To call Prince a musician is to minimize his impact, but above all else, he was a crafter of songs.
As the news broke of his death our thoughts turned to the many remarkable songs by the multi-talented Prince. Here’s the list of top 10 tracks from the man who we will all dearly miss.
10. “She’s Always in My Hair” A psychedelic rocker with a terse guitar riff and staccato keyboard part, this 1985 song shows how Prince set the template for the kind of rhythm heavy, futuristic rock that similarly forward-thinking artists like Andre 3000, Janelle Monae, and MGMT would later follow.
9. “Controversy” An epic disco hook, in-the-pocket chicken-scratch guitar, and a young Prince asking the questions that he’d spend years struggling gloriously to answer: “Do I believe in god? / Do I believe in me?”
8. “When Doves Cry” From disparate parts — Oedipal lyrics, a simple drum machine riff, a mechanical vocal performance — Prince crafts something mysterious and moving. Try to find the full-length album version, which features a nicely haughty neo-classical keyboard interlude.ï¿½
7. “Raspberry Beret” Utterly charming Beatlesesque acoustic pop. “Sweet” is not a word normally associated with Prince, but “Raspberry Beret” spends 3:31 reveling in the first blush of love.
6. “Sometimes it Snows in April” Even though it spawned both “Kiss” and this ethereal ballad, 1986’s Parade is an often-overlooked jewel in Prince’s crown. Seek it out for “April” alone — a heartbreaking goodbye to a recently departed friend that sounds as if it was recorded in a heavenly cloud.
5. “Kiss” A skittery rhythm guitar part + a hiccupping falsetto vocal + not much else = a No. 1 hit. It’s hard to sound this simply awesome.
4. “Erotic City” A b-side from the Purple Rain days, “Erotic City” is a prime example of Prince’s ability to blend danceable music with almost avant-garde production techniques. Check out the way the song’s fat backbeat is surrounded by strange, high-pitched vocals and overdriven electric guitar.
3. “I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man” The sheer musical talent necessary to play a song that moves from folk rock into a psychedelic Latin jam and then climaxes in a shredding guitar solo is one thing. But Prince also had the creative imagination to think to do it.
2. “When You Were Mine” Built on a simple beat, dry rhythm guitar, and squiggly keyboard, this minimal new wave rocker is as catchy as anything heralded bands like the Cars or the Bangles ever put out — and those groups never put their go-go melodies to lyrics that allude to a three-way.
1. “Purple Rain” This gorgeous gospel ballad is Prince’s “Hey Jude,” his “Stairway to Heaven,” his undeniable stadium-rousing anthem. It’s also a rare instance of an epic-length song where the come-down is just as memorable as the build-up.