The King who revolutionized music called ‘Prince’.
On 21 April 2016, the world lost one of the most original and influential artists in the history of Pop music: in this editorial we look back at some of his revolutions that in some way changed the course of events, in the music world and beyond.
There are the artists, then there are the pioneers who transcend and shape the art form itself.
Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, falls firmly into the latter category: during his nearly 40-year career, he personally shaped the sound that became significant in his music; he continually twisted his public image, turning it into a universally recognisable style shared even in the world of fashion; he exacerbated his rebellious attitude, becoming an inspirational role model for the many who, like him, do not play by the rules, when the rules are not honest.
On 21 April 2016, the world lost one of the most original and influential artists in the history of Popmusic: in this editorial we look back at some of his revolutions that in some way changed the course of events, in the music world and beyond.
The Minneapolis Sound.
Prince began his career by inaugurating a musical genre, the Minneapolis Sound: a powerful miscellany named after his hometown and spanning three multiple sounds, from rock, funk, pop, to new wave. Before then, no one had ever heard anything like it, especially in the late 1970s; this sound was so eclectic and fascinating that it could encompass both a club ballad and a slow, intimate song, as long as it had Prince‘s voice as its basis.
The Minneapolis singer would soon abandon this genre he had created, to range and experiment until the end of his career.
Because of the explicit lyrics in the song ‘Darling Nikki‘, contained in the 1983 album ‘Purple Rain’, a censorship core was established in the music industry in the States, which led to the ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics’ notices commonly found on the cover of some albums today.
Fighting the record industry.
Prince was the first musician to fight to (re)take creative power into the hands of artists, and take control of his own music production: from his first record work, he ensured that he had free rein over the entire production of his first studio album.
He was one of the few public figures to personify the tensions between the music industry and artists, fighting against record labels, streaming companies, ticket retailers and internet giants like YouTube. At one point in his career, he also extended his polemics towards free speech detractors and even against his own fans.
When Warner Bros. did not allow him to release music according to his own rhythms and standards, the Minneapolis singer terminated his contract with Warner Bros. Following this, in protest, Prince changed his name to ‘Love Symbol’, as Warner had registered Prince’s name with the SIAE.
Prince or ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Prince’, the name under which he signed his records, always remained true to his principles and released music under his own label, even becoming a pioneer of online music sales.
The ‘Prince’ Style.
An important part of his appeal, besides his voice, music and moves, lay in his image. Prince was the first truly androgynous, sexy and provocative character, not labelled into a precise gender or aesthetic.
The opulent, eighteenth century-inspired clothes, the purple jackets with damask motifs, the voulan shirts and the tight trousers, forged and reinforced the message of his music and his personality itself. Perhaps even more than Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Prince pushed the acellerator on sexuality, but if was a David character, Prince was simply Prince.
The highly recognisable Prince aesthetic has influenced designers and fashion houses since the beginning of his musical career: there are many collections that rework his bold, baroque style.
The Purple Violet.
Purple Violet has become Prince‘s iconic and identifying colour since 1984, the date of the release of the film ‘Purple Rain’, in which he starred and composed the corresponding soundtrack, which won an Oscar for Best Original Score in a film.
Most impressively, the film and the ‘Purple Rain’ album made Prince the first artist ever to achieve a hat-trick at the top of the charts: best-selling film, album and single in America at the same time.
Purple Rain would become his biggest recording success and purple, his identifying colour, forever.
Videos on MTV.
At a time when African-Americanartists were struggling to gain a significant audience on the brand new music video channel MTV, Prince and ‘Little Red Corvette’ were among the prominent artists and songs that helped break through that barrier and usher in an era of more diverse talents and sounds on what would become America’s most popular television station.
Our tribute to “The Artist Formerly Known as Prince” concludes here, let us know if you enjoyed it and follow us on our IG page: @blackboxstore_com