Wednesday, December 30, 2020

'Just a No-name Reporter' - Celebrating 10 years of A Purple Day in December

This month marks 10 years since I started this blog and, really, the current version of my book on Prince. I thought it was important to spend some time reflecting on the past decade. When I made that first post on Dec. 1, 2010, I was so enthusiastic and naive. Today, I'm still invested in this project but I'm also a bit more astute and realistic. Any biographer will tell you that they develop a complicated relationship with the subject; you learn so much about human nature, and it can be difficult to digest the information. I went in with a simplistic idea of what Prince's spiritual journey could be, and (shocker) it is so much more complex than I could have ever imagined. I am still hoping readers find beauty and inspiration in that complexity--or at the very least an intriguing character study.

This blog is not only a chronicle of my journey to write a book, but a record of my personal and professional life. I started and finished graduate school while writing this blog. I interned at Billboard in New York City. I moved to Columbus, Ohio, to become a full-time reporter, which changed my life tremendously. I've built an impressive career and found my purpose in elevating Black voices in my community. However, it's also uncomfortable to look back. I've never made a habit of baring my soul here, but I can look at certain blog posts and think about relationships and friendships that didn't work out, former supporters who lost interest, and periods when I was dealing with depression. 

Of course, there were funny moments along the way. I cringe at some of the terrible clip art and outdated technology. (Honestly, if I could do it over again, I would have hosted this blog on a different platform.) I also laugh at the moment I discovered there was salacious, Prince-based fan fiction

Click to enlarge

There is also a lot of joy. I saw Prince at Madison Square Garden the same month I started the blog. Three weeks after my first post, I completed my first interview, which was with Gayle Chapman. Today, I can proudly say I've interviewed over 40 people. I'll never forget serendipitously meeting up with Prince's former publicist, Howard Bloom, for a five-hour interview in Brooklyn, or making my mom proud by interviewing someone she admired--the legendary Larry Graham. I never imagined I'd get the opportunity to present my research at an academic conference in the UK, but I did, and I made sure to document that experience--one of the happiest times of my life--on the blog. I also had the honor of appearing on an episode of the official Prince podcast. Additionally, I've met so many great people who've found me through this blog or in other Prince-related spaces. 

I never thought Prince would pass away while I was writing the book. It was difficult to navigate that publicly, but I did, and it's documented on the blog. But it's great to be able to revisit a post and reminisce about how fun it was when he was here, doing things in real time. For example, I get a kick out of seeing my reaction to his launch of the 3rdEyeGirl era in 2013. 

Posing at Madison Square Garden before the Prince show on Dec 18, 2010

I'd be lying if I said the book and this blog were easy. I've been doing this for a decade and I'm tired. I'm ready to be done. I'm almost there, but it's going to take more hard work to finish in 2021, which I need to do. I have to move on with the rest of my life. I have new goals to achieve, including things I've sacrificed to bring this project to fruition. There has been a lot of rejection, but I have some key supporters, including a new agent, so I'm in a good place. I still struggle with self-doubt. Sometimes I feel I'm not worthy of getting certain interviews or even getting my work published, but I know that's not true. I just have to be careful not to indulge that thinking for too long. 

I'm proud of myself for re-committing myself to blogging consistently these past two years, but it's time to prioritize the rest of my book. That means there may be some gaps in between posts, and I have to learn to be OK with that. I'm still excited for the potential interviews, reviews, guest posts, contests and other types of content I can publish, but I have to be more strategic.

Presenting at the "Purple Reign Conference" at the University of Salford in Manchester

I don't know what my plans are for the blog once I'm finished with my book. I do know I will probably need a break from Prince-related content for a while. I have so many other stories to tell, hopefully. But I am so grateful to have this archive. (I should probably download these posts now, huh?)

Thank you so much for going on this journey with me. Happy New Year!

- Erica 

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Saturday, December 12, 2020

"The Gold Standard" - Top Seven Posts of 2020

It's been a crazy year to say the least, but I'm glad I managed to stay consistent with my blog. Here's a list of the seven most-visited posts.

7. "Eye Hate U" - Flutestrumental #1: I performed the Prince song on flute. 

6. "With an Intellect and a Savoir-Faire" - Purple Recommendations: I created a roundup of Prince-related content from other folks in the "purple community." 

5. "Here We Are, Folks!" - Sign O' the Times Deluxe Edition Unboxing: I filmed myself opening the latest release from the prince Estate.

4.  "Kick Drum Pounds on the Two and Four" - Three Immediate Favorites from the Vault: I shared my thoughts on a few tracks from the massive Super Deluxe edition of Prince's Sign O' the Times album.

3. “Welcome 2 the Million $ Show” - Redeeming Qualities of “HitnRun: Phase One”: Prince's Friend shared his thoughts on Prince's penultimate album.

2. “A Little Bit of Pleasure for the Guilty Pain” – BDSM Lyrics in the Work of Prince: Darling Nisi contributed an essay on this subject. 

1. "Jana Jade's Army" - Interview with Jana Anderson: I spoke with one of Prince's former session singers. 

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Sunday, December 6, 2020

'A New Spiritual Revolution' - My 'Purple Paradigm' Presentation

Last month, I was invited to present my research on an episode of The Purple Paradigm, an interactive web series on Prince. 

You can watch my talk, "'You Don't Think God is Sexy?' - Prince's Shifting Perspectives on Spirituality and Sexuality," below.  

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Friday, November 27, 2020

'Same December' - Thoughts on 'Chaos and Disorder'

I've been listening to Prince's 1996 contractual obligation ... er ... album Chaos and Disorder this week. I don't think it's an essential listen, but it's certainly better than its reputation. And it's always nice to hear Rosie Gaines singing with Prince. Honestly, there are gems on all of his albums.

