“Few artists have influenced the sound and trajectory of popular music more distinctly, or touched quite so many people with their talent. As one of the most gifted and prolific musicians of our time, Prince did it all. Funk. R&B. Rock and roll. He was a virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer. ‘A strong spirit transcends rules,’ Prince once said, and nobody’s spirit was stronger, bolder, or more creative.” -Former President of the United States, Barack Obama
“Prince’s music was so picturesque that even I could see it… Prince’s songs were that vivid, the images were that strong…By following his own path, Prince took music to a whole other place, like the Beatles did. He wanted to change the way things were, like Marvin Gaye did. When you do that, you have to be very sure of yourself.” -Stevie Wonder
“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.” -Prince
There are a whole bunch of ways that I’ve praised artists in the past: sales, originality, influence, technical ability, emotional power, etc. and while Prince is an artist who can easily be praised for all of the things I just listed, I’m going to turn off my brain for a minute and take a different approach: The eye test. For the unfamiliar, the eye test means that at a glance, without too much thought, you can recognize something’s quality. I will admit that my knowledge of Prince is doesn’t go very deep, but still, I can look at that feminine man wearing a purple blouse, sitting on a purple motorcycle with flowers on either side of the image and just think to myself “Yep. That guy is a legend.” Prince is so universally acclaimed yet so terrifically unique at the same time, it’s genuinely stunning to think about. Today’s album may not be Prince’s most boundary pushing work, but it has been considered his best by many and is, likely, his most recognizable. It’s none other than Purple Rain.
Purple Rain, Prince’s 6th studio album, was released in 1984 as the soundtrack to a film of the same name which starred Prince himself as a kind of version of himself. I’ve not seen the film, but I understand that it has very mixed reviews, the positive side of which seems to be entirely built on how good the music is, and I can see why. Purple Rain does something that so few albums do: it is just as fun and entertaining to listen to as it is innovative and interesting. Both lyrically and sonically Prince achieves a kind of harmony between art and entertainment which makes Purple Rain just as good, if not better, during repeat listens. From the now iconic opening “Dearly Beloved…” spoken word intro, to the emotional outpouring through the guitar solo in the final, titular track “Purple Rain”, both the casual pop fan and the die hard music lover will find something to enjoy. The album’s 9 track 43 minute runtime is engaging, to say the least. While most will recognize the album’s notable singles in “When the Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, and “I Would Die 4 U”, I have a feeling that some of the album tracks in between will serve as good musical moments for first time listeners. Personally, when I listen to this album I always find my self enjoying “Darling Nikki” a lot. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but somehow those lesser known album tracks serve as excellent bridges between the big singles without feeling like padding. With an artist as talented and visionary as Prince was in an album barely over 40 minutes, it comes as no surprise that there aren’t any wasted moments on Purple Rain.
Purple Rain has been considered among the greatest pop albums of all time. Prince is nothing short of an icon and many consider him to be one of the greatest pop artists to ever walk this Earth. Purple Rain is one of the 10 highest selling soundtrack albums of all time. Purple Rain has been called the crowning jewel of Prince’s legendary catalog. I don’t know about all that, but I know for sure that I love listening to this album. I think it rocks, I think that it is as creative as it is enjoyable, and I think that its terrific originality while still being considered a pop album is a testament to the range and power of music. I hope you find something in this album that makes you feel something. At the very least, I hope it makes it tap your toes and crack a smile. Goodness knows it does that to me.
“I never meant to cause you any sorrow…”