Prince's Top 10 tracks: Essential works in an artist's sublime career
We can spend the rest of the week – or, really, the rest of our lives – mourning the death of Prince Rogers Nelson, a.k.a. Prince, a.k.a. that unpronounceable symbol that was once dubbed Love Symbol No. 2.
But instead of wallowing in grief and expending our energy wondering what the rest of Prince's life might have looked like, we should celebrate the man, and his wonderfully sublime music.
It is, if we can speculate for just a moment, what Prince would have wanted.
1. When Doves Cry (1984)
The lead single from Prince's landmark album Purple Rain was the artist's first worldwide hit, but more than that, it was an early crystallization of his singular style: a ballad that's also pure pop, with enough heartache laced through it to cut the most cynical of music fans to the core.
2. Sign o' the Times (1987)
Just try to get this keyboard riff out of your head as you float along Prince's spare yet transcendent arrangement. After working the charts to expert effect with his albums Parade and Around the World in a Day, this single was the first indication that Prince had larger, more complex ideas in mind.
3. Kiss (1986)
In a clear example that the record industry has no idea what it's talking about, Warner Bros. pushed against releasing "Kiss" as a single, perhaps thinking it wouldn't match the heights of "When Doves Cry" or "Let's Go Crazy." Naturally, the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but more importantly, it's an ear-worm masterpiece that perfectly fuses funk and rock. I bet you're humming it right now.
4. Purple Rain (1984)
At his best, which was often, Prince could take myriad genres and both harmonize and reinvent them within the span of three minutes or so. "Purple Rain" is perhaps the best example of this freakishly impressive talent, with the artist mixing rock, pop, gospel, blues, a tiny bit of jazz and even orchestral music into one epic track that will cement his reputation for generations to come.
5. Let's Go Crazy (1984)
The opening organ solo is enough to send any listener into a rabbit hole of '80s nostalgia. But more than that, Prince's concert staple is a riotous roller coaster of joy.
6. I Would Die 4 U (1984)
As if Prince reached into the chest of every teenager in North America and ripped out their still-beating heart. And then set that gruesome act to song. This is a huge compliment, by the way.
7. Cream (1991)
If we're being honest with each other – and Prince would demand nothing less – the artist's best, most memorable work occurred in the '80s. That's not to say he wasn't a prolific beast of a musician throughout his short life, but rare are the '90s or early aughts standout tracks. Yet "Cream," off the 1991 album Diamonds and Pearls, is a vital track that flicks at notions of vanity and excess in just the right amounts.
8. Somebody's Somebody (1997)
OK, one more essential Prince track from outside the '80s: this thick, deep ballad off his Emancipation album – the one in which he adopted the aforementioned unpronounceable symbol to promote. It was, we can all agree, an ill-conceived stunt, but this lone song was worth it.
9. Raspberry Beret (1985)
The musical embodiment of cruising through your favourite neighbourhood with the top down, the sun blistering your skin to the point that you just don't care. Oh, and add a few hot bouts of sex. Lots and lots of sex.
10. Batdance (1989)
OK, you might laugh, but this track from Tim Burton's first Batman film – oh, for the days when Zack Snyder wasn't in charge of our superheroes! – is a witty and deliciously cheesy send-off to a decade that, save Prince's contribution, most of us would rather forget.
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