Tribute to a Favorite Artist. Not a Woman, Not a Man, Something That You'll Never Understand. Prince.9:32:00 PM
When my mom called to tell me the bad news of Prince's passing I thought she'd fallen victim to an internet hoax. Prince? I could believe the death of the other artist who ties as my favorite, Michael Jackson, because his addiction was a public secret, but Prince? I thought his perfect unlined face and healthy frame would outlive me right into his 190s. The world's lost one of it's premiere icons, a shining example of the importance of being true to yourself and to your art.
I was born two years after the release of Prince's epochal super-hit, Purple Rain, yet via cultural osmosis and my super-fan parent's influence, I can't remember a time I wasn't playing the hell out of his records and cassettes. I watched his music videos over and over. I got to grow with the music and understand it more and more over the years; relating to the pain of Computer Blue or The Beautiful Ones as a heartbroken teen or getting into a chill artist's work-groove while making things to smooth songs like Joy in Repetition as a self-employed young adult. His music wasn't "safe" for kids, but I loved every controversial inch of it in my single-digits. His showmanship transcended the need for understanding. You could enjoy him for the electricity and emotion he bought to his performance and vocals.
I pondered the reaction to Prince's passing, not being able to help but compare it to my equal favorite, Michael. There are no Prince imitators dancing in the streets outside of Apollo theatre like there was for Michael, but it's not because he had less impact as an artist. It's because of the type of artist that he was. Michael wasn't just an icon, he was a brand. As evidenced in this adorable commercial, every kid could (and most DID) DIY themselves into THE image of Cool of the era with a white glove, cool thrift store jacket and constant work perfecting his sophisticated "Moonwalk" and footwork.
Because no one CAN imitate Prince. (As anyone who's ever humiliated themselves trying to hit the high notes in When Doves Cry or Little Red Corvette in a karaoke bar can attest.)
Prince's biggest contribution to the world was his singularity. He was extraordinarily talented, playing 27 instruments, often doing all the instrumentation on his music, and possessing a famously wide vocal range of E2-B6 (just below Mariah Carey's F2-G7). He was able to hit the highest note out of all the famous male musicians and most of the women, only beat by Christina Aguilera (#2) and Mariah (#1) and he was prolific, producing 39 studio albums and 139 music videos. Bigger than his instrument proficiency number and impressive vocal range was his carriage. Standing 5'2" with a 10 foot stage presence, sly Mona Lisa smile on full lips with a quiet confidence. With his outrageous outfits and raw, emotional performance style, NO ONE can do Prince like Prince. He straddled lines, defied genres and labels; feminine & masculine, rock 'n roll & soul, shy & extroverted, controlled & wild. No artist expressed like Prince. Can you imagine 2016's reaction to then 22-year-old Prince belting out his Dirty Mind album lyrics on stage wearing just his high heeled boots, a black speedo, trench coat and bandana the way he did to a packed stadium of screaming fans in 1980? His passing is a reminder of how bland, colorless, unchallenging, and heteronormative the music world is left in his absence.
She's just a victim of society
And all it's games.
Tell us how it's supposed to be
I thank Prince for creating a world where individuality could be celebrated. I thank him for influencing me from childhood to adulthood, for imparting lessons on artistic expression and singularity by boldly being himself. In a world of conformity to perceived gender ideals, Prince took the "negatives" of being Androgynous, Sensitive, Awkward and Weird and made them Beautiful. Us weirdos of the world are forever grateful.