Dig, if you will, a musical catalog that spans decades. Dream, if you can, being able to stream that body of music. Dream no longer—as of yesterday, Prince’s catalog is available to stream on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and Amazon Music. Spotify teased the news last month with purple billboards. (Naturally.)
As TrackRecord’s resident old person, I’ve made a Prince primer as a gesture of goodwill. Let’s get started.
Your assignment: The top 10 essential Prince tracks
Welcome to Prince 101. The bulk of these tracks are from the Purple Rain soundtrack, and with good reason. The 1984 film featured a young Prince showing off both his acting chops and musical virtuoso. It spawned two chart-toppers, “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry” (“Purple Rain” peaked at No. 2), as well as an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, and it continues to be recognized in Best Of lists from the American Film Institute.
With the exception of “If I Was Your Girlfriend,” our Prince starter pack is nothing but the hits. Listen to the Spotify playlist below, and let it ease you in a funky kaleidoscope of sound. Let it wash over you like the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
Extra credit: “Breakfast Can Wait”
Understanding the significance of “Breakfast Can Wait” is a bit more involved than just learning his best tracks, but it is just as important to your ongoing Prince education. The single, released in 2013, features cover art with Dave Chapelle dressed up as Prince holding a plate of pancakes. The image is pulled from a now-legendary sketch on The Chapelle Show, in which one of the show’s writers, Charlie Murphy, and his friends play Prince and his band in pickup basketball. Prince wins, embarrassing Murphy and his team, and serves them breakfast afterwards, calling them all “bitches.”
Nine years after that bit aired, Prince released “Breakfast Can Wait.”
While appearing as a guest on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Chapelle told Fallon, “That’s a Prince judo move right there... You make fun of Prince in a sketch and he’ll just use you in his album cover. What am I going to do—sue him for using a picture of me dressed up like him? That’s checkmate right there.”
It took Prince nine years to execute his revenge, and it’s absolutely hilarious. “Breakfast Can Wait” is not only a masterclass in the long con from The Artist, it also demonstrates how remarkably creative and funny Prince could be.
Required listening: Best Prince covers
Prince was prolific, to be it lightly. His discography consists of 39 studio albums. That’s not even including the so-called Prince vault, which is rumored to contain “enough unreleased studio material for [Prince] to put out an album a year for the next 100 years,” according to documentary filmmaker and vault-truther Mobeen Azhar. Given that amount of material, you’d be hard-pressed to find an artist who hasn’t been influenced by Prince in some way, whether by his sensational guitar-playing, his lyrical twists of phrase, or his songwriting. Here’s a look at some of the best.
Sinead O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U”
Cyndi Lauper, “When You Were Mine”
Chaka Khan, “I Feel For You”
Alicia Keys, “How Come You Don’t Call Me”
Patti Smith, “When Doves Cry”
Pop quiz: Is that Prince?
Being Prince had its drawbacks: namely, artists trying to capitalize on the classic “Minneapolis sound” that Prince pioneered in the late 1970s. Below are five songs that sound suspiciously like Prince—so much so, that you might be forgiven for thinking that they are Prince. But you know better than that. Listen below.
Ready For the World, “Oh Sheila”
Shalamar, “Dancing In the Sheets”
Phil Collins, “Sussudio”
There’s that “1999” riff again...
Natural Selection, “Do Anything”
Bar Kays, “Dance, Party, Etc.”
This is “D.M.S.R.” There’s no way around it.