Man, I hate when I get a few consecutive days of subpar Prince work. I worry that someone new is going to find this site and think, “Why is this guy writing about Prince every day if he’s just going to shit on him?” Here’s the best analogy I can come up with: Only two players in NBA history took more shots than Kobe Bryant. Only five players have made more shots than Kobe, but he also missed more shots than anyone in NBA history. By the way, out of thousands of players, only 13 players won more titles than Kobe, and of those 13, only four have done it since the NBA/ABA merger. More than you wanted to know, right? Kobe wasn’t perfect, but he was one of the greatest ever to play the game. I still miss that dude. RIP, Kobe.
Here’s my point: Prince has made more music that I love than any artist, by far. He’s also made a lot of music that I don’t love. He basically made an album every year for 40 years. I know that’s not entirely accurate, so don’t call me out on it, but for the most part, let’s say Prince averaged an album every year for 40 years. Who does that?!? He went through more transformations and phases than anyone I can think of in the history of popular music. He started in 1978 at 19 years old. He passed away in 2016 at 57. To quote the great Muhammad Ali, “A man who views the world the same at fifty as he did at twenty has wasted thirty years of his life.” Of course Prince changed over the course of 40 years. Who hasn’t?
We may never know how many songs Prince actually wrote and recorded, but I’ve seen estimates everywhere from 2,000 to 4,000. My point is, nobody goes their entire career without making a weak song…except Digable Planets, but they broke up after two albums.
As I’ve taken this daily journey through Prince’s catalog and researched far more about the man and his music than I did before, here’s what I’m finding about my personal taste in Prince’s music: Prince’s first two albums were the warmup to an unparalleled steak of greatness in the 1980’s running from Dirty Mind (1980) through Lovesexy (1988). He could do little wrong musically during that era and the recent release of Sign O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition cements that. His throwaway stuff rom 1986-1987 is better than most people could ever dream of. He started showing some cracks in the late-80’s and early-90’s. He struggled to find his place with the emergence of hip hop. He let out a series of subpar albums (by his standards) in the mid/late-90’s. He may have lost much of his audience, but he found his voice again with The Rainbow Children in 2002, then continued making good/great music for the rest of his life. If I was going to simplify this, I would say he was always making at least some great music, but his percentage went down in the 1990’s.
All of this meandering leads me to today’s song, “Walk Don’t Walk,” from 1991’s Diamonds and Pearls, the first album credited to Prince and the New Power Generation. I’m a sucker for a song that has an inspirational, positive message, and this one does. It gets off to a promising start with the vocals and sparse drums. The more they add to this song, the less I like it, though. This culminates with the chorus of the song, which features a wide array of car horn sounds. If I wanted the stress of all of that honking I’d walk out in to traffic. I would have a much different opinion of this song if the honking was eliminated and replaced with a few more vocal “sha na na na naaas” or something similar.
This is two consecutive days that we’re getting songs from the two Prince albums that I’m most conflicted about. Diamonds and Pearls and Love Symbol had hits like his previous work, but they also had more misses than we were accustomed to. “Diamonds and Pearls,” “7,” “My Name is Prince,” “Cream,” and “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” came from those two albums. They were also at the tail end of the era when Prince was considered pop royalty. This is the era when Prince’s run of perfection came to an end. “Walk Don’t Walk” is a good enough song, but it wouldn’t have made the cut on Prince’s earlier albums.