Chaos and Disorder is commended for its rock sound, but I think Prince has better material in that genre on other albums. My favorite rocker on here is the bluesy "Zannalee," which was originally slated for The Undertaker, a much better project that I wish had been released in Guitar World in 1993 as planned. (Psst! Prince Estate, there's still time to partner with the publication to do this, and a dope writer can interview musicians Sonny T. and Michael Bland about it again.) Additionally, you would expect a song like "I Rock, Therefore I Am" to smolder, but it's underwhelming. 

A lot of people prefer the only single, "Dinner with Delores," and it's a pleasant song. However, I never find myself playing this unless I'm purposely engaging the entire album. It's better live; Prince gave a great performance of the track and "Zannalee" on the "Today" show's "Summer Concert Series" in 1996. The audience was really diverse and I actually teared up watching some of them cry. And I always love to see Bryant Gumble and Prince interacting; you can tell they had a lot of respect for each other. (Try not to wince, though, when Katie Couric calls the superstar Prince instead of his new name.) 

My favorite song on the album is "The Same December," because of its catchy chorus, full sound and gospel outro. Also, the lyrics are very thoughtful:

"You only see what your heart will show
You only love when your soul remembers
We all come from the same December
And in the end, that's where we'll go"

Prince often talked about perception, and people's habit of projecting their own beliefs or desires on things they witness or consume. 

“If you looked at that picture [on Lovesexy] and some ill come out your mouth, then that’s what you are—it’s looking right back at you in the mirror.” - Prince, 1990

There are also spiritual concepts running through the song, including reincarnation and the theory of returning to the Source (God or absolute, eternal reality)--which were in line with what Prince was studying at the time. Similar themes are also found on Chaos and Disorder's "Into the Light," which was inspired by author Betty Eadie's book, Embraced by the Light, about her near-death experience. (Influenced by Biblical text, Prince often used "light" as a symbol for God and/or Jesus throughout his career.)

The last track on the album, "Had U," is a popular topic of discussion; it's rumored to be a thinly veiled kiss-off to Warner Bros. It's interesting to me because I can hear all of the opportunities for Prince to elaborate on the melody and elevate the song to something great, but that's not the point. He was done giving the record label his best material, and the frustration I feel at the abrupt ending is something I'm sure he anticipated. Like he says on "Dinner with Delores," "No more, that's the end." 

What are your favorite tracks on Chaos and Disorder? 

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Friday, November 20, 2020

"The Exodus Has Begun" - Black Magnolias Literary Journal

If you're a fan of this blog, you know I often stress the importance of engaging writing and research on Prince by Black writers. Last year, I wrote about the excellent, special Prince issue of the Howard Journal of Communications. I've also had the privilege of participating in professor De Angela L. Duff's symposia on Prince. (You can read my recap of one of her most recent academic events here.) 

This week, I'd like to share some brief opinions on the special Prince issue of the Black Magnolias Literary Journal, edited by C. Liegh McInnis, a professor at Jackson State University, and author of The Lyrics of Prince: A Literary Look at a Creative, Musical Poet, Philosopher, and Storyteller. In addition to being a lovely person, McInnis is a passionate, compelling speaker, who has inspired many audiences of Prince fans with his presentations. 

This issue of Black Magnolias, released last spring, features Black scholars and others who are clearly interested in centering Prince's Blackness in analyses of the artist's work, life and legacy. It's troubling that many Prince fans are hostile at the thought of talking about Prince as a Black man affected by and concerned with systemic racism, and I don't expect a lot of them to come around. But for fans who say they are interested in understanding all aspects of Prince's humanity, I would recommend reading collections like this one. There are a lot of people, including Black writers, who are putting in work.

I haven't finished reading each piece yet, and I am still unpacking what I have read, but I wanted to share some thoughts. One of McInnis' goals for studying Prince's work is to gauge "the full realm of Black diversity," and thus the "full realm of Black humanity." Prince is a perfect subject for this, and the writers worked diligently toward this end. I also appreciated that McInnis stressed the need for Black musicians to be taken seriously ("Unlike the Beatles or Bob Dylan, rarely are African Americans studied for their intellectual value," he writes). Lately I've been thinking about the ways in which my research on Prince was minimized by some when I was working on my master's thesis (thank God for the professors who did believe in what I was doing). It's good to know I am not alone in this struggle. 

I've singled out a few essays/papers that stood out to me so far.

"She's Always In My Hair: Jill Jones--The Unheralded Muse of Prince" by De Angela L. Duff

This piece provides the most comprehensive look at Jones' contributions to Prince's work that I've seen to date. It unpacks how Prince's obsession with creating mystery and being in control had a detrimental effect on Jones' career, and demonstrates her absence from Prince's narrative, even after his death. I was very intrigued by the impact of race (Jones is biracial and fair-skinned) on Jones' marketability for both Black and white audiences. As I read Duff's piece, I thought about Mariah Carey's struggles with racism as a biracial artist in the music industry; they are outlined in her new memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. Though Carey achieved international superstardom, I think her story is an effective companion piece to this paper; I wonder if she and Jones had similar experiences.

"The Purple Avatar: A Brief Discussion of Prince's Guitar Greatness" by Darryl Pete

We need more scholarship breaking down Prince's guitar playing. Pete's essay is based more on his personal experience as a guitarist than strict musical analysis, but I appreciated his comparisons of Prince's music to work by everyone from Chuck Berry to Ernie Isley. I also enjoyed reading about Prince's guitar work on "Lady Cab Driver," a song I would not have immediately singled out as an example of his impressive technique. Speaking about "Let's Go Crazy," Pete writes, "That heavenly note climaxing at the end of (the song) seemed to sustain forever! The note wasn't just sustaining itself but the possibility of what Black music could be, what it had been, what had been taken/stolen from it, and what it could reclaim." I thought that was the most powerful passage, and it made me hungry for more analysis about Prince, race and rock 'n' roll. 

