Prince Hall of Fame

I’m at a loss today on the five-year anniversary of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson. As someone who fancies himself a writer and Prince fanatic I probably shouldn’t admit that, but I don’t know what to feel today. Five years isn’t that long, yet when I think back it’s difficult for me to remember how it felt when Prince was still with us. It’s not like I ever met him or bumped in to him on the street. The only time I was in the same place he was (that I know of) was the night of June 24, 2004, when he rocked the mainstage at Summerfest in Milwaukee. Even late in his life he had a presence that loomed over everything. He was still releasing music that I always had in heavy rotation. Even A-listers stopped dead in their tracks when he entered a room and told tales of the times they saw Prince. He’d occasionally show up at the Grammys and perform some classics or bless us with gems like, “Like books and black lives, albums still matter.” The night in June, 2013, when I saw D’Angelo and Questlove at First Avenue in Minneapolis there was a buzz throughout the crowd. Was he there? Could he possibly show up and perform a song or two? If he was there we never knew it. D and Quest put on an amazing show that night yet it was impossible to walk out of the venue without some disappointment because our dreams of a once-in-a-lifetime Prince/D’Angelo/Questlove performance didn’t happen.

April 21 the past few years has been a somber occasion for me. The kind of day that I’d rather just stay inside and spin Prince records all day. I’d linger on a track like “Sometimes It Snows In April” or “7” for too long and end up with tears in my eyes. Not today. The emotion I felt today while I worked all day streaming The Current’s Prince marathon was gratitude. I’m thankful for Prince and everything he gave us. His existence has made my life more enjoyable. I woke up this morning and immediately crushed the 30 Minute Prince Ride on my Peloton. That ride opens with “Let’s Go Crazy” and it set the tone for the entire day. There are so many amazing, inspiring lines in that song alone. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing we call life.” “We’re all excited but we don’t know why. Maybe it’s ’cause we’re all gonna die. When we do, what’s it all for? Better live now before the grim reaper comes knockin’ on your door.” “Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill. Hang tough, children.” I couldn’t listen to the parade of classics on that ride and feel somber today.

I also couldn’t let the five-year anniversary of Prince’s death pass without writing something. I actually have something a little different coming soon, but I’m not going to drop any hints right now. Instead I thought I’d start an annual tradition here at mookiefantana.com. You’re probably aware that I spent half of 2020 writing about a different Prince song every day. At the end of it I revealed my 20 5-star Prince songs. 20 never seemed like enough to me, but it’s a nice round number and I wouldn’t want to diminish the value of a 5-star rating by giving it out to half of his songs even though I could easily find a reason to.

That was almost exactly six months ago. So many things can happen to change one’s opinion about music in six months. I’ve had that much more time to absorb Prince’s music since then. Maybe a song gets attached to an event and changes my opinion of it. Maybe an album gets a re-release like the Sign ‘O’ The Times Super Deluxe Edition and giving it more attention makes you hear a song in a different way. My obvious point is that one’s opinion of a song can change.

With that in mind, I’m changing my 5-Star Prince playlist to a Prince Hall of Fame. I’m going to induct more songs every year. I will never remove a song, but there’s always room for more great work in the Prince Hall of Fame. It didn’t take me long to regret leaving some songs off of the list last year and now I get a chance to right that wrong once a year. Before I reveal the two songs I would like to add to my Prince Hall of Fame, let’s recap the original 20 inductees from 2020:

The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)
The Beautiful Ones – Purple Rain (1984)
Computer Blue (Hallway Speech Version) – Purple Rain Deluxe Edition (1984)
Darling Nikki – Purple Rain (1984)
Erotic City – “Let’s Go Crazy” 12″ Single B-Side (1984)
Head – Dirty Mind (1980)
Housequake – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)
Kiss – Parade (1986)
Let’s Go Crazy (Special Dance Mix) – “Let’s Go Crazy” 12″ Single (1984)
Little Red Corvette – 1999 (1982)
Mountains – Parade (1986)
Partyup – Dirty Mind (1980)
Purple Rain – Purple Rain (1984)
Raspberry Beret – Around The World In A Day (1985)
Sign O’ The Times – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)
Sometimes It Snows In April – Parade (1986)
When Doves Cry – Purple Rain (1984)
7 (Acoustic Version) – “7” Single (1992)
17 Days – “When Doves Cry” 12″ Single B-Side (1984)
1999 – 1999 (1982)

