Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation Contributor

Distilling the essence of Prince Rogers Nelson into a few hundred easily digested words is foolhardy, not to mention impossible. To encapsulate Prince-ness would be to describe a universe. Not only is there a vastness to the idea of Prince, there is paradox and contradiction.

image Prince during his ‘Diamonds and Pearls Tour’ at the Earl’s Court Arena in London. Dylan Martinez

If genuine understanding is sought, Prince can only be experienced, not described. And it’s the particularly intimate, personally subjective and wildly diverse nature of the Prince experience that sets him apart as arguably the fountainhead of modern pop.

Who was Prince?

There’s a sense of all and nothing to Prince – he was so many things, in so many ways, that the notion of an “authentic” Prince has little meaning. Famously private in terms of his personal life, the inversely proportionate gregariousness of his pop-icon persona does little more to reveal the “real” Prince.

His domination of every aspect of commercial music production at the dawn of the modern (post-rock) pop era ultimately results in an absence of core – a lack of easily definable Prince-ness.

A peculiar blend of universalism and elusiveness is characteristic on every level: sonic, visual, and in terms of performed identity.

His musical omnivorousness is obvious – blending rock-based guitar with post-disco synthesiser in a funk-derived new-wave pop sensibility. This unique stylistic character, simultaneously organic yet resistant to categorisation, was made possible by Prince’s extensive artistic control.

He could do it all – composer, lyricist, producer, sound engineer, mixer, performer, and eventually, distributor (almost). Prince was not only one of the great guitarists of the last 50 years, but also a multi-instrumentalist who famously performed all 27 instruments on the 1978 album For You. His output of 39 studio albums in less than 40 years is astonishing.

At the heart of his sound, probably, was his voice. Prince’s vocal style was highly affected and stylistically varied. Ranging from ballad crooning (Purple Rain), gruff hip-hop (Get Off), to entire songs in delicate falsetto (Kiss) – his voice could do anything and everything, and in doing so never presented a single version of itself.

Sexuality, a central motivator of pop energy, represents another layer of Prince’s all-encompassing yet un-fixed vision.

A certain anxiety probably underpinned the sexual ambiguity he exuded. Perhaps in response to difficulties in his own childhood, plus a reaction against the somewhat brutish masculinity of James Brown, his musical forefather, Prince famously subverted sexual norms throughout his career.

Prince’s performance of masculinity was unique, his androgyny avoided effeminacy, and his frank sexuality celebrated male sexual virtuosity without descending into misogyny.

image The marquee of the Apollo Theater in Manhattan mourns the death of Prince. Shannon Stapleton


In recent decades, Prince receded from the heights of public visibility that defined his 1980s and 1990s. Despite working harder than ever, touring and recording both, his steadfast refusal to bow to streaming probably accounts for that decline. The extent to which future generations derive pleasure from Prince’s music may rest on whether that situation changes.

Prince’s music can be especially hard to “get in to” retrospectively. The mercurial nature of both the music and the man can be mistaken for slippery superficiality.

If you were a teenager between 1978 and 1988 it was slightly easier – Prince’s thrillingly subjective and intimate way of communicating was coded especially for ears at awkward stages of life. Along with David Bowie, Prince made it cool to be different or weird.

And yet underneath the visual imagery, lavish outfits, sonic whackiness, ironic sexuality, and the constant wriggling away from fixity, there is a Prince signature – a constancy to his aura.

It’s the seductively evocative message that animates all of his variegated output. Perhaps more than any pop musician before him, Prince was able to speak directly to people’s most personal experience. May Prince’s art continue to make a space for people to feel free and alive.

Authors: The Conversation Contributor

Read more http://theconversation.com/prince-a-pop-chameleon-whose-music-contained-multitudes-58284


The Conversation


Scott Morrison at National Press Club

ADDRESS, NATIONAL PRESS CLUB NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, ACT WEDNESDAY 29 JANUARY 2020   PRIME MINISTER: Thank you very much Sabra, and thank you for all attending here today. I am particularly conscio...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison on Credlin

PETA CREDLIN: Thank you for your time tonight, PM I know you've got a lot on your plate. I'll get to the issue of bushfires in just a moment, but I can't let it go unremarked that with Australia Day...

Peta Credlin - avatar Peta Credlin

Scott Morrison interview with Ray Hadley

RAY HADLEY: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: G’day Ray.    HADLEY: Jeez you copped a hammering while I was away.   PRIME MINISTER: Goes with the job mate.    HADLEY: Well, yo...

Ray Hadley - avatar Ray Hadley

Business News

A Checklist for Setting Up your Own Business

If you have had enough of the 9-5 grind and figure that you can do better by going it alone, you certainly wouldn’t be alone in your thinking. Many Australians have successfully made the transition ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Workplace Bullying: What Are Your Options?

Workplace Bullying: What Are Your Options? Workplace bullying is something no employee ever wants to experience. Unfortunately, it is an all too common occurrence in many workplaces around the nati...

News Company - avatar News Company

How to Design a Website That Best Represents Your Business

A business website is the modern equivalent of a traditional brick and mortar storefront. Since the majority of businesses today need an online presence, it is essential to choose a design that best...

News Company - avatar News Company


A Travel Guide for Vacations Overseas

There are two types of tourists. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, and we could be talking about any possible part of traveling.  In this case, we're discussing those who stick to the ma...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Family Travel Handbook from Lonely Planet

Everything you need to know to take unforgettable trips with your children   Full of practical advice, ideas and inspiration for every type of family, Lonely Planet's The Family Travel Handbook ...

Adam Bennett - avatar Adam Bennett

3 Ideas for a Family-Friendly Holiday to Bali

A family holiday is always an exciting time, but it can often come with its fair share of challenges, especially when trying to keep every member of the family happy. Thankfully, the beautiful islan...

News Company - avatar News Company