"How the Exodus Began: Prince and the Black Working Class Imagination" by Robert Loss

This is one of the best papers I've read on Prince, and it should be required reading for all fans and scholars. It's a long one; Loss put in an incredible amount of work in this nearly 60-page piece. Ever since Prince's memoir, The Beautiful Ones, came out, I have been thinking and writing about the order, discipline and utilitarian spirit found in Prince's work. Those attributes come not only from Prince's father and funk conventions, but a longstanding tradition in Black life. It's something that Black people know innately, but it's always important to have it articulated on paper. For example, I knew I got extremely emotional seeing Prince wearing a scarf at the Super Bowl halftime show--one of the most prominent stages in the world--but I didn't really know why until I unpacked it with a Black friend and wrote it down. Loss's essay adds even more context for Prince's signifiers of Black working-class values--like the scarf. Using academic frameworks and citing work by Black scholars (including writing by McInnis), Loss analyzes relevant themes in Prince's art, but also explores the ways in which Prince's art was used by others for social and political gains; for example, his 1995 song "We March" was played at the first Million Man March, which he also donated $50,000 to, according to Minister Louis Farrakhan. And there are numerous examples of Prince donating proceeds of ticket sales to his concerts for the advancement of Black and other marginalized people. 

"The Spiritual as the Political in the Works of Prince and the Staple Singers" by C. Liegh McInnis

If you're a fan of Prince, you should know about his musical relationship with legendary soul and gospel singer Mavis Staples, but you probably haven't broken down the comparisons between Prince's music and the work of the Staple Singers in the context of Black liberation theology. No need to worry, McInnis has done it for us in this excellent paper. Citing specific song examples, McInnis explains how both artists utilized Christian theology as a means to liberate Black people from oppression. He also stresses that Black liberation theology is rooted in African spirituality, which is rarely discussed in writings on Prince and religion. This piece made me think once again about innate understanding; as I've noted previously on this blog, some Black people can listen to songs like "Beautiful, Loved and Blessed," "Black Sweat" and even "Act of God" and feel that Prince is speaking to their liberation, but writing about this for everyone to read is necessary. With that, I'll close with a statement by McInnis:

"For the Staple Singers and Prince, the primary goal of artistry is to appeal to the hearts and minds of listeners to produce the catharsis that moves them to evolve spiritually so that their spiritual evolution manifests itself in the socio-political structure. To do anything else is to be both ungodly and unartistic." 

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Friday, November 13, 2020

"Tick, Tick, Bang" - Song of the Month

 Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs. 

"Like this chain around my hip, I want a 24-karat relationship." Me too, Prince. Me too. Hearing that line reminds me of when my sister and I re-watched Graffiti Bridge in 2004. We laughed and reminisced about the movie, which was a major part of our childhood. I remember my sister emphasizing this particular line when we were watching the "Tick, Tick, Bang" performance--one of the best in the film. I think I started loving this song after discovering she loved it; I guess I still want to be like my big sis. We were cracking up watching Prince do his best choreography as members of The Time--his rivals--looked bored. For years I assumed that, because my sister loved this movie, she was a Prince fan; earlier this year, she admitted she respected him but wasn't into a lot of his music. Anyhow, we'll always have "Tick, Tick, Bang." I chuckle thinking about how much I gravitate toward the filthiest song on an album that is largely spiritual and an important part of Prince's religious journey. It's another song he wrote at the beginning of his career (1981) and then brilliantly updated; he transformed it from a punk tune to a '90s, hip-hop-inspired ditty. I love the guitar, and I think the way he arranges the sound effects and vocals is supremely creative. Thanks to PrinceVault, I learned Prince sampled drums from Jimi Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover," which reminds me that I really need to write (or commission) a Hendrix-related post on my blog. I'm also disappointed I didn't know this when I did my samples quiz last year. 

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Friday, November 6, 2020

"Walkin' in Glory" - Some Thoughts on "Sign O' the Times" + Spirituality

I suppose this is my official return to the blog after missing a few weeks due to, well, have you been paying attention to 2020? In addition to coping with the pandemic, presidential election (at the time of publication, we still didn't know who won) and being Black following the death of George Floyd, I have been hard at work on some lengthy journalism assignments. 

I investigated the increase in gun violence this summer and returned to my hometown to talk to about the election. Later this month, I'll publish a nine-part series on systemic racism.

As a heads up -- I'll be taking another break in December to have surgery and recover. But I think I'm going to schedule some "throwback" posts while I'm gone. 

With all that said, I hope everyone is still enjoying the Sign O' the Times Super Deluxe. I figured I'd share some thoughts on spirituality before I move on to other things. 

When I think about this album and this time period, Prince's father, John L. Nelson, comes to mind. In fact, I wish he were a greater part of the narrative. It will take some people speaking up and then actually being given a platform to share their stories about Nelson, who influenced both Prince's jazz sound and his religious leanings.

When I hear Prince's famous words in 1986, "We're on the brink of something ... strict and wild and pretty," thoughts of his father's discipline, combined with his mother's spontaneity, come to mind. Prince discusses this dichotomy briefly in his memoir. Specifically, Prince talks about the ways in which his father's religious principles contributed to his life of order and self-sufficiency--qualities Prince admired.

"This man read the Bible daily. And if he needed something, no matter what it was, he would make it himself. ... Religion is about self-development. That's all it is." - Prince, The Beautiful Ones

It's no surprise that, as Prince and his father were enjoying a period of camaraderie, Prince's music was becoming more blatantly religious. Sign O' the Times' "The Cross" was his most direct expression of Christian faith on one of his own studio albums at that point. I think because he still didn't say the name Jesus (that would come just a year later on Lovesexy), it's more digestible for fans who aren't Christians. Plus, it's a great rocker! 

