Friday, March 27, 2020

"We Need a Purple High" - Lesser-Known Prince Podcast Episodes

      Photo by Jason Breininger

Whether it's books, blogs or video broadcasts, I spend a lot of time engaging content created by other superfans. While I love participating in such a fun, knowledgeable community, sometimes it's refreshing to step outside of the purple bubble to hear how casual fans feel about Prince.

Recently, I stumbled upon a few mainstream podcasts and I was delighted to find some Prince-related episodes among them. See below and please enjoy.

"Hit Parade": "Le Petty Prince Edition"

Slate's "Hit Parade" podcast is critic Chris Molanphy's well-researched show about popular music history with emphasis on chart analysis. His recent episode on Whitney Houston's career and what it means to have "crossover" success was amazing. So, I was really excited to check out his episode about Tom Petty and Prince from 2017.

Molanphy lays out the many parallels between Petty and Prince, including their chart dominance, success writing for other artists and record label battles. It gave me a new appreciation for Petty, whose career I didn't follow previously. And it was nice to hear how much Petty admired Prince, despite the Purple One's playful teasing during the greatest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction performance of all time.

"Rolling Stone Music Now": "The Power and Glory of Prince"

This episode of the music magazine's podcast came out just days after Prince passed away. The best part is hearing writer Brian Hiatt talk about his experience interviewing Prince for a 2014 cover story that was shelved until 2016. There are wonderful, behind-the-scenes tidbits, like the fact that Hiatt was quizzed on black artists before the interview began. I'm also glad Hiatt shared more information about their discussions on music. "He was as passionate and convincing a music fan as anyone I've ever spoken to in my life," Hiatt said. "He made me want to listen to whatever he was talking about, even if it was stuff I already loved."

"Switched on Pop": "Why U Love 2 Listen 2 Prince" 

Because this podcast is co-hosted by a musicologist, Nate Sloan, I find it more compelling than your average pop podcast. And this episode features guest Anil Dash, a technologist and entrepreneur who is well-known in the Prince fan community. But this was my first experience hearing Dash's take on the impact of technology on the sound of Prince's music. And I enjoyed hearing Dash's perspective on Prince's early adoption of the internet because Dash was there online in real time consuming the music. (Go even deeper on Dash's own podcast, "Function.") You can hear Sloan's mind being blown by Dash's analysis, which is evidence that even music aficionados haven't even scratched the surface on Prince. Come on, people!

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Friday, March 20, 2020

"She Loves Me 4 Me" - Song of the Month

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

On April 17, I'll have my hands on the vinyl reissue of Prince's 2001 album, The Rainbow Children. I'm hoping the world will be in a better state, but, come what may, the music will provide the necessary joy and comfort. When I hear "She Loves Me 4 Me," I think back to the summer before I started college. I was living in a cramped room in my mother's house and I think I was working a retail job I hated, but I had a copy of The Rainbow Children on CD to lift my spirits. This is one of the most beautiful songs Prince has ever written, and I hope more people in the general public hear it so they can appreciate the breadth of his talent. I remember listening to the lyrics and feeling so happy for him. "I don't have to live up to no one's fantasy/I can write another 300 melodies, but to her it's just three, 'cause this one, she loves me for me," he sings. So many of us love Prince for his music, but it was great to think of him finding someone--or yearning for someone--who could appreciate him for who he was behind the image he worked so hard to maintain. I drank in every phrase and guitar lick. Even though he was very Christian at that point, he still slid a naughty line in there: "She got the ride that I like to ride" (listen to that sexy guitar part underneath). I loved thinking about the possibility of settling down with someone who could meet all of your needs. I remember playing this song for my mom (she probably didn't like it as much as I thought she did) and gushing about this album. It's truly the project that made me a devoted fan. Thanks, Prince.

What's your favorite song on the album? 

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Friday, March 13, 2020

"The New Power Generation" - My Niece's Thoughts on Prince

This is the final installment of my "Prince + Family Series," which has featured my dad and my mom. I wanted to get the opinion of someone younger. My niece is 13 years old and an artist herself, so I thought she'd be the perfect subject.

Our interview reinforced a few things: The young people in your life are always paying attention to your interests; Prince still inspires discussions about gender and sexuality; and his talent is undeniable.

As part of our chat, I showed my niece three Prince videos. I wanted to capture different periods of his career and pick clips that would keep her attention. And I chose a personal favorite of mine from the '90s era. I recorded her immediate reactions.

At the end of the post, you'll see a quick discussion with my sister—the only person on the planet who likes the movie Graffiti Bridge as much as I do.

Interview with My Niece

What do you know about Prince?

