Pop Culture
Jul 08, 2010, 09:11AM

Prince vs. Anything That Happened After 1980

...except for Lisa Frank album covers.

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I’ve really tried to understand the force of nature that is Prince. There has to be something significant there for people to express such fervent dedication to what he does, but I can’t identify it. I’ve sifted through countless songs in an attempt to find something creative that talks to me, but all I’ve heard is music that would fit perfectly into the background of a really bad Super Nintendo pool hall sim. What am I missing?

I generally try to ignore Prince, but during a recent interview with the UK’s Mirror, the musician declared that the Internet was a dying medium. Coincidentally, Prince will be distributing his new album, 20TEN, as a free newspaper insert throughout Europe before it reaches the US. I’m sure there’s an enormous amount of irony in this action, considering the disastrous state of newspapers.

Prince has been adamantly opposed to distributing his music online, which is a position that even The Beatles maintained until very recently, at which point the surviving members stopped acting like Luddite tools and faced the reality that if they didn’t embrace modernity, it would be embraced for them. Of course, Prince is notorious for being a tiny, eclectic diva, existing in a reality so detached from ours that he’d likely be unable to survive the harsh rays of Earth’s yellow sun. He’s also a devout Jehovah’s Witness, a vegan, and some kind of biological amalgamation of a human and a unicorn.

However, when someone says that computers "... just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you," it has the ring of creepy, religious zealotry and intentional ignorance. Or someone who regards The Matrix as some kind of instruction manual. Kevin Smith’s Prince anecdotes indicate that the man uses a computer and has his residence completely wired, so maybe the insular world of Prince simply fears an incursion from the outside, not unlike how my grandmother believes that the phone can get a virus because I go online.

Prince doesn’t bother to explain what he means by "the internet's completely over,” nor his comparison of the Internet to the downfall of MTV’s “hip” factor. Was the Internet ever “hip” to begin with? Are we all here because of how freaking radical it is to mill around and check our e-mail for the 50th time today? Is it because of Farmville, Prince? Did someone beat your score on Bejeweled Blitz?

If Prince is talking about the rise of Web 2.0 and the amount of hollow garbage that has been propagated on the Internet because of it, maybe he’s right. It’s ignorant to expect an anonymous crowd to produce a fair amount of quality content, or to moderate itself successfully, which was evidenced by the Justin Bieber death rumors which swarmed YouTube through an easily exploited security breach. For the lawless, “wild west” reputation that the Internet has attained, I think we’re doing okay thus far. Let the Vlogbrothers stand as evidence for the powers of good.

To counteract the junk, an Internet user develops mental tools that enable them to sift through information that is incorrect, exploitative, or simply not worthwhile. This idea is the basis for information science, and if you develop these skills, you’d make an excellent librarian. Of course, it’s also been declared that libraries are dying, which is something that sounds a bit more credible when it doesn’t come from the region of Prince’s delicately-coiffed semi-beard.

Perhaps he’s talking about the fact that as Web 2.0 begins to fold in on itself, Internet moderation is rising: the fabled Internet kill-switch, FCC regulations coming down on bloggers and the ongoing battle over exactly what copyright means in a digital age where high-quality duplication is nearly instantaneous. Is Web 3.0, in which we focus on condensing this miasma of information down to useful resources, terminally uncool?

I defend the Internet as often as I can, because it’s not nearly as horrific as the nightly news, or my grandmother, would lead you to believe. It will surely evolve into something that isn’t even recognizable as “the Internet” anymore, but you have to remember that each advancement in communication is predicated on the ones that come before it. Prince declaring the death of the Internet is as accurate as Roger Ebert declaring that video games aren’t art, or Grandpa Recording refusing to sign The Beatles because guitar music was “going out of fashion.”

So, Prince, I declare that swirly, purple guitars and douche-beards are dead.

Your move.

  • When someone says of Prince's music " ... would fit perfectly into the background of a really bad Super Nintendo pool hall sim." it has the ring of creepy religous zealotry and intentional ignorance. Wether you like his music or not, Prince is one of the most talented and versatile musicians alive today. In fact, Danny Elfman is the only other living musician I can think of who has mastered more instruments and genres than Prince. As for his views on the internet, he is a rock star, not Bill Gates.

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  • I know, everyone loves Prince, but no one can seem to tell me WHY. I genuinely want to understand it. // For the record, I dig Danny Elfman.

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  • That Kevin Smith story about trying to film the Prince documentary really is just one of the greatest things I've ever seen on the internet. Everyone should follow the link to that in the article if they haven't seen it.