When I was an undergraduate student at Northern Kentucky University, I took a biography class and wrote about Prince's spirituality, naturally. I ended up presenting my work via a display in the library, where I set up a listening station. I included "The Cross" on the playlist, and I'll never forget a woman crying after hearing the song for the first time.  

Printout from presentation (2008)

Prince expresses his spiritual growth through his songs about relationships on Sign O' the Times; he promotes the joy of monogamous, love-based unions, and explores some of his shortcomings and contradictions. I broke this down last month with my #PrinceTwitterThread about the song "Forever in My Life." 

During the Sign O' the Times era, journalists acknowledged Prince's religion, but had no desire to investigate it as it was presented on the album. And they continued to minimize its complexity. The album also failed to reach the level of success of Prince's earlier projects. We often here that Prince didn't care about commercial achievement, but it simply isn't true. It wasn't lost on him that his sales were decreasing as his music was becoming more spiritual, and we can see his struggle to reconcile that with the Black Album saga that would play out later that year. 

“He’s developed an urge to make big social and mystical statements, which usually come out confused; Prince is no deep thinker.”  - Jon Pareles, New York Times, 1987

The Vault tracks on the Sign O' the Times Super Deluxe release only solidify where Prince's faith was at the time. It is a pleasure to hear Prince do straight-ahead gospel on the previously unreleased track "Walkin' in Glory," which was recorded on a Sunday. I'm also glad people like his engineer at the time, Susan Rogers, are speaking more about his pattern of "repenting" by recording holy songs at the same time as his risqué tunes. Prince had a complex relationship with the sacred and profane, and was continuously refining what he believed about the intersection of the two. It is not surprising to me that he used the music from "Glory" for "2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" on the explicit Black Album--or that a party song like "The Ball" could be transformed into a religious song like "Eye No." 

"Sex is the door-opener. Once you open the door …” - Prince, 1997

If Prince had released "Walkin' in Glory" or the song "Crystal Ball" at this time, it would have been the first time people heard the name Jesus on an official project. That's why hearing him say, "Save me, Jesus" on "Anna Stesia" in 1988 is so impactful. It's interesting to think about how and why he made the decision to finally declare his faith in that manner; I'm sure his spiritual awakening prior to the Lovesexy album played a large role. 

The whole concept of "signs of the times" can be found in the Bible, as Jesus explains the markers of his return. (And we know Prince was obsessed with the concept of the "Second Coming.") Prince may have even been inspired by the Seventh-day Adventist publication Signs of the Times, which he may have read in his childhood church. And his father wasn't the only religious person in his circle; I interviewed a few people--including Jehovah's Witnesses--who were sharing their beliefs with Prince during this time. Let's pray I get to share those, and my book, soon.  

"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." - Matthew 24:7

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Friday, October 9, 2020

"Kick Drum Pounds on the Two and Four" - Three Immediate Favorites from the Vault

The Super Deluxe edition of Prince's Sign O' the Times album is sitting pretty on my coffee table. I tried my best to ignore all of the reviews, essays and Twitter commentary around the release because it was important that I experience it for myself. When you're an active part of a fan community, your opinion of the artist and the art can be colored by perceptions other than your own. I've been struggling with this internally for a while now. I wanted to get back to thinking about my personal connection to Prince's work.

It's going to take a long time to process this beautiful box set, so I thought I'd just focus on the vault (or previously unreleased) tracks. I haven't spent as much time with these songs as the rest of the hardcore fans. I've been discovering them over the past few years as I do research for my book. I used to feel bad about that, but I'm over that guilt. I didn't have a community or access when I started seriously listening to Prince, and I didn't immediately know about the NPG Music Club. Also, he'd scrubbed the internet of his music. 

With that said, I wonder if the three vault tracks that immediately stood out to me are songs some folks are tired of by now. Anyhow, here they are (ranked). 

3. "Witness 4 the Prosecution (Version 1)"

The first time I learned about the 1957 Billy Wilder film, Witness for the Prosecution, I was looking at the lineup of the 2019 "Summer Movie Series" at the historic Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Right away, I shrieked, "That's a Prince song!" Because I had just been pondering Prince's fascination with the movie Barbarella and its director, Roger Vadim, I was thinking that perhaps there was a similar connection to Witness, but I don't think so. Now, if some folks out there saw this film on a loop at Paisley Park, let me know!

When it comes to background vocals on Prince songs, I prefer that he sing them, or employ a certain type of soulful vocalist. I'll always promote the underrated 20Ten album because singers Shelby J., Elisa Fiorillo and Liv Warfield created wonderful harmonies for him. So, I was pleasantly surprised that I dug what Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin and Susannah Melvoin achieved on "Witness 4 the Prosecution (version 1)." The thick wall of vocals is one of the best parts of the tune. They worked hard, and it shows.

"I do remember being in the room singing those background vocals and getting up really high, trying to work that vibrato," Coleman said. 

The other standout is that haunting bass and horn line that repeats throughout the song.

2. "Rebirth of the Flesh"

"Imagine being so dope you can afford to sit on 'Rebirth of the Flesh.'"

I tweeted this recently, and it looks like 99 Prince fans agree. This is one of the funkiest jams he's ever produced, but he's so talented and prolific that he could sleep at night leaving it in the vault. Perhaps he knew people would not be able to recover if he put this out on the aborted Camille project, which, to me, is better than The Black Album. I really wanted the Prince Estate to release Camille with his original artwork, but I'll just have to create it for myself. Thank goodness I don't have to go to YouTube and listen to that subpar version anymore.