His song "Purple Rain" was a big hit in America and he would always wear high-heeled boots, eyeliner, mascara and always have a dot on his face, right on his cheekbone—I think it was a mole or maybe he placed it there. And he would always wear nice suits. And I didn’t understand why he would wear (what he wore). At first I thought he was gay. ... He played a lot of instruments. I heard that he was a very good musician. I heard he was really talented.

What do you remember about the day he died?

I was in my living room. We were watching the news; I think it was the "Today" show. We [eventually] heard he died from an overdose. We were so surprised. ... I was like, “Oh my gosh, all the legends are dying.” It was kinda sad. I didn’t really listen to his music, but I know he was a legend.

You know more than I thought you did.

I always do my research. I knew that you, Auntie, loved him and I was just like, "Why does she love him so much?" So I looked on YouTube, saw some of his shows. Me and my stepdad were watching a documentary on TV and I saw the high-heeled boots. They talked about the makeup and the magazines. They talked about him and his wife. I looked at how he was dancing in those high-heeled boots and I was just like, "My back would be hurting if I was dancing in some heels, too."

I don’t really think about him that much anymore now that he’s deceased. I wasn’t really into his music. Michael Jackson was the go-to. But some people are real Prince fans so I think they might know more than I do.

My Niece's Reactions to Prince's Videos

“Kiss” (1986)

Back then (those midriff shirts) didn’t mean you were gay or bi. Men would wear that. This is jammin’. He always had that little booty. I guess I would be attracted to him in some way. He’s goofy.

Ayee, get it! Ayee, get it!

Why is (the woman) wearing that on her head?

“Willing and Able” (1991)

He’s wearing a scarf that you wear to bed! Oh my gosh, those heels …

It was kinda weird that he was wearing that [outfit]—the clothes and the heels. I’m still confused about why he’s wearing that stuff. It’s nice but if I was to date him, and we’re getting ready, we both have to do our makeup, we both have to put on our heels. But that’s him.

I think the video overall was pretty nice. I like how they arranged it with the cameras and I like the singers. They were really good. I wonder who that one singer was [Rosie Gaines]. It wasn’t as interesting as “Kiss,” [though]. That had a little bit more funk to it. This one is like a jazz-pop song.

“Black Sweat” (2006)

I was born in 2006!

His hairstyle has changed. He looks older. I think he looks a little bit more masculine as he got older. It’s funny because you don’t see him moving around as much.

Um … why do they have that lady screaming like that?

That was really, really cool. [But] I didn’t understand the purpose of “Black Sweat.” She’s black and she’s sweating? Is she mad because there’s sweat on her?

No song I’ve heard of his is boring. Usually, people make albums and then it’ll be like one good song and then the rest will sound like they’re practicing. But he sounds like he knows what he’s doing. He looks handsome.

Of the three videos, which is your favorite?

“Black Sweat.” It was chill and it was up-to-date. 

Does this make you want to listen to more of his music?

Yeah, I want to know more about him but I feel like it would make me sad because I would wish I would have met him. So I think I’ll stay where I’m at. 

Q&A with My Sister

Why do you like Graffiti Bridge?

I think it’s just what we were exposed to [when we were younger]. I thought he was weird, of course, but I enjoyed the songs and the rivalry between him and Morris Day in the movie. I thought that was funny and I felt sorry for [Prince] because they made fun of him, but it was entertaining. I like Tevin Campbell’s song, too. The music is the best part of the movie. 

How does your relationship with Michael Jackson compare?

I was more of a Michael Jackson fan, so I paid more attention to him than anybody. I couldn’t believe that you got into Prince so heavily because we grew up with Michael. You can’t really compare the two artists. They’re worlds apart. The only difference between he and Michael that puts Prince just a notch above is that he is a musician who played all those instruments. [But] I remember as a young kid feeling like I was going to pass out when I saw other people pass out from seeing Michael, and how big he was and almost not even human. 

I just feel like Prince was more controversial, not only his music, but how he lived his life before the whole Jehovah’s Witness thing. It’s what people are accepting and doing now and he was doing that 20 years ago. He didn’t have a gender [expression]. He wasn’t male or female, really. He was just queer [aesthetically]. He set a precedent for what we see now. He was called weird then, but it’s accepted now, so he was ahead of his time. 

Would you call yourself a Prince fan?

I don’t know enough. I can’t even really remember the song titles. I remember the music. I never thought to go to a concert. I’m saddened that I wasn’t able to go to a Michael Jackson concert and I grew up watching Michael Jackson’s videos over and over again, listening to his music over and over again, practicing his moves over and over again and idolizing all of his choreography and trying to learn every bit of it. I didn’t do that with Prince.

Do you think Prince is a good dancer?

I thought he was cool and he’s talented, but I never thought of him as a dancer. I think it’s neat acrobatics. 

Final thoughts? 

I respect him. I respect his talent. He gave other artists a position to be who they are and opened doors for other artists.

