The Purple One has returned to streaming services, and the world is a better place because of that. It has been nearly a year since his passing and much has been said of his brilliance, from his ability to play virtually any instrument, to hilarious things like not saying a single word to Sheena Easton while on a date. There’s no sense in wasting time saying more about why Prince matters and why he is awesome.
If you really need evidence of that, then look no further than the music. Prince’s songs are back on services like Amazon, Spotify and Napster (?!) after wallowing in an exclusivity deal for 18 months on Tidal (I have never met a person subscribed to Tidal). But if you’re going to listen to Prince, it is worth noting that he was more than just a greatest hits collection. Prince was the single weirdest, least accessible popular artist of all time. I love Purple Rain and tracks like “1999” or “Kiss,” but to fully capture the essence of Prince you can’t latch onto your standard Top 40 fare.
Through the very scientific method of sitting in front of my computer and thinking about what Prince songs I like, I’ve determined the five songs you would never think to listen to but should drop everything to play right now.
“Electric Chair,” Batman (1989) – Before I knew who Prince even was, I was already a fan thanks to Tim Burton’s first Batman flick. The second track on Prince’s criminally underrated soundtrack, “Electric Chair” features that glorious big ‘80s drum sound with Prince throwing down funky guitar and some epic layered leads, as well as a feisty solo. And of course he is singing about sex, as is the case with essentially every song he made ever. Basically, this is the exact type of song you’d expect in a Batman movie. Just a tasty, funky jam. Noteworthy Saturday Night Live performance, too.
“The Continental,” The Love Symbol Album (1992) – When Prince died, this was the first song I turned on. It sums him up so well. He was an unfathomably sexual little man and “The Continental” perfectly encapsulates that. And it sounds cool as shit. You have his distorted guitar cutting in like a buzzsaw, horns, his absurd falsetto, and even Carmen Electra doing a bit at the end. And the lyrics are the ultimate in Prince in 1992. “I be like, ‘Yeah, mang,’” is an actual line and his delivery makes me laugh every time. And don’t forget the classic, “I want to kiss you like you know you want to be kissed, all tongue, yeah, that’s right I want all your germs.” If somebody else wrote that you’d think they’re an asshole. Prince writes that and you laugh because it’s Prince being Prince.
“Bambi,” Prince (1979) – This song is ridiculous and rocks “bigly” as they say. The Purple One cranks out a heavy guitar riff for the ages and screeches and squeals about how he wants to have sex with a lesbian. When you hear that description you may think, “Of course Prince has a song like that,” but even that doesn’t prepare you for it. This little dude rocks the fuck out here, culminating in one of the best guitar solos of his career. The entire outro is such a monster I can’t even listen to it while driving anymore because I foam out the mouth and lose consciousness. It rocks, it grooves, it makes you chuckle a little – what more do you need out of a song?
“D.M.S.R.,” 1999 (1982) – “All I wanna do is dance, play music, sex, romance, and try my best to never get bored.” Just like that Prince makes the definitive statement about his life. If you have eight minutes to spare, then you should take the time to listen to this funk masterpiece. The only other person on this track is Lisa Coleman, who would go on to be part of the Revolution. She is just there to sing some backups, the rest is Prince funkin’ around and singing about the four things that mattered most to him. In a video from the NAACP Image Awards many moons ago, you see young Senator Obama getting down to “D.M.S.R.” for a quick second. Good stuff.
“777-9311,” What Time Is It?, The Time (1982) – If you have another eight minutes, here you go. After picking all songs from successful albums, I had to think deep here. The Time’s albums never left streaming services, but the Time is the most successful and awesome of all the acts Prince created or helped, as evidenced by Jay’s rant and the inclusion of “Jungle Love” in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Their first two studio albums consisted of Prince playing everything and Morris Day singing over Prince’s vocal demos, and they are fucking excellent. “777-9311” is the greatest Time song of all. Prince jams out on a funky bass line while Morris does his thing and finally calls out to “Terry” for a guitar solo. In reality it is Prince playing the solo, and his guitar does merciless, deadly things. My favorite of all his solos.
There you have it. If you’re hungry for more, watch the video for “U Got the Look” since that song jams hard and Prince is a ridiculous person to watch. Then pirate the out-of-print, mid-’90s epic The Gold Experience since it is secretly one of his best albums and the production is so crisp and beautiful. Don’t settle for 4Ever or some other compilation. There is a whole world of purple brilliance out there to discover.