Prince also brilliantly utilized religious imagery to describe his musical transformation after disbanding the Revolution. According to the Bible, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6). Each human is born into sinful nature, but there is an opportunity to experience a spiritual rebirth and attain everlasting life through belief in Jesus Christ. At this time, Prince was also being more direct about his Christian views, so the title of the song is very fitting. It wasn't the first time he referenced "the flesh," and it wouldn't be last. (I will write a separate blog on Sign O' the Times and spirituality later.)

1. "Love and Sex"

It's the off-beat syncopation for me. The drums are the highlight of this song, which is unconventional and complex in every way. Not only is Prince switching between his lower and falsetto registers, but he has arranged the vocal lines so that they are in conversation with each other instead of harmonizing on a single melody. You have no idea where he's going to go next. Even his guitar solo goes in a direction I didn't initially expect. Finally, the sound is just so massive. Quite simply, it's a masterpiece.

(Going over the lyrics, I came up with a theory about the subject of the song, but I'll keep it to myself because, who knows?)

Prince also created a version for Sheila E., whose commentary, I must say, is glaringly absent from this box set and its promotion. Does anyone know why? I want to hear your valuable input on the music, Sheila!

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Saturday, September 26, 2020

"Here We Are, Folks!" - Sign O' the Times Deluxe Edition Unboxing

I received my copy of the deluxe edition of Prince's 1987 album, "Sign O' the Times." Check out my unboxing video below!

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Friday, September 25, 2020

"Shock-a-lock-a, Boom!" - Giveaway

Congrats, Amy A.!

This contest is closed. 

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Friday, September 18, 2020

"We Can Work It Out" - Experimenting with Facebook Ads

I set a goal for myself to increase my monthly newsletter list to 1,000 this year (I have just over 700 as of today). I've had great success collecting email addresses through my giveaways (come back next week for another one, btw), but I wanted to explore other avenues. Over the past week, I ran two Facebook ads to gain new subscribers, and things were decent for my first try! 

See below for the details and if you haven't subscribed to my monthly newsletter, you can do so right here.

First, I created a "lead generation" ad, which collects email addresses directly on Facebook. I'm pretty happy with these results. The ad will be finished tomorrow, and I think I'm going to hit 50 leads. I spent approximately 70 cents per email address, which isn't too expensive for me. I would run this type of ad again and spend more money to get 100 new subscribers. 

Cost: $33.63 (of $35)

Duration: 6 Days (of 7)

Reach: 2,017

Leads: 46

I wasn't sure if people would put their email addresses directly on Facebook, so I ran a "website visitors" ad that took them off Facebook and directly to my signup form on MailChimp. Although this ad reached more people, fewer people signed up for my newsletter. So, moving forward, I will only run the ad above to collect email addresses, but I will utilize the "website visitors" ad to send people to my blog to get more views on my content. I'll also plan to run some ads to boost the number of people who "like" my Facebook page. 

Cost: $25

Duration: 5 Days

Reach: 4,319

Clicks: 101

Subscribers: 16

Friday, September 11, 2020

"Count the Days" - Song of the Month

 Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs. 

"Count the Days" is technically a New Power Generation song, released as the third single from the band's 1995 album, Exodus. Of course, Prince played an integral role, though disguised as "Tora Tora," one of his many alter egos. Bass player Sonny T. takes the lead vocal, but Prince's guitar is the real star. (By the way, Prince positioning Sonny as a lead vocalist reminds me a lot of Jimi Hendrix featuring drummer Buddy Miles as a singer in the Band of Gypsys, but that's another discussion for another blog.) I fell in love with this song watching a video of a live performance on British TV program "The White Room." First of all, Prince, aka Tora Tora, somehow made a costume of a face-obscuring scarf, hat and black-and-white suit look appealing. I love how he was so meticulous about image and mystique.

The song is a perfect example of how Prince is able to write in layers. If you don't listen closely, you might think "Count the Days" is a love song. That was my first reaction because the TV host introduced the song by commenting on Prince and Mayte Garcia's relationship. The music is pretty, pleasant and almost tranquil. Listening again, I heard a deep connection to Curtis Mayfield, and I began to think Prince was simply focused on evoking a feeling of old-school soul music, especially because the lyrics seemed so cryptic.

"Here's a church, here's a steeple/Here's a motherfucker that I gotta blow away."

But I knew something was missing. I talked through the song with my friend and writer Scott Woods. We asked ourselves, how often is Prince purposely nonsensical, and how often is he writing personal lyrics? In my opinion, "Count the Days" is very personal, and there's a thread of anger under the lovely melody. You could imply the song is about his deteriorating relationship with Warner Bros. Prince is literally counting down the days until he is out of his contract. And you could read the whole Exodus album as an escape from the control of the record label, but also as Prince's mission to free other artists, especially Black artists, from the limitations and abuse in the music industry. 

The video for the song adds another layer. It features historic footage of events during the Civil Rights Movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr. at the March on Washington, and his wife, Coretta Scott King, standing over his coffin. Prince felt very strongly that he could use both his celebrity and advocacy for artist rights to help create a better future for Black people in America, and much has come to light about his charitable contributions since his death. So, it makes perfect sense to me that he paired a song about being enslaved to a corporation with a video about the plight of Black people.

I once found myself thinking, "This song would be more enjoyable without the abrasive lyrics." But that's precisely the point. We can't be fully at peace with the world because we aren't fully free. Think about what Black people are still enduring in 2020. We're still counting the days...

Count The Days from Irresistible Rich on Vimeo.

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Friday, September 4, 2020

"With an Intellect and a Savoir-Faire" - Purple Recommendations

There are a lot of folks consistently creating great content about Prince. Here are some recent examples that caught my eye.

1. Muse 2 the Pharaoh: The Sun, The Moon and Stars

Darling Nisi's podcast explores Prince-related topics from a female perspective. Her latest episode explores Prince's natal chart. 

