Nate's Top Ten List Of Prince Albums Pre-1990*
*yes, this list would be remarkably similar without the date stipulation. But Musicology was amazing, and I’m withholding any further judgement until this new thing drops, because if ‘Breakfast Can Wait’ is any indication…just saying…
1. Dirty Mind
If I’m being completely honest, you catch me on a different day and I could just as easily swap the 1 and 2 slots here. In every way that Purple Rain is refined, expansive, and anthemic, Dirty Mind is jangly, claustrophobic, and raw…in all the best ways possible. Never has a pocket so jittery and a guitar tone so thin made me want to dance so hard (sit down, Stevie, we’re not talking to you right now). Its also completely impossible to separate my feelings towards this album from the knowledge that 97% of it was performed by Prince all by his lonesome at the age of 22…so there’s you’re daily helping of “what am I doing with my life”…
2. Purple Rain
It is very difficult for me to imagine anyone composing a single note melody as emotionally evocative as “I Would Die 4 U.” Just can't imagine thats ever gonna happen again. Also, the Three Musketeers of a closing trio with “I Would Die 4 U > Baby I’m A Star > Purple Rain.” Also, try kicking in the door with something that’s not “Let’s Go Crazy.” Also I know it’s not technically on the album, but Beyonce’s cover of “The Beautiful Ones” from Glastonbury makes me feel way more things than I’m prepared to deal with. Also you managed to get away with “Computer Blue.” Congrats on that.
3. Sign Of The Times
This is another tough one for me…if you’re just talking the best material off the album, between “Adore,” “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker,” “If I Was Your Girlfriend” and “I Could Never Take The Place of Your Man” Sign would probably have the top spot locked up. But it’s incredibly difficult to keep that kind of pace through 16 songs, not to mention to keep any type of thematic cohesion (never completely been Prince’s bag, but nonetheless…). Don’t get me wrong, I’ll blast this thing front to back any day of the week. But I could also definitely survive without “U Got The Look”…
Two things: The first time I ever heard the outro to “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” I was on the way from Massachusetts to New York for a show, and almost drove off the road. Hands down one of my favorite album closers, one of the most startlingly and aggressively beautiful musical moments I’ve heard. Secondly: I don't think there is a single snare hit that makes me feel as good as the opening to “I Wanna Be Your Lover.” Rest of that tunes’s pretty high up on my list as well.
This is where it starts getting more complicated. Controversy is by no means a perfect album, and in many ways feels to be an extension of Prince and Dirty Mind rather than a notable step forward, creatively speaking. That being said, “Private Joy” definitely comes in towards the top of my sleeper favorites, and “Do Me Baby” will always hold a special place in my heart, if only because of its role in inspiring D’angelo and Raphael Saadiq to compose “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”
It just never clicked for me. Hands down some of the strongest tunes in Prince’s catalogue. But on the whole…I don’t know. On some level I think it has to do with holding the entire album up to the standard of its best songs (two of which happen to be the openers), which I know isn’t entirely fair…but I’m also the one making the list, sooooooo….
God damn it this is a weird album. Barely accessible (arguably deliberately so), with the exception of “Kiss,” which doesn't come in until three quarters of the way through. At the same time, there is something remarkably genuine, and as a result evocative, in the insanity/eccentricity, which is missing from many of his other similarly bizarre releases.
8. For You
Dude was 19. I just cant.
I hate how much I love the beginning of this album, if only because of how badly it builds me up for the let down that is everything after “Alphabet St.” Again, not to say its awful…it just never quite holds onto the momentum.
I’ll give you “Partyman.” I’ll give you writing lyrics and crediting yourself as different characters from the movie. But in all the ways Dirty Mind thrived in its claustrophobia, Batman constantly feels strangled, like its reaching for something more expansive than its ever capable of accomplishing. You could argue that's a product of production more than composition, but with Prince I’m not sure you can ever fully separate the two.
“Honorable” mention: Around the World In A Day:
-Even if you weren’t trying to follow up one of the greatest albums of the preceding twenty years…even if you had never made an album before this one…nah man. Go to bed. Sleep it off.