The loss of Prince shook the music world and his life and message continues to inspire millions around the globe. Over his lifetime, Prince released nearly 40 albums and dominated the Eighties with his innovative fusion of rock, funk, pop and R&B, all with a sense of humor, unique perspective and deliciously unhinged style of writing and singing. We asked our readers to vote for the best of Prince’s many songs. Here are the results.
“The Beautiful Ones”
The gorgeous Purple Rain ballad “The Beautiful Ones” is a an underrated standout track from the album and film, which carried many of the singer’s first Number One hits. Prince is pained as he sings of unrequited love, delivering drama and passion above the piano, synth and drums while begging his lover to choose him over another.
Prince’s Purple Rain follow-up, Around the World in a Day, was not as well-received as his previous albums, but it did include the singer’s most perfectly executed pop track, “Raspberry Beret,” a romantic tale of a chance meeting with a girl at the five and dime store who wore an unusual accessory.
Prince’s tales of the promiscuous women he’s fascinated with have never been more compelling than when he introduces us to Nikki. In “Darling Nikki,” the singer details his encounter with the “sex fiend,” a girl he meets in a hotel lobby before being whisked off to her castle filled with “devices” and a contract he has to sign before they get intimate. The naughty story and less-than-coy lyrics led to the use of “Parental Advisory” stickers on album.
On “Kiss,” Prince is at his peak, blending tenderness with his more erotic nature, wishing for nothing more than his lover’s kiss. He has no concerns about her wealth or looks, and is even more convincing with his falsetto that builds up to the jangling guitar riff provided by the Revolution’s Wendy Melvoin.
“Little Red Corvette”
Like the best Eighties pop songs, Prince uses a car as his metaphor for a good time with a fast-moving woman. His “Little Red Corvette” may have an ass like he’s never seen, but she also has a pocket full of horses and a long list of jockeys before him. Above a sugary synth, Prince encourages her to slow things down and find something a little more dependable in her life.
Though released in 1982, Prince’s ode to partying like it’s 1999 made a comeback in the year of its namesake. It was the soundtrack to Y2K fear as the clock inched closer to the year 2000, and even though the concept of the song is ominous, the tone and intent were upbeat and debauched, encouraging everyone to live life to the fullest in their potentially final moments.
“Sign o’ the Times”
Prince addressed the reigning issues of the mid-to-late Eighties on the introspective “Sign o’ the Times,” though many of the struggles he describes during the song still resonate. Complimented by a more delicate funk than his past singles, Prince reflected on drug abuse, AIDs, gang violence and poverty with precision, empathy and his consistently compelling way of telling stories.
“Let’s Go Crazy”
“Dearly beloved,” Prince begins, “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.” The iconic monologue previews a song about living life to the fullest, avoiding the weight of life’s elevator pulling you down. The single immediately followed “When Doves Cry,” making for a Number One streak that established him as a boundary-pushing pop innovator.
“When Doves Cry”
Built on synth and drums, the dramatic, moody “When Doves Cry” gave Prince his first Number One single. He intermingled family dynamics with romantic tension, a unique perspective on relationships and a surprisingly effective tactic outside of typical pop tropes. The single was also the first preview of his 1984 album Purple Rain.
The blisteringly passionate, epic finale of Purple Rain the film turned Prince into the Purple One, making the musician a star. The titular song is as massive, excessive, lush and emotional as a power ballad could get in the mid-Eighties, combining the forces of his many sounds by blending hard rock with pop, R&B and funk to make the song feel chillingly thrilling at every listen. After his passing, “Purple Rain” became a cathartic tune to return to as fans and peers paid tribute to the icon’s career and talent.