2. Podcast on Prince: Bernie Grundman Interview (Patreon only)

This long-running Prince podcast features news, reviews and interviews. The latest episode features a noted mastering engineer who recently worked on the forthcoming remaster of Prince's "Sign O' the Times" album. 

3. Press Rewind Prince - Lyrics Podcast

Jason Breininger's podcast analyzes the lyrics of Prince's music, album by album. He's currently on Around the World in a Day. Check out all the episodes featuring a lineup of special guests.

4. Dance/Music/Sex/Romance: The Dawn: How Prince’s Troubled Followup to 1999 Almost Became His Feature Film Debut

Zachary Hoskin's blog analyzes Prince's discography, song by song, but he often has some interesting detours along the way. This post imagines "a circa-1984 Prince without Purple Rain." Creative stuff! 

5. polished solid Newsletter

This is a new venture by De Angela L. Duff, the mastermind behind some compelling Prince symposia. Subscribe to keep up with all of her Prince projects and much more! 

6. #PrinceTwitterThread: 3121

DJ UMB and Edgar Kruize have been inviting guests to dissect each track on certain Prince albums. The latest in the series included a surprise contributor who worked with Prince for years. 

7. Purple Playground: Academy of Prince performance

This summer music program "enriches teens' lives with Prince history and a chance to make music inspired by him, helped by musicians who played with him." Watch the young people play a song they wrote with help from Shelby J., Adrian Crutchfield and Elisa Fiorillo. 

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Friday, August 28, 2020

"A Reason to Believe" - "Graffiti Bridge" Presentation

Check out my presentation, "Graffiti Bridge: Prince’s Sacred Triumph over the Profane," from the #DM40GB30 Symposium

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Friday, August 21, 2020

Song of the Month - "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold"

 Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs.

Released on Arista Records in 1999, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic was supposed to be Prince's "comeback" album. Unfortunately, it failed to make an impact in the mainstream music industry. He and label head Clive Davis reportedly hoped the first--and only--single, "The Greatest Romance Ever Sold," would appeal to women and teenage girls. I was in the latter group and I actually remember seeing the video on BET or MTV, so the marketing was on point. During that time, I knew some of Prince's classic music and respected his talent, but I was not engaged. I thought the song was interesting, but his look was odd to me. I remember noticing his eye shadow and thinking, "I don't really understand this aesthetic," but in junior high-level language, of course. I was fully into the boy bands and young, R&B groups of the day. Other than his attempts to design "The Greatest Romance" to fit into that sound (to a point), Prince was an outlier for me. Frankly, I thought he was weird and a little scary. It's funny; I see some of this thinking in my teenage niece's perception of Prince today. Just a few years later, I would watch Purple Rain and then listen to The Rainbow Children and become a superfan. Now, I actually love the song and the video. He and his co-star are absolutely gorgeous. It is my favorite track on Rave, which is my least favorite album in his discography. It's sexy, slick and has an intriguing, Arabic-influenced melodic line. The lyrics are poetic. I also like how much he is feeling the beat in the video and in the Rave Un2 the Year 2000 concert film. Is it his strongest song? No. But I love how Prince can't help but make quirky musical choices even when he's attempting to make a conventional product.


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Friday, August 14, 2020

"I Like Danger" - Favorite Prince Quotes (1980s)

*Featuring art from the 9T99 Coloring Book

“The most important thing is to be true to yourself, but I also like danger. That’s what is missing from pop music today. There’s no excitement and mystery--people sneaking out and going to these forbidden concerts by Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix. I’m not saying I’m better than anybody else, but I don’t feel like there are a lot of people out there telling the truth in their music.” 

- Los Angeles Times, 1982

"Not long ago I talked to George Clinton, a man who knows and has done so much for funk. George told me how much he liked Around the World in a Day. You know how much more his words mean than those from some mamma-jamma wearing glasses and an alligator shirt behind a typewriter?" 

- Rolling Stone, 1985

"When one is alone, one should try talking to God. It worked for me. It's not going to make your problems go away, but it just makes it easier to cope with. It makes you feel that there is some place to go. The pain becomes less. The hurt becomes less. Loneliness becomes less. And everything, all your problems, becomes so small." 

- Ebony, 1986

View my favorite quotes from the '90s here

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Friday, August 7, 2020

"Heavenly Angels Crying" - Why Prince is a Beast at Vocal Arrangement - Pt. 1

"Every voice that he's adding is a different character he made up in his head." - Chuck Zwicky, engineer

*Photo by Scott Woods 
Painting by Lisa McLymont

It would have been enough to be a keyboard wiz. It would have been enough to be a guitar god. It would have been enough to be a falsetto king. However, Prince was also a master at vocal arrangements, putting effort and creativity into even some of his most basic tracks. We need to talk about this more. The list below is a starting guide to Prince's brilliance in this area. 

Notable Tracks (Ranked)

13) "Planet Earth" - It's a slow burn and not made for heavy rotation, but once you make it through, you'll be blessed with some vocal gems and a soaring guitar solo. 

Best Part: 2:40-3:21

12) "Last December" - Sometimes, Prince will tease a vocal arrangement that you wish would go on forever. I would've loved to see him stand onstage with a group of backup vocalists, just singing his heart out a cappella. If anyone has this footage, hit the "contact me" button on this website. 

Best Part: 7:03-7:30 

11) "The Sacrifice of Victor" - Speaking of short bursts of inspiration, the "Amen" coda is everything. 

Best Part: 5:26-5:32

10) "An Honest Man" - This has never been my jam, but I have to admit the harmonies are impressive.

Best Part: 0:00-0:43

9) "For You" - I love that the first song on Prince's first album has these beautiful, stacked harmonies; it lets you know this was a talent and interest he had from the beginning, and we should pay more attention to that. 

Best Part: 0:04-0:47

8) "Tamborine" - I often forget how quirky and cool Prince's harmonies are on this because I'm too busy air drumming and doing the screaming part. 

