. (Brandon Soderberg)