Ranking Prince albums

When Prince died, my interest in him as pop polymath died too. After years of underrating his funk side, I got down to cases: Prince (1979) and Controversy (1981) deserve canonization (Come less so, but I enjoy it too). Those early albums, often overlooked because the albums sandwiching them got the hits and acclaim, show a Prince honing the minimalism for which he is to little credited while at once decorating spaces that he would fill in the studio with full band arrangements in a couple years. But facts are facts, and I can’t knock SOTT from the top. Growing up in the Graffiti Bridge-Diamond and Pearls era, which boasts plenty of Good Prince, I’d no idea what Great Prince sounded like (I was not one of those grade schoolers who bought Prince albums). “Oh, I get it,” I said the summer I bought SOTT. “Adore” gives me trouble. “It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night” and “Play in the Sunshine” I can take or leave. But the quieter numbers seduced me without fuss: “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” (as Sasha Frere-Jones intimated long ago, it invents Timbaland), “strange Relationship,” “Forever in My Life,” and “The Cross.”

Trying to imagine what silence looks like: it took eight years for what Prince already articulated in its burrowing, courtly funk rock (“Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?”) and discreet, almost embarrassed balladry (“When We’re Dancing Close and Slow”). About Controversy I’ve written plenty already. Keep me away from “Sexy MF.”

1. Sign ‘o the Times
2. Controversy
3. 1999
4. Dirty Mind
5. Parade
6. Purple Rain
7. Prince
8. Graffiti Bridge
9. Emancipation
10. The Gold Experience
11. Batman
12. 3121
13. Around the world in a Day
14. Come
15. Love Symbol

3 thoughts on “Ranking Prince albums

  1. Alfred, you made your point with the Prince that matters: the minimalist one. Agree.
    Agree, also, the BEST NPG is Grafitti Bridge. The rawest one. Thanks for keeping away the overrated Diamonds and Pearls.

    Look for my response to you in the Bowie thread about Sexy MF. I’m making a point about “minimalism” in a clearly maximalist phase. I have a point, too:)) Too bad you despise it that much.

    • The track I associate Prince with getting the early 90’s right, bad rapping an all. “Cantaloop” came a year later with the same purpose (funky! funky!)

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