Best Part: 1:55-2:10 

7) "7" - Prince's mastery of unique, stacked vocals is only matched by his mastery of apocalyptic messaging. 

Best Part: 0:00-0:35

6) "Condition of the Heart" - A brilliant, odd, interesting Prince classic. Sometimes, he hits a note that takes your breath away. Clara Bow would agree. 

Best Part: 5:07-5:25

5) "Thunder" - Even fans who are really hard on the Diamonds and Pearls album have to admit this song is inventive and dope. We're also seeing a pattern of amazing a cappella openings, aren't we? 

Best Part: 3:00-3:24

4) "And God Created Woman" - Some of Prince's strongest songwriting, from the Biblical subversion to the musical arrangement to the vocals. 

Best Part: 1:33-1:53

3) "Come" - Very underrated in terms of music, meaning and vocal arranging. 

Best Part: 10:20-10:30 

2) "Gold" - That can't-get-out-of-your-car-til-the-song-is-over, tears-stinging-your-eyes brilliance. 

Best Part: 6:05-7:23

1) "Adore" - How did he hear all of this in his head? 

Best Part: 2:18-3:02; 5:45-6:31 

*Check out the Spotify playlist here

Notable Albums

Elixir - This might be his best work as a writer and producer on a female protégé's album. Is Bria Valente the strongest singer? No. But I truly believe her voice was a good match for Prince's vision, and she conveyed his vocal arrangements really well. 
(You may @ me.) 

20TenPrince made an excellent choice hiring Shelby J., Liv Warfield and Elisa Fiorillo Dease to do background vocals. As Fiorillo Dease said, they were his "angels."

Notable Live Material

"Dark" - Speaking of the trio of women on 20Ten, there's a rehearsal featuring their harmonies on this song. Beautiful. 

"Now" - Prince was smart to isolate the background vocals during "The Ultimate Live Experience" tour. If he didn't emphasize that vocal arrangement, I never would have heard it buried on the recording. He should've opened or closed the track with that alone. 

"The Second Coming" - If you want to attempt to make the return of Jesus Christ compelling for your listeners, this is the way to do it. 

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Friday, July 31, 2020

"Get Loose!" - Favorite Performances on "The Ultimate Live Experience" Tour

To promote The Gold Experience album, Prince embarked on The Ultimate Live Experience tour from 1995 to 1996. Like the Act I and Act II tours in 1993, this outing had two legs with different vibes. That's because, both times, a milestone took place in the middle of the tour. 

Prince changed his name to the Love Symbol between Act I and Act II. His relationship with Warner Bros. was also becoming strained, and you can see the impact of his frustration--and boredom--on the second leg, which made it an inferior show. The opposite occurs with The Ultimate Live Experience. Prince had been pressuring the record label to release The Gold Experience, and he finally got his wish between the two phases of the tour. Additionally, by the second leg, he was much closer to being emancipated from his contract. That show takes on a more loose, creative vibe than the previous iteration. 

But both legs are enjoyable. In fact, I think it's slowly becoming one of my favorite Prince tours! Though the set looks like it took a while to construct, the concert is relatively stripped down. The NPG is smaller; the horns are gone and Mayte Garcia is the lone dancer. If you catch the right footage, you can see how Prince responds to a band member's error (not a pretty sight). Otherwise, he appears to be in good spirits, and even relaxed on some songs. You see him let his guard down and even sing in his lower register on tracks like "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World" and "Letitgo." Overall, this is some of his best dancing, singing and playing. Seriously.   

Here are the performances that stood out to me.


Confession: I often skip this track when I'm playing The Gold Experience. To me, "Eye Hate U" is the better ballad on the album. While Michael Bland's drumming is spectacular, the lyrics are rather bland to me. But live, Prince's guitar sings. 

"Days of Wild"

This..,might be my favorite of the very few Prince raps I enjoy. However, it's all about that bass guitar, especially on the second leg of the tour.


This song seems silly at first, but it is a really well-done production (love that baritone sax). I let it play because it's fun, and I enjoy hearing Prince's singing get more frantic with each verse ("This about the freaks doing everything they wanna do now!"). But when you hear it live...whew! Prince isolates the background vocals, which are a treasure trove of harmony and arrangement. He is a master! (The rapping is a little...less precise.)

This is here only because of the choreography. His double turn is clean. 

Prince has some pretty intriguing arrangements on this tour and "Pink Cashmere" doesn't disappoint. He finds a way to swing this song, and I love the dramatic ending. He's got some soulful vocal runs in there, and Tommy Barbarella's hair flips are on 10. 

"(Lemme See Your Body) Get Loose!"

This is when I woke up during the show. I am not a fan of the original version of this song, but after viewing Prince's wild, ridiculous and mesmerizing dance solo, I am now hooked on this remix. I've stopped skipping the version on the Crystal Ball album now, which I never thought would happen. ("Motherf*$%#@s!") 

"I Love U in Me"

This isn't a song I revisit often, but there's something about hearing it live on guitar instead of on piano on the record. It's captivating. 

"Starfish and Coffee"

Here's what I tweeted after I saw this for the first time.

"Man, the NPG was getting even tighter at the beginning of ‘96 before #Prince switched up the band. Watching them perform this Latin jazz rendition of “Starfish and Coffee.” Good lord, Michael, Sonny and Tommy!"

"The Cross"

The guitar solo is a must-hear.

"Vicki Waiting"

I'm biased because this is one of my all-time favorite Prince songs. He takes it to church live. Mayte Garcia and the props are a little distracting here. Just try your best to enjoy the organ. 

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Saturday, July 25, 2020

"Annie Christian" - Song of the Month

Each month I will share some brief, personal thoughts on one of my favorite Prince songs.