I don’t regret a single one of those choices. There are two other songs that I have since regretted excluding from that list and now they will be added to my Prince Hall of fame:

“Adore” – Sign ‘O’ The Times (1987)

I’ve mentioned a few times that I regret rating Prince’s songs. It didn’t take long for me to second guess the scores that I gave so many of his songs. More importantly, who the fuck am I to rate Prince’s music? I love the idea of praising his music, but I don’t like panning it. Except for “Dead On It.” I can’t stand that song, nor can I defend it. Sorry, Prince. Of all the ratings I gave Prince’s music over six months the biggest mistake that’s been haunting me is awarding “Adore” four out of five stars. I’ve spent an absurd amount of time with Sign ‘O’ The Times since the release of the Super Deluxe Edition last September. I already loved that album, but quietly I wondered why so many people believed that album was his best. Now I get it. I’m still not prepared to call it my favorite, but I understand. The versatility and songwriting on SOTT is unparalleled, especially when you add in the dozens of vault tracks. Songs that I used to shrug off like “Play In the Sunshine,” “It,” and “Hot Thing” have grown on me. However, the more I listen to “Adore” the more I appreciate what a singular piece of work it is. Musically it’s a throwback soul song but the vocals and lyrics are otherworldly Prince. Nobody in the history of music could’ve written or performed “Adore,” especially the second verse. I can finally right an 11-month-old wrong and put this song in its rightful place among Prince’s best.

“Nothing Compares 2 U” – Originals (2019)

I’ve done a 180 on this song over the past 30 years. I’m not going to lie or sugar coat; I hated Sinead O’Connor’s 1990 version of this song. I was 14-years-old. I was into LL Cool J and Bell Biv DeVoe at that time. I wanted nothing to do with an overly dramatic lady belting out a depressing tale of lost love. When this song appeared on the radio or MTV – and it did frequently – I would immediately change the station or turn it off. That’s how I felt about it 30 years ago. More than a decade later as I learned more about Prince and realized that he wrote it I was willing to give it another chance, but I still wasn’t feeling it. There’s a live version of the song performed by Prince and Rosie Gaines on his 1993 The Hits/The B-Sides compilation that grew on me. I would think, “I love Rosie Gaines, but I wish there was a version of this song that was just Prince.” Later I discovered that the original version of “Nothing Compares 2 U” was not the 1990 Sinead O’Connor version. A 1985 Prince side project called The Family released the original on their lone, self-titled album. The Time’s St. Paul Peterson and Prince’s then-fiancee Susannah Melvoin shared vocal duties and performed admirably. That version grew on me even more, but it still wasn’t Prince. At some point I came to realize that I enjoy the song. It’s Sinead O’Connor’s vocals that I don’t like. In 2018 I got what I wanted. The Prince Estate released the original Prince version of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” A year later it appeared as the final track on Originals, a collection of songs Prince wrote and recorded, then became famous when he gave them to other artists. Now that there’s a version of the song I truly love I’m able to appreciate the brilliant songwriting. Rarely has anyone captured that post-breakup heartache feeling in song the way Prince does on this track. Another classic that belongs in the Prince Hall of Fame.

I end this post with two gifts for you today: First, here’s an updated link to my Prince Hall of Fame Playlist on Apple Music containing the 22 songs listed above. Press “Shuffle” on that thing and pay tribute to the GOAT tonight.

Even better, if you have not seen this performance yet, you’re in for a treat. It’s Prince and the extraordinary Shelby J singing “Nothing Compares 2 U” at Montreux in 2013. I kept my shit together today nicely until I heard this for the first time in a while. A jaw dropping performance. Midway through the song I found myself wiping tears from my eyes. Prince has been gone for five years, but he left us so much. So many songs still to discover. So many shows still to see. There’s never been a musician like him and I can safely say there will never be another one. I love you and miss you every day, Prince. Thanks for everything. Continue to rest In peace.

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