Music: Prince

"My name is Prince
And I am funky
My name is Prince
The one and only
I did not come
To fuck around
'Til I get your daughter
I won't leave this town"
Prince, "My Name Is Prince"

Move over, James Brown, there's a new sex machine in town, and his name's Prince.

Prince Rogers Nelson (born June 7, 1958), generally known simply as "Prince" or "His Purple Badness" to fans, is probably the most famous musician from Minnesota since Bob Dylan to become incredibly successful and carve a place for himself in the annals of pop music history.

Known as a multi-instrumentalist who can play several instruments pretty epically (keyboards, synthesizers, guitar, bass, drums, drum machine) and a highly idiosyncratic (sometimes bordering on Control Freak) songwriter, Prince had a future rock star's obligatory chaotic childhood and parent separation, though his mother has stated he only had "normal disagreements" with his father, and other people have suggested it wasn't anywhere near as bad as depicted in Purple Rain or songs like "Papa" (food for thought: Prince also co-wrote several songs with his father John L. Nelson). After running away from home and staying with his neighbours (where he met future bandmate André Cymone), Prince entered his first band in the early seventies, playing piano and guitar. A demo recorded in 1976 brought the attention of a few major record labels, and he wound up signing with Warner Bros. Records because they offered him the most creative freedom (commence laughter). His first two albums for the label, For You and Prince, were full of rather generic, disco-influenced R&B, recorded in one-man band mode. Prince nevertheless began to showcase his overwhelming preoccupation with sex and matters of the flesh in general: his first single was called "Soft and Wet"; and his 1979 hit "I Wanna Be Your Lover" featured the line, "I wanna be the only one you come for," in the chorus.

With Dirty Mind, Prince finally hit upon his Signature Style that would hereafter be called the "Minneapolis sound": a fusion of funk (by way of Parliament-Funkadelic, Jimi Hendrix and Sly And The Family Stone), New Wave (lots of robotic synths and drum machines), pop and rock. The sound was largely defined by its clean guitar sound, fusion of the LinnDrum drum machine and live percussion, and the use of keyboards as both a horn section and as extensions of the guitar. It also helped that by Dirty Mind, Prince had assembled a good backing band (bassist André Cymone, guitarist Dez Dickerson, keyboardists Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink, and drummer Bobby Z.). Lyrically, Dirty Mind began Prince's descent into full-on Intercourse with You-mode, as showcased by such songs as "Head" (about him tricking a bride on her way to getting married into giving him head) and "Sister" (about really Squicky Brother-Sister Incest). The album was also recorded entirely by Prince on all the instruments except for "Head", which included vocals from Lisa Coleman and Doctor Fink contributing a noisy, atonal keyboard solo.

Unsurprisingly, this all proved to be a bit too much for America in The '80s (his bizarre wardrobe certainly didn't help matters) - while opening for The Rolling Stones in 1981, Prince got pelted with trash and booed off the stage. Still, he soldiered on and released Controversy, which was pretty much Dirty Mind again, but with more confident and exploratory songwriting (general consensus has pretty much branded Controversy with the It's the Same, Now It Sucks iron).

By this time, Prince's backing band had crystallized into its most famous incarnation:
  • Brown Mark - bass guitar, vocals
  • Bobby Z. - drums
  • Lisa Coleman - keyboards, vocals (generally credited as "Wendy and Lisa")
  • Wendy Melvoin - guitar, vocals (generally credited as "Wendy and Lisa", replaced Dez Dickerson in 1983)
  • Doctor Fink - keyboards, vocals

Now christened "The Revolution", Prince made 1999, his breakthrough album into the US mainstream - mostly on the backs of the hit singles "1999" (a catchy funk tune about nuclear armageddon) and "Little Red Corvette" (an entire Dual Meaning Song using cars as a metaphor for a bad relationship), with the latter being a massive success on both sides of the Atlantic.