I'm intrigued by "religious Prince" and "quirky Prince," so it makes sense that "Annie Christian" is one of my favorite tracks on his 1981 album, Controversy. Though I was too young to remember the "Satanic Panic" in popular culture, it was alive and well in my Christian household. I grew up believing in the existence of the devil and his effect on the world, which I expected to end at any moment. I will always be interested in unpacking good and evil, and I enjoy analyzing how Prince did this in his music. Discovering "Annie Christian" as an adult, I dug into his narrative of the Antichrist--characterized as a woman--committing real-life crimes (the Atlanta child murders, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, etc.) and considered different interpretations. Beyond the lyrics, I fell in love with the music, a brilliant combination of punk and funk. It's certainly the album's oddest track, with its keyboard wizardry, handclaps and chants, but my favorite part is the way the guitar line adds color throughout the track.

Prince took "Annie Christian" to another level live; there are some musical alterations and both he and Dez Dickerson are absolutely shredding on guitar. It's electrifying! Hearing the song with a full band made me more impressed that Prince composed and recorded all of the parts himself. Before I found other Prince fans online, I tried in vain to turn a couple friends on to "Annie Christian." One liked the line, "I'll live my life in taxicabs," but wasn't moved by the message of looking over your shoulder in a world of unspeakable evil. Another liked Prince as a guitarist, but complained that the live version was "a little too out there." There are plenty of Prince songs I don't like, but I'm not sure any are too weird for me. Perhaps I'll give that some thought for a future blog post...

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Friday, July 17, 2020

"A Lonely Painter" - Favorite Tracks on "One Nite Alone"

It's no secret that Prince's 2001 album, The Rainbow Children, is extremely important to me. It's really the reason for my life's work--my book. It's funny that I don't have the same relationship with the One Nite Alone album, which was released just one year later. Honestly, it's probably because it just wasn't available to me at the time; I literally plucked The Rainbow Children from my local library. One Nite Alone wasn't there.

I came to One Nite Alone much later in life, and I have many hours to spend with it before I can form an in-depth opinion. But I'm excited to talk about it right now because I can focus on the music and lyrics instead of its connection to my life, with the exception of "Arboretum," which is dear to my heart.

 Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

It was difficult to select just a few favorite tracks because the entire album is really strong. It showcases his talent on piano; there are moments when I'm actually shouting, "Come on, Prince!" I'm looking forward to finding even more gems when I listen with headphones. I also hear the influence of Stevie Wonder on both "Objects in the Mirror" and "Arboretum." And Prince's voice, as always, is impeccable.

Prince also shows off his skill as a poet. The songs tackle everything from sex and domesticity to heartbreak and happiness. There's also a discussion of race.

Here are the songs I have on repeat.

"Have a Heart"

In my opinion, this is the best track on the album. I wish it were longer, but I'm happy he brings the theme back in the very next song, "Objects in the Mirror" (what a great metaphor), which I'd like to claim as an extension of "Have a Heart." First of all, I literally wrote down the word "savage" in my notes because the lyrics are biting. You wouldn't necessarily think he was taking digs, given the tone of the music. I can't get the melody out of my head, and his vocal arrangements are golden ("Everybody's had one seeeee").


I get chills each time I hit play. This is one of those occasions when Prince tells a very specific story in a song. There are several layers here. There's shock that some may feel at learning--or being forced to face--the true views of Abraham Lincoln, who is supposed to be an American hero. Then, there's the overall message that Black people do not have total freedom in this country. Think about the Emancipation Proclamation not being immediately enforced and the loopholes in the 13th Amendment--or take your pick from the various forms of systemic racism oppressing people from Reconstruction to the present-day. It's no surprise that Prince also sings about the inequality in the music industry; he mentions another figure, white record producer and talent scout John Hammond, credited with furthering the careers of Black artists like Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin and George Benson. Though Hammond is beloved and celebrated, Prince may have been concerned about possible exploitation of Black artists, and their introduction to a music industry that has historically swindled them out of ownership of their songs and fair compensation. Prince also makes a reference to the killing of Native Americans. He compares individual acts of racism to "every snowflake in an avalanche," which, to me, is a fitting metaphor for the massive impact of white supremacy.


"U're Gonna C Me"

Prince's acoustic albums are never quite acoustic. I love the extra, ambient sounds on this song. It might have just been "OK" to me, but the descending piano lines and chords take it to another level. I also love that the track is unresolved at the end. There are some naughty lyrics, corny lyrics and charming lyrics--but I like it all. Also, Prince is not always up-to-date on his technology references, so I'm proud that he talked about the two-way pager, which was actually popular when he released this album. However, by the time he re-recorded this song for MPLSound in 2009, it was out of style. Heck, when he sang, "In this digital age, you could just page me," on "Somewhere Here on Earth" in 2007, I was looking at him a little funny.

"A Case of U"

Joni Mitchell's music really suits Prince's falsetto and singing style. Pay attention to his vocal arrangements. I love how he puts his own, gospel-flavored spin on the song with his piano chords and the addition of the organ. It's also delightful to hear his brief, vocal exclamation when he's feeling his solo. I don't think I'm a huge fan of the coda; I wouldn't mind if he just played one measure and faded out right away so we'd all go, "Wait, what was that?" He was smart to leave it out when he submitted the song to the 2007 tribute album to Mitchell. The song is also dedicated to his father, John L. Nelson, who died a year before the album came out. I like to think of this whole Prince era as a tribute to him.

Related Content
Prince and Joni Mitchell
"The Rainbow Children": Three Bible Verses to Know
"Up All Nite with Prince" podcast

"Pearls B4 the Swine"

What a bright, beautiful ditty with an undercurrent of sadness. Using a Biblical reference, Prince lays out what seems to be deeply personal commentary on a relationship, be it with a life partner, the music industry or both. Also, the chorus is absolutely gorgeous.

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