First off let me say that I greatly underestimated what a musical talent Prince was. Throughout the month I’ve found myself in shock and awe over Prince’s music. When I did my Birthday Music Project I learned that Prince wrote a lot of songs (estimated between 500 and 1000, with many still unreleased). More recently I also learned that on his earlier albums he not only wrote all the songs (aside from the odd few), he also played most of the instruments (often all the instruments) on the album. Oh yeah and he often did the arrangements too. And it wasn’t like these were acoustic albums with Prince just strumming a guitar (which would be great). These were albums with multiple instruments that Prince played for the recording of the album. Now to be fair Prince eventually had other people play instruments as well, but for a lot of his albums, Prince not only sang but played several instruments.
The point of this project is for me to listen to a bunch of music from an artist I haven’t paid too much attention to before, not to speculate on the artist themselves. However when I found out that Prince wrote all these songs and play the instruments for much of his earlier work I get the feeling he was a bit of a perfectionist. It seems insane (at least to me) to want to do all that work yourself, because I’m sure the record label (Prince was signed at 17) could find session musicians to play in the studio, a producer to do arrangements, etc. I don’t know if Prince was a perfectionist in all areas of his life, but I think he had a vision for his music, his style and he wanted to be the one calling the shots.
Yet I stand by my thoughts from this post where I wrote that Prince songs have a kind of freedom to them because I think they do. Prince often wrote songs with a sort of sexual freedom to them, many pushing some controversial ideas and themes. And I read an article where Prince said he wanted to “personify sex in every way.” Themes of sex, sexual freedom and exploration are in many Prince songs (at least in a fair amount of the Prince songs I’ve been listening to). There’s a bit of a dichotomy between the freedom in how these songs sound (including the topics of these songs) to the control Prince had behind the songs to make them.
I had this idea in my head of the songs I’d be hearing (from the few Prince songs). And yes there were fun upbeat songs, funky sex jams, and some slow sexy jams too, but there was a lot more variety in his songs than just that. There were songs that I would have never in a million years guessed as being Prince songs. Like “Housequake” or “Annie Christian.” Some songs blended and defied genres. And often I just listened stunned at the talent this man had. Just watch Prince’s guitar outro at this tribute for George Harrison on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
I will admit that I haven’t been obsessed with a particular Prince album or song (like I did with Lana Del Rey the previous month). That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed the music I’ve been listening to, because I have. But instead of wanting to repeat a song 30 times in a row I just want to listen to more Prince songs, and learn more about Prince as an artist. So I’ve listened to more albums than I planned to, but I’ll only write about the 7 albums I mentioned here. If I didn’t limit this project to a month/artist I could easily do several months, maybe even a full year of Prince’s music. Also, I’ve watched several live performances from Prince, because damn he had a magnetic stage presence.
I’ve been making notes about the albums I’ve been listening to, but I don’t have coherent enough thoughts on them. I am working on it. So I’ll be publishing another post on that in a few days. So far this has been a really enjoyable experience.
Check out some more Deep Dive Music Project posts on Take Me to the World
What’s your favourite album by Prince?