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Friday, March 6, 2020

"Just Like My Mother" - Mom's Thoughts on Prince

From left: Me, Mom and my sister

Last week, I interviewed my dad about Prince. This week, the focus is on my mom, another person who influenced my musical tastes. However, I think when you're growing up, you sometimes assume things about your family members' perspectives instead of asking them directly. Doing this interview with my mom gave me a better understanding of her relationship with Prince's music.

(And yes, just as I've neglected my dad, I need to do a better job of buying Prince music for my mom -- though only a little bit at a time.)

As I mentioned last week, she was born the same year as Prince and experienced his talent in real time. Here's her take on Prince in her customarily funny and blunt manner.

What was your impression of Prince's early career?

I was shocked to see his picture on his album cover [Prince, 1979]. He was naked and I guess back at that time, you're not used to seeing that. It was like, "Ooh, who is this guy?" He was new and it made you actually listen to his music.

And you said your older brother (Uncle Jr.) used to talk about Prince, right?

Well, by Jr. being a musician himself and playing the guitar himself, he was listening to the guitar when he was listening to his music. He used to always say, "That guy is gifted and he's getting ready to go big." He said, "He's a genius." All he ever talked about was Prince.

I thought Prince was ahead of his time as far as his type of music. I really liked him, everything about him. He was more rock 'n' roll because of the way he played his guitar, the heels he wore and the clothes he wore. Some of his music I couldn't get into.

Like what?

"Little Red Corvette" (1982). ... We were more into funk.

And you didn't like Dirty Mind (1980), right?

I could not get into that. That's what I mean; Prince was way out there. [Some of] Prince's music only meant something to him.

Dad said you didn't like that Prince put "The Lord's Prayer" in "Controversy" (1981). Why not?

Because of the type of person he was and everything he sung about and the way he acted, and then you're going to throw "The Lord's Prayer" in there? No.

I never bought his albums. I bought certain songs that I like. I think what really put me over on some of his songs was when he did the movie Purple Rain (1984).

What did you like about the movie?

It was silly. It was more of a comedy, but the music I really enjoyed and The Revolution [band]. That band is bad. And you've got two women? And they were bad. I loved his group. ... When he did that "Darling Nikki" on the stage, that was cold-blooded.

[But] Prince can't act. ... A lot of people watched Purple Rain because it was Prince and then once they watched it, they enjoyed it. If it hadn't been for Morris Day and having a little comedy in there, it might not have been all that good.

Did you like Under the Cherry Moon (1986)? 

That movie sucked. It wasn't about anything and he can't act.

Most fans like Under the Cherry Moon and hate Graffiti Bridge (1990). Why do you think our family liked Graffiti Bridge so much?

I didn't.




What did you think of Prince doing the entire Batman (1989) soundtrack?

That was a very big deal. That introduced [more] people to Prince. I was wowed by that because you've got Batman, Jack Nicholson and then you've got Prince doing the music. That was big.

Even if I don't own the music, I can sing to all of it. That Batman movie was good. And then all the rest of them got darker and darker.

Do you remember telling me you felt some of Prince's music was dark?

It might not have been so much dark; it might have been weird because he was ahead of his time and we weren't used to that.

With Prince, you started off nice with "Soft and Wet," and then you showed everybody you can play a guitar, and it just seemed like he just went over the edge. He got more--not wild--but it was weird. He just got more and more weird. His music got weird. No one could understand his music.

What did you think of his name change during the '90s?

I didn't understand the symbol. [I thought], "What is he smoking?"

What did you think of his conversion to the Jehovah's Witness faith?

I think he lost a bunch of his fans, which is sad. I thought it was a good thing.

Did you pay attention to him in the 2000s? 

I don't think I bought any of his later songs. I didn't like any of it. I guess maybe I didn't pay attention.

What Prince songs are on your iPod right now?

"Scandalous," "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad," "Anotherloverholenyohead," "Diamonds and Pearls," "Adore" and "Darling Nikki." I like "Soft and Wet," I just haven't bought it yet.

Aw man, you need to have at least 30 Prince songs on there.

I mean, he can be a genius and he can be great, but I'm only going to buy what I like.

What is your all-time favorite Prince song?

"Adore." And then "Anotherloverholeinyohead." I love that!

Why didn't you see him live? 

I stopped going to any concerts when I had you and [your sister]. It was just too expensive. I just figured it's cheaper for me to buy the music.

Let's go back to that old 1980s debate: Prince or Michael Jackson?

I remember that crap. You can't compare that. Michael Jackson was a singer and performer. Prince was a musician. That's the difference. They're not in the same class. If I had to pick one I'm going to pick Prince. Not everybody can play a guitar and write music.

Overall, what did you like most about Prince?

I admired the way he performed. He's very gifted. He played the piano and he played that guitar like you wouldn't believe. I give him his props for that--with his little short self.

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