Prince's next project was a small film where he played a troubled musical prodigy who is trying to become a star despite his Jerkass behaviour threatening to drive away his bandmates. The Revolution and other associates all appeared using their real names, except Prince's character who was named "The Kid". The film was called Purple Rain. 1984 thus turned out to be Prince's best year: the soundtrack album Purple Rain was a massive success, spending 6 consecutive months at #1 on the US charts; the film got nominated for Academy Awards and grossed over $80 million at the box office; and four of the singles drawn from it were smash hits: "When Doves Cry", "Let's Go Crazy", "Purple Rain" and "I Would Die 4 U", with the first two becoming Prince's first two #1 singles in the US. Purple Rain (the album) not only formalized Prince's burgeoning Xtreme Kool Letterz spelling system, but also showed a more theatrical yet still highly catchy variation on the Minneapolis sound, emphasizing a stronger lead guitar presence alongside more classical elements – a recipe for crossover success.

In this period, Prince also got in trouble due to his explicit style. Then-Senator Al Gore's wife, Tipper, was outraged by hearing her 12-year old daughter listening to the explicit lyrics of "Darling Nikki" and founded the much-hated Parents Music Resource Center (yes, the inventors of the "Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics" sticker), instead of, oh, we don't know, being more careful about buying albums in the future or something like that.

Following a successful tour marred by occasional tension within the band, Prince & the Revolution released another successful album, Around the World in a Day, this time amplifying the psychedelic elements hinted at with Purple Rain to a vaguely Beatlesque sound. The resulting tour worsened intra-band tension due to Prince's recruitment of additional members (Susannah Melvoin, Eric Leeds, Atlanta Bliss, Jerome Benton, Wally Salford and Greg Brooks). He also began a new film project named Under the Cherry Moon – a dramatic work starring Prince and Jerome Benton as thieves attempting to swindle the fortunes of an Parisian heiress. While Purple Rain had a lukewarm-but-positive reception, Cherry Moon was savaged by critics due to bad plot and acting, but the film's soundtrack album Parade did well on the charts, with its lead single "Kiss" becoming Prince's third #1 in the US. For the first time, Prince began selling better in Europe than in the United States.

Since the intra-band tension had grown to severe levels by now, Prince disbanded The Revolution in 1986, firing everyone besides Doctor Fink, and Brown Mark, who had quit on his own. A new lineup was assembled, including guitarist Miko Weaver; drummer Sheila E.; Bliss and Leeds on horns; bassist Levi Seacer, Jr; and keyboardist Boni Boyer. Prince then unveiled Sign "☮" the Times, Prince's first solo effort after the disintegration of The Revolution. Prince was already abandoning the Minneapolis sound for leaner funk production at this point, basing it off of live show jams from the previous few years (one of which is included on Sign.) While the album garnered a much better reception critically and commercially, it marked the beginning of Prince's feud with Warner Bros. Records, after they scrapped his plan to originally release a triple album and forced him to reduce it to a double album - possibly a rare case of positive Executive Meddling. Prince was still able to have his untitled follow up album of dark funk replaced with 1988's Lovesexy, a positive funk-pop work that was partially Hijacked by Jesus. Despite Prince's popularity beginning to wain, he was then tapped to create the soundtrack for the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film (Michael Jackson had been in talks to do it, but it never panned out). The soundtrack scored Prince his 4th #1 in the US with "Batdance".

After the rest of his Revolution bandmates drifted away (Dr. Fink, Sheila E., Leeds, Bliss, and so on), Prince debuted a new backing band, The New Power Generation, in 1990. Its members have included:

  • Levi Seacer, Jr. - rhythm guitar (1991-1993)
  • Kat Dyson - rhythm guitar (1996-1997)
  • "Rev." Michael Scott - rhythm guitar (1997-2001, 2004, 2006)
  • Sonny T. - bass (1991-1996)
  • Rhonda Smith - bass (1996-2004)
  • Rosie Gaines - keyboards, vocals (1990-1992)
  • Tommy Barbarella - keyboards (1991-1996)
  • Kip Blackshire - keyboards, backing vocals (1999-2001)
  • Renato Neto - keyboards (2002-2008)
  • Michael Bland - drums (1991-1996)
  • Kirk Johnson - percussion, backing vocals, drums, drum machine programming (1993-2000)
  • John Blackwell - drums (2000-2004)
  • Maceo Parker - horns (1999-2007)
  • Tony Morris - horns (1998-2000)
  • Greg Boyer - horns (2001-2008)
  • Tony M. - rapping (1991-1993)
  • Mayte Garcia - backing vocals (1992-1996)
... and many others.

