Sunday, March 6, 2011

He Said "Lay Down Your Funky Weapon" But I Didn't Think You'd Actually Do It

Here's something a little different: A response to a piece written by my friend and actual music writing professional Kurt Gottschalk and published by the Brooklyn Rail titled In Which Prince at Last Wins the Battle Against Evil, and Yet Y'all Still Make Fun of Him:

Personally, I kinda miss having to defend Prince. Back in the 80s, you were always a little guarded when you confessed you were a fan, because it seemed like everyone had something to say about him. "That skinny motherfucker with the high voice? Please!" Hip hop heads and funkaholics wondered why he messed around with falsetto ballads; old-school soulsters wondered why he used programmed drums and samples if he was such a virtuoso. At least one Billboard columnist questioned whether black music should permit effeminate males in its leadership. Religious friends thought it was disrespectful to recite the Lord's Prayer in "Controversy"; atheist friends didn't want to hear "God"; both camps critiqued his calling himself the Messiah (and his spelling) in "I Would Die 4 U." And that was before he wrote "slave" on his face, changed his name to a symbol, and stopped shipping platinum.

But now? After wearing down his critics inside the industry and out with decades of carefully crafted, insistently musical—if inconsistently engaging—albums and tours, Prince announced himself at the 2004 Grammys as elder statesman who could put the young folk to shame, and no one disputed it. The metalheads in Rainbow denim jackets I grew up with in Queens are now the people uploading his Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame performance of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" to YouTube and captioning it "GREATEST GUITAR SOLO EVER!!!" The dudes who wondered why that high-heeled freak was running around with those tall white women are now saying the Black Eyed Peas' bombastic Super Bowl show was a disgrace compared to the tasteful showmanship and serious chops Prince displayed way back in... 2007. At the end of each sold-out Madison Square Garden show, today's most desperately buzz-seeking celebs elbowed each other for a place on stage. He's the hottest ticket in town. Don't get me wrong: I'm happy that Prince is happy, and that he's largely succeeded in making over pop music in his image. I just wish there was still someone around to argue with.


Dan Flanery said...

Jesus Christ! That is one hell of a guitar solo.

johnnyt471 said...

His performances are still top-notch, however....I admit I haven't heard all of his albums, but everything I've heard that he recorded after the 80's sucks. I bought Planet Earth a while back and it was so awful, I can't even listen to more than 2 songs from it at a time before falling asleep. It's hard to believe this is the same guy that recorded groundbreaking masterpieces like "Let's Pretend We're Married" and "Darling Nikki". Maybe it's the religious conversion that made him lose his edge?

So, if it's an argument you're looking for: defend post-80's Prince.

David B. Wilson said...

johnnyt471, good point. For now, I'll say this: Kurt Gottschalk and I recently got into a "post-80s Prince recommendation" thread on Facebook and between the two of us we ended up recommending almost every Prince record of the past twenty years EXCEPT Planet Earth. I claim the top three during that period--not counting the 3-CD live set--are Emancipation, LotusFlow3r (the single disc, not the combo pack) and Gold.

johnnyt471 said...

Haha, figures I would pick the shitty one. I will check out your recommendations.