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  • "I know, everyone loves Prince, but no one can seem to tell me WHY." He made a ton of great albums early in his career. Fantastic guitarist — one of the only folks who really sounds like the ghost of Hendrix is somewhere around when he plays. Bizarre, sublime fusion of Beatlesy psychedelia and hard-edged James Brown funk. Just a really creative musician with a weird sense of structure and a surprisiing melange of influences. It sounds like you may either not like funk, or else not really be into eighties music? If you like Michael Jackson or Funkadelic or Outkast it's hard for me to see how you wouldn't like Prince — but, on the other hand, if you don't like any of those folks, his appeal will probably be lost on you. He's not much like Danny Elfman, I have to say (and thank God.) It seems kind of pointless to write an essay pointing out that Prince said some nutty shit — he's been doing that for a long time, and surely he's far down on the list of folks the internet needs to be defended against. But I guess it's always fun to point out that famous people are weirdos....

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  • "one of the only folks who really sounds like the ghost of Hendrix is somewhere around when he plays." That's retardedly untrue.

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  • Because Prince was a giant in the 80s, and wrote at least half a dozen rock classics, that's EXACTLY a good reason to write an essay about the "nutty shit" he's been saying. I won't put words in Collin David's mouth, since he apparently wasn't a Prince fan, but as someone who dug "Little Red Corvette," for example, it boggles my mind that Prince is so clueless today.

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  • Hey Zach. Are you arguing that lots of people sound like Hendrix, or that Prince doesn't? He's pretty clearly heavily influenced by Hendrix, and his guitar playing is much admired. Obviously he has other influences, and works in a somewhat different idiom, but I'm hardly the only one who has made the comparison. You can google yourself, but here's one link: http://www.unratedmagazine.com/Document.cfm?Page=Articles/index.cfm&Article_ID=161; I guess I can see calling it untrue, but "retardedly untrue" implies that it's so far out of the mainstream of opinion as to be unbelievable, which isn't the case.; Table, Prince has been nutty for years, though. I don't know; I don't mind another article about how he's crazy, I guess...but I'd be more interested in seeing someone really make a case for why those classic albums aren't any good. Collin only gives us one line as to what he doesn't like in Prince, referencing video games, which seems odd (Prince isn't Yellow Magic Orchestra, after all.); So — Collin? Any more thoughts on why Prince isn't musically interesting to you?

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  • No, I just think Hendrix-influenced or not, Prince is a wildly overrated guitarist.

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  • Ah, well, that's just a disagreement then. These things happen.

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  • Why write an article about how bearable Kylie Minogue is? Haven't the 12-year-old bloggers covered that beat already? Why write anything? Because sometimes, these things need a counterpoint, and someone as smart as Prince should genuinely know not to make such blanket statements about things he admits to not engaging in. And I like counterpoints. // I won't argue that he's not influential, but it's my (small) opinion that other people have done it better - and yes, probably after him. I also can't stand Genesis, U2, Dire Straits or Coldplay. // Maybe the cross-section of songs I've heard are just pathetically poor e-z listening ones, but I'm more than willing to attempt any musician more than once. For now, all I feel is complete suckage and a stupid statement from a guy who capitalizes on being 'weird'.

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  • I compared Kylie Minogue to classic blues. I guess lots of folks may have done that before. I haven't seen it though.; Why do you think Prince is smart? He's a talented musician, but I've never seen him say anything that indicates he's particularly astute. In fact, everyone more or less thinks his statements are ridiculous; they got reported as idiocy, not gospel. You're essentially piling on — which seems gratuitous, though not evil or anything.; I'm still interested in why you don't like him, though. What do you think he's doing (funk?) Who has done it better? What songs have you listened to that you don't like? To me the case against Prince's music seems more interesting and controversial than the case against his stupid public statements. I'd enjoy reading you make it.; Around the World in a Day is my favorite album of his, if you're looking for other things to try. It's his most psychedelic I think.

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  • I'll download 'Around the World' and listen to it on your recommendation - but I'm not gonna pay for it. // Anyone who fosters a character & empire like Prince has must be inherently intelligent.

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  • Fair enough! I'm curious what you'll think; easy listening and nintendo don't at all describe my experience of Prince, so I'm wondering if you just see something there I don't or if you've been listening to later albums that I've done my best to avoid.; I think there are different kinds of intelligence. Prince obviously has some business savvy and lots of musical smarts...but there's no reason to think that would translate into having anything interesting at all to say about technology or politics. Expecting wisdom from celebrities is a sure road to disappointment.

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  • I think I've never seen Price as a 'celebrity', which might be where the cognitive dissonance comes in for me. // I listened to that Prince album all weekend and I'm still trying to let it sink in, because anything that means something to someone else MUST mean something in a larger scale. I'll be back with my reaction once it gets under my skin some more. Needless to say, I didn't hate it. I have problems with it, but it's not nearly as bad as I'd expected.

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