Why is Prince considered so great?

Prince (the guy formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince) seems to be enormously admired and respected by music fans, as well as being critically acclaimed. It seems like any time you’re talking to people familiar with the music of the 80’s, they will universally attest to Prince’s genius and the incredible creativity and quality of his music. I’m a child of the 80’s myself, but didn’t listen to pop music in childhood, so I wasn’t familiar with Prince’s oeuvre during the peak of his popularity. So, recently, eager to find out what these fans and music critics were raving about, I looked up his discography on Wikipedia, and listened to a few of his chart-topping singles.

I have to say, I don’t get it. Even these songs which went to number 1, like “When Doves Cry” and “Let’s Go Crazy,” just weren’t very catchy. They weren’t bad, I guess, but they sounded to me like album filler tracks from an album from which you expect the popular singles to have more memorable melodies. I mean, they’re certainly not amateurish, but I fail to see why the guy is considered such an astoundingly, brilliantly creative genius. Can anyone explain it?

I know what you mean. I think maybe part of it is that he pushed back some boundries for pop music. Mostly in the visual department.

I think tha women think he’s sexy, and that helps a lot in music appreciation.

I like Prince, though I’m not a huge fan. I think a lot of the reason he is so acclaimed is because he is so prolific. The guy has put out nearly one album a year since 1978! And he’s still going!

And while I haven’t found any of his albums to be particularly awe-inspiring, none of them are bad.

Prince’s 80s sound was enormously original at the time. He basically redefined R&B for the synthesizer age. Whatever you may think of it’s deficiencies as a tune, “When Doves Cry” has a lot going for it: an off-the-chain guitar intro (played by the man himself), a powerful groove, some instrumental hooks and a simmering vocal performance.

Why is Prince considered so great? Because he could write, produce, sing and play guitar extraordinarily well, and that’s not even considering his personal charisma. So yeah, the guy was pretty great.

Come on, am I the only one defending the Purple One here?

His music is interesting, he strays into rock territory with electric guitars and such. The lyrics aren’t as mundane as much pop music.

It’s going to be hard to explain, really, because if you aren’t hearing it you just… aren’t, and no amount of “BUT HE’S AMAZING” from people on the internet is going to make a switch flip in the head to make anyone suddenly like an artist they don’t. And that’s cool of course, not everybody has to like every critically acclaimed artists, god knows there are some critics darlings who I don’t like at all.

I can only explain why I’m a fan, and that’s because he made amazing, adventurous, timeless (and very catchy, I think) music, and has been doing so for a really long time. How anyone could think an epic masterpiece like ‘When Doves Cry’ sounds like album filler doesn’t make sense to me - but again, different people hear different things in music. He’s not a perfect artist, he has certainly put out some shit over the years, but the high points of his career put almost everybody else making pop music in the last 50 years to shame.

I don’t get it either. Then again I never got Michael Jackson, Hall and Oates, Toto, Culture Club, Huey Lewis, Whitney Houston, Madonna, etc. etc.

Just like I don’t get any of the pop music today.

Why yes, please do get off my lawn.

And back in the days when albums had covers with words on the inside, I noticed Prince wrote an amazing number of songs that other people and bands put on their albums.

Yup - prolific songwriter/recording artist, redefined R&B, did a whole lot of producing/star-making, great stage shows, massive charisma, and can play that guitar like nobody’s business. I may not listen to his music all the time, but I always appreciate it when I hear it play.

This Prince vs Michael Jackson thread has a lot of good insight as to Prince’s talents. I’m still, over all, team MJ :D, but I’d be lying if I told you I don’t love me some Prince. Hell, I’ve been playing the Purple Rain album non stop on my iPod for the last few months, actually. Good working out music.

Funny you mention this. I went and saw Morris Day and the Time at the county fair a month or two ago and you could very clearly tell which songs were written by Prince and which were written by. . . not Prince. The Prince songs were all freaking amazing, even though I had never even heard most of them. The others. . . were not.

Prince is awesome. I liked the essay on Prince that was in the Spin Alternative Record Guide in 1995, which is plagiarized here.

Of course not everybody likes Picasso either.

That really is a great explanation actually. I like that :).

From my Post #84 of that thread:

Prince was one of those few artists both then and now that played all of the instruments on his For You album (IIRC), the Late Rick James being another.

He was not content to be labeled, mixing sexuality, rock, jazz, R&B, funk, politics, and religion into his music. Sometimes, the results were breath-taking (1999, Purple Rain), and sometimes they were platinum-coated shite (The Black Album, Chaos and Disorder)

But in addition to writing his own stuff, he penned songs for other artists (Sheena Easton, Sheila E., Appolonia/Vanity 6, The Time, Alexander O Neal, THe Family, and Chaka Khan).

Name another artist than can and has done that…

Back to the music, though.

Not all of Prince’s offerings are going to tickle your ears. That’s why he has so many songs out (and at least 40 albums in the can as rumor claims). If you listen long enough, you will find your own gems.

That’s the thing–Prince could have had another career just as a session musician. And he could have had a career just as a songwriter.

Compare that to today where studios audition pop tarts, slap a costume on them, teach them some dance movies, and send them onstage to lip-synch a song somebody else wrote.

Of course, we’ve always had this phenomenon of the pretty boy/girl who’s entirely a creation of the studios, even back to the 50s. But Prince is the antithesis of this.

After a song from the Love Symbol album came up on shuffle the other day, I listened to the whole thing for the first time in at least 10 years. It holds up amazingly well.

Not everything he does is brilliant – no one that prolific could possibly bat 1.000 – but when he’s on, no one can touch him.

Well, Prince did that too. Or am I the only person here who remembers Apollonia 6?

Prince is a very intellligent, very talented guy, but his best talent is at self-promotion. He started calling himself a genius, and he had enough evidence to support it that the press ran with the story. He continued to back it up with a hit movie, hit songs, hit songs for other people, and incredible live performances. While I personally think his songs generally rank somewhere below “infectious, dated sounding R&B/pop crossover pablum crap”, I can’t deny his abilities.

ETA: besides a talent for self-promotion, his talents as a producer are legendary. In the 1980s you went with one of three people if you wanted to get on the pop charts: Quincy Jones, Jellybean Benitez, or Prince.

And Narada Michael Walden (Whitney Houston, Aretha, Jermaine Stewart, etc.). And Mutt Lange (AC/DC, Def Leppard - in those days before Shania) and Rick Rubin (Beasties, Run-DMC, etc.). I agree with your basic point, though - Prince was a go-to producer…

That’s another thing - if you act like you’re an untouchable fucking genius and that people should thank God every day for creating you, eventually people will come around to this notion that you’re an untouchable fucking genius and that they should thank God every day for creating you.

If you want respect act like you should be respected, and boy, did he ever do that. Always remember, Prince’s biggest fan is and always has been Prince.