Prince's introduction for the New Power Generation was Graffiti Bridge, a sequel to Purple Rain, in which The Kid is challenged by Morris Day of The Time into a battle of wits and music over the affection of a angel-like female character. The film fell out of the box office quickly, with praise going solely towards the music of the film. Undaunted, Prince released Diamonds and Pearls, the first album under the name Prince and the New Power Generation in 1991. Combining funk with new jack swing and contemporary rhythm and blues, Diamonds yielded the highly successful singles "Gett Off" and "Cream", the latter being Prince's fifth and final #1 hit in the US. The Love Symbol album followed (so named after the unpronounceable symbol that graces its cover), which rounded out Prince's radio marketability for nearly a decade, with the singles "7" and "My Name Is Prince."

It was at this point that Prince hit a Dork Age. With his commercial success and audience dwindling, Prince began publicly feuding with Warner Brothers over the terms of his contract. Albums of questionable quality were seeing release as a means to get out of his contract – including, unsuccessfully, the release of the shelved Black Album in 1994. Prince even wrote "Slave" across his face for public appearances, and changed his name to the unpronounceable "love symbol" in 1993, leading to the nickname "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince". Like The Revolution, the New Power Generation only received co-billing credit on three albums. This band stuck around well into the 2000s, however.

Prince's freedom from Warner Bros. came in 1996, when he promptly released a triple album titled Emancipation. He continued to release albums, playing to a small but dedicated group of fans while his work went largely unnoticed in pop culture. A failed attempt at recapturing success, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, was released in 1999. When his contract with Warner Bros expired in 2000, Prince made a statement that he was changing his name back to Prince, rather than the symbol he had adopted to detach himself from them. Prince made another bid for the mainstream with the album Musicology, this time with a successful pair of singles and a performance opening the 2004 Grammy Awards.

Since then, Prince has held a larger audience than during his off-label years in The '90s but still not matching his peak popularity. He has simulatenously released albums through regular distribution channels as well as online exclusive albums, eventually settling on platforms that benefit him the most artistically and financially (such as 20TEN being released as a free covermount on some European newspapers.) As of 2012, he has become the frontman for an otherwise all-female rock band, 3RDEYEGIRL. The band also simultaneously acts as Prince's current backing band, transforming many of his older songs into classic hard rock tracks in the vein of his own "Bambi" and "Temptation"; and are sometimes augmented by the NPG Hornz. In 2014, he and Warner Bros. kissed and made up, and he released two new albums, ART OFFICIAL AGE and PLECTRUMELECTRUM (with 3RDEYEGIRL).

Prince has written more than one thousand songs. Most have been released under his own name, some have been released under pseudonyms and pen names, while others have been recorded and released by other artists. Associates and "spinoff bands" of the latter have mostly involved others recording vocals over his own songs with his own lyrics (Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Mazarati, Madhouse, The Family), with some such spinoff bands managing to win creative independence (Sheila E., The Time), or others not being involved with him at all (Wendy & Lisa - considering Prince's conflicts with them led to The Revolution breaking up, that's not at all surprising.) We have a page for them over at Prince's Associates.

Prince reportedly has hundreds of unreleased songs in his "vault". He has won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award, and is one of the few people to have simultaneously managed a #1 movie, album and single in the same year (Purple Rain, Music from the Motion Picture Purple Rain and "When Doves Cry" / "Let's Go Crazy", respectively. "When Doves Cry" was also crowned the song of 1984 by Billboard.) He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible in 2004. In that same year Rolling Stone ranked Prince #28 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

He's also apparently really good at basketball.note 


Main Studio Discography

  • 1978: For You
  • 1979: Prince
  • 1980: Dirty Mind
  • 1981: Controversy
  • 1982: 1999 (double album)
  • 1984: Music from the Motion Picture Purple Rain (soundtrack album; with The Revolution)
  • 1985: Around the World in a Day (with The Revolution)
  • 1986: Parade: Music from the Motion Picture Under the Cherry Moon (soundtrack album; with The Revolution)
  • 1987: Sign "☮" the Times
  • 1988: Lovesexy
  • 1989: Batman
  • 1990: Music from Graffiti Bridge (soundtrack album; with The New Power Generation)
  • 1991: Diamonds and Pearls (with The New Power Generation)
  • 1992: Love Symbol Albumnote  (with The New Power Generation)
  • 1993: The Hits/The B-Sides (3CD greatest hits compilation)
  • 1994: Come
  • 1994: Untitlednote 
  • 1995: The Gold Experience
  • 1996: Chaos and Disorder
  • 1996: Emancipation
  • 1998: Crystal Ball (3CD rarities collection)
  • 1998: The Truth (acoustic album, shipped with Crystal Ball)
  • 1998: Kamasutra (orchestral album credited to The NPG Orchestra, shipped with Crystal Ball)
  • 1999: Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic
  • 2001: The Very Best of Prince (greatest hits compilation)
  • 2001: The Rainbow Children
  • 2002: One Nite Alone...
  • 2002: One Nite Alone... Live! (3CD live album)
  • 2003: Xpectation
  • 2003: N.E.W.S
  • 2004: Musicology
  • 2004: The Chocolate Invasion
  • 2004: The Slaughterhouse
  • 2004: C-Note
  • 2006: 3121
  • 2007: Planet Earth
  • 2008: Indigo Nights (live album and book)
  • 2009: LOtUSFLOW3R
  • 2009: MPLSound (packaged with LOtUSFLOW3R, and protégé Bria Valente's album Elixer)
  • 2010: 20TEN
  • 2014: ART OFFICIAL AGE
  • 2014: PLECTRUMELECTRUM (with 3RDEYEGIRL)


Trope Namer for:


Associated Tropes:

  • Ambiguously Bi: Played with early on, before Prince jumped ship and decided to vote himself to women exclusively.
  • Ambiguously Brown: His ethnicity is quite hard to discern from his voice and pallor, though he is considered mulatto.
  • Appeal to Novelty: There were several moments in the mid-nineties where Prince pointed out that his new material was better simply because it was new. He tried getting Come (the old and busted) and The Gold Experience (the new hotness) released at the same time to try and prove this point.
  • Ascended Meme: The 2014 song "THIS COULD BE US" was written about this image macro.
  • Author Avatar: The Kid in Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge, plus his character in Under the Cherry Moon. All two of them are really unpleasant, annoying folks.
  • Author Tract: The Rainbow Children: a thinly veiled concept album about being a Jehovah's Witness.
  • Auto Erotica: "Little Red Corvette". Also serves as Double Entendre.
  • Auto-Tune: First used on 2006's "Incense & Candles" on one of the backing vocals. Used a lot on MPL So UND.
  • Badass Boast: "My Name Is Prince" is basically a four-minute-long one of these.
  • Bawdy Song and Intercourse with You: The poster child of these tropes, what with the amount of colourful metaphors and outright requests for it in 90% of his back catalogue. He even wrote a call-and-response anthem for the act called "Sex", but when it comes to being explicit, the following pretty much take the cake: "Sister", "Let's Pretend We're Married" (with the charming declaration "I sincerely wanna fuck the taste out of your mouth. Can you relate?"), "Darling Nikki" (the song that spurned the PMRC hearings that ultimately gave us the Parental Advisory stickers), "Erotic City", "Le Grind" and "Cindy C."
  • Ballad of X: "The Ballad of Dorothy Parker".
  • Boastful Rap: "My Name is Prince".
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A quick instance of this occurs in "Take Me With U"; after Prince sings the line "You shoot perfection", Apollonia says "Thank you!".
  • Brother-Sister Incest: "Sister". Apparently, incest is all it's cracked up to be...
  • Camp Straight: For his dedication to women and female pleasure, his outfits are wildly outlandish.
  • Careful with That Axe: Dude can scream — even if it does sound feminine.
  • The Casanova: He's probably "recruited" more "proteges" in a week than any man can in five years, despite looking like he frequently wears said "proteges"' clothes and looks better in them than they do.
  • Cleavage Window: Invoked with a pair of cleavage window pants at the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Just ask Kevin Smith sometime...
    • In one interview, Prince claimed that he was born epileptic and suffered from seizures in his childhood. Maybe that has something to do with it?
  • Concept Album: Love Symbol was supposed to be one, in which the "crown princess of Cairo" (played by then-girlfriend Mayte) is saved by Prince from her double-crossing bodyguards, who were after her "3 Chains o' Gold". Most of the story got cut out so Prince could fit one more song in, so all that's left on the album is Kirstie Alley trying to interview Prince.
    • Come is linked conceptually by a poem that appears in bits throughout the album.
    • The Rainbow Children is ostensibly about the Banished Ones taking over all of Earth save the haven of the titular Rainbow Children, which is covered in a "digital garden"; the Rainbow Children then go canvassing to collect enough people for a fight between them and the Banished Ones, cribbing a lot of Jehovah's Witnesses spirituality into a more Princian dialect along the way. Its real concept might as well be "Prince ranting about shit for an hour. Fauxlosophically."
  • Contemptible Cover: The covers of Prince (Prince naked shown from the torso up), Dirty Mind (Prince wearing a trenchcoat and a thong) and Lovesexy (Prince naked in a religious pose that just happens to cover his balls) qualify as this. Retailers famously refused to stock Lovesexy as it is, either selling it from behind the counter or wrapped in a brown paper bag, much like John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virginsnote .
  • Control Freak: Prince borders on this heavily. Even in his heyday with The Revolution, Purple Rain is the only album that features the full band performing for the majority of the record (six songs, compared to Around the World in a Day's three and Parade's two.) Very few artists got a decent level of respect for their own style and input out of him (Wendy & Lisa, Matt Fink, Sheila E. and Eric Leeds being among the few.)
    • Prince also had a habit of micro-managing every band he formulated. Albums by Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Jill Jones, The Time, The Family, Sheila E. and more were written, recorded and performed entirely by him, rarely with contributions by the bands in question (in the case of the first four artists, only the singers contributed and even then, they followed Prince's guide vocal track to the letter and Prince was always involved on backup vocals.) The Time famously never got to play on their own albums until their fourth one. Only time will tell if his more recent projects, such as New Power Generation and Bria Valente, will reveal that they received the same treatment.

  • Darker and Edgier: The cyberfunk moodiness of 1999 flew in the face of his first four records. The Black Album's trip into Bizarro World flew in the face of everything. Come was also pretty moody, as it was intended to showcase how bad Prince was and how awesome The Artist Formerly Known as Prince was. Warner Bros. chose not to release Come and The Gold Experience at the same time though, so that last one went unnoticed for a while.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Prince's first two albums. Prepare for generic disco-funk and a very high falsetto voice. What people think when they hear the name "Prince" started in 1980, but he still kept a lot of the old school funk sensibilities until 1982.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)", "Jack U Off", and so on.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The song "Around the World in a Day" owes its existence to this. Long story short, Prince invited Lisa Coleman's brother David to their then-studio (an abandoned warehouse full of recording equipment on Flying Cloud Drive in Eden Prairie, Minnesota) for his birthday in June 1984 and allowed him two days of studio time as a present. Afterwards, Prince listened to what David had recorded and liked it so much he added his own input, and after a re-recording with The Revolution it became the title track and first song for his next album. (The finished track also arguably qualifies as a Sibling Team moment, since David Coleman [cello, oud, fingercymbals, darbuka and sings backing vocals] and Jonathan Melvoin [tambourine and backing vocals] share contributions with their sisters.)
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil/Disney Owns This Trope/New Media Is Evil: He's very well known for his stance against digital media, piracy and concert taping, and is just as easily mocked for the various Frivolous Lawsuits that stem from said beliefs.
  • Dual Meaning Chorus: "Little Red Corvette", which uses car metaphors to explain a bad relationship.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: "1999" is a strangely happy song about this.
  • Epic Rocking: "1999", "Let's Pretend We're Married