Prince came into my life in waves. I’d hear him in the background at home, but it wasn’t until college that I explored his music more. My only regret is that I didn’t listen to him sooner.
When I was in college, I worked on the university’s newspaper and I took an assignment to cover a big event at a local nonprofit art house cinema. The cinema was putting on a tribute dedicated to Prince, George Michael and David Bowie, who had all recently passed away at that time. The turnout was amazing; the event was full. I interviewed people, asking them questions like what spurred them to attend and what these artists meant to them. I’ll never forget the words of one particular audience member, in which she said the music from the three men became the story of her life. The impact of those words basically sums up what those three men did to contribute to music and what their music did for audiences in turn. It was life-changing.
I was spellbound as I sang along to each music video shown on screen, singing until my voice was hoarse. Not one person was sitting down; they were all standing around me, singing as well. It’s an experience I’ll never forget. “When Doves Cry” is my personal favorite song of Prince’s, and this list comes just after the tribute made to Prince at the Grammys. While it was very cool to see artists like Usher, Chris Martin and Foo Fighters performing Prince’s songs, it will never be like the kind of zest and energy that was so purely and uniquely Prince. His songs were just fun and full of life. I dearly wish I could’ve seen him in concert.
All that said, I digress and give you my version of a perfect 10 track list of Prince’s songs.
Track 1: “When Doves Cry”
“When Doves Cry” was released as the very first single off the Purple Rain album. Indeed, it was a strong song to start off with. It certainly would’ve inspired me to buy the album just for the one song.
“When Doves Cry” carries lyrics and music that blend into a perfect harmony. Though sad given Prince is talking about a relationship that just isn’t working, the lyrics are pure poetic genius. His use of imagery is particularly strong in this song, my favorite being “Dream if you can, a courtyard/an ocean of violets in bloom.” His speculation as to why it isn’t working between them, referencing his father and mother, and providing the metaphor that when they fight, it’s doves crying, is also innovative. His lyrics are like none other; his creativity is unparalleled.
Even the music video is captivating, the opening image of Prince in a steaming bathtub, rising and then holding out his arm, as though reaching into the audience, is alluring. He’s drawing you in, making you want more, and captivating you from start to finish until you discover what he wants and what he means.
Track 2: “Raspberry Beret”
It’s always been intriguing to me that the first thing Prince notices about the subject of his song is her raspberry beret. You never know what stands out about you, whether it be your eyes or your clothes. Prince was good about paying attention to detail. In this case, he incorporated that raspberry beret into his lyrics, telling a story about the girl wearing it.
I always love a song that tells a story. It’s like you’re getting to know the artist and the kind of person they are. I’ve always appreciated the totally ’80s graphics in the music video for the song as well. It suits Prince and his unique flair. Few songs have mastered telling a story and making the lyrics memorable and catchy, but Prince definitely makes it look easy.
Track 3: “Kiss”
Prince was definitely on a roll in the 1980s. Personally, I’ll always associate this song with Julia Roberts listening to it on her headphones and singing along with it in a bathtub in a posh Beverly Hills hotel in Pretty Woman, but maybe that’s just me.
“Kiss” is one of Prince’s best songs. It’s easy to come up with your own dance routine for it, should you so please. The lyrics are easy to remember, and what I love most about them is that Prince is addressing just about any insecurity a girl may have to impress a guy and telling her none of that matters. It’s like he’s granting permission to just be yourself and he’ll love you for it. Plus, he references 1980s pop culture in the lyric “You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude, uh.” As a film and television fan, I appreciate this particular reference.
Prince, to me, has a way of reading into the mind of the opposite gender, or just putting into words what we think, but have trouble expressing. He puts into lyrics the feelings and words we can’t find ourselves, and when we hear someone else say it, it’s like someone out there finally gets us.
Track 4: “Little Red Corvette”
Sometimes we all want something that’s bad for us, even if we know just how bad it is. This is Prince’s version of that universal struggle. The girl he’s with is some kind of player, but he goes for her anyway. Referring to her as a “Little Red Corvette” is the kind of name that’s strangely accurate, and definitely unforgettable. In my humble opinion, Prince was always good with coming up with names for his songs that would be timeless and notable.
Prince thinks he’s going to tame his little red corvette, but it’s her that has to slow down. I’ve always thought that to mean that some things are just out of your control, and if it’s too out of control, you have to let them go. Or in this case, speed away.
“You need a love that’s gonna last” is kind of like a warning, in my opinion, to the general public. You can play all you want, but when you find the love that could be forever, you hold onto it and let go of all the rest. Maybe then your little red corvette would go the speed limit.
Track 5: “1999”
Prince was ahead of his time in more ways than one. “I was dreamin’ when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray” is among the song’s opening lyrics, and I’ve always wondered what kind of dreams Prince had, as a side note.
In any case, I love the message of the song. You don’t know how long you have, so you take advantage of the here and now. You party like it’s 1999. Prince has a point. His songs carry many great messages, but this is one of my favorites because it reminds me to keep moving forward and live life to the fullest. You never know what’s around the corner.
It’s already a guarantee that most of us will never take advantage of a simple trip to the grocery store or going to see a movie when all this is over ever again. A lot of us are going to be partying like it’s 1999—until then, we’re partying like it’s 1999 at home. At least, I will be.
Track 6: “Purple Rain”
What would this list be without “Purple Rain”? It would be the crime of the century to forget it. It’s basically Prince’s personal signature on the world. At least, one of them.
“Purple Rain” was actually the final song Prince performed just days before he died. There couldn’t have been a more suiting song for the singer to end his performance with, though no one at the time had any way of knowing the significance it would bring.
“I never meant to cause you any sorrow/I never meant to cause you any pain…I only wanted to see you/Laughing in the purple rain” are some of his most beautiful lyrics, and it seems like the perfect goodbye. A goodbye that came too soon, but at least in his goodbye, without knowing it, he told his fans it was okay. He never meant to cause any pain, and I’m sure he always wanted us laughing in the purple rain. That’s just the kind of person Prince was. He wouldn’t want us to mourn, he’d want us to celebrate. Listening to his music is one of the best ways to do it.
Track 7: “I Would Die 4 U”
Prince speaks as though he is an entity, something unseen, but always guiding. His lyrics are majestic and wholesome, soothing and reassuring.
Even if you are alone, it’s like he’s telling you there’s something out there ensuring you aren’t. It will “make you good when you are bad” and “make you happy when you’re sad.” This entity has your best interests at heart, even if you’re a sinner, you’ll always be worth saving.
It’s a nice thing to hear, in any case. It’s a reminder that all lives matter, no matter what you’ve done. You are worth saving, you are worth having in the world, and there is always something or someone watching over you. It’s a wonderful, beautiful thing to believe in if you want to.
Track 8: “Let’s Go Crazy”
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today/To get through this thing called life.”
Who doesn’t love a song that starts off like that? We’re all in the same boat. Prince uniting us in that universal fact and making it fun is just part of his talent and overall allure. We love him for all sorts of reasons, but being able to unite us and make a great song out of it is definitely among the top reasons. We’re not letting anything bring us down, we’re always going crazy one way or another. Life’s too short to stand in place.
Even if you don’t like the world you’re living in, Prince reminds us to “take a look around you, at least you got friends.” You can change you world, but not so much so that you forget who you have and leave them behind or take them for granted. Friends are there to support you and vice versa. Life might be hard, but it’s much easier when you have people in your corner.
The song is also about rising above. Don’t let any elevators bring you down.
Track 9: “Delirious”
Prince isn’t unlike anyone else experiencing a relationship, especially a new one. He gets delirious whenever his girl is around. Don’t we all have those moments when we freeze, get a little tongue-tied, or just can’t stop sweating because we’re around the person we like? It’s almost like a drug, intoxicating and addicting. You can’t think straight, they render you speechless.
Even holding hands is a delirious experience for Prince, as his “body gets so weak I can hardly stand.” He loses “all self-control, baby just can’t steer.” He puts into words the feeling of being unable to think or take back control of his own steering wheel, so to speak. It’s a relatable feeling, and when you put into words what everyone feels and make it a hit song like “Delirious”, you know you’ve got a timeless classic on your hands.
Track 10: “Gett Off”
I’ve been a fan of this song ever since I heard Hilary Swank’s character singing it during karaoke in 2007’s P.S. I Love You.
It’s one of Prince’s more promiscuous and undoubtedly dirty songs. Yet, you can’t help yourself, you just have to sing along. The song’s flow and rhythm is absolutely perfect. And, well, it’s definitely a fun track to sing at karaoke, especially if it’s for your significant other.
Sometimes you just need a good song to let loose to, and this is definitely it. If you’re feeling sexy or daring, or just want to put on a good show for your significant other, this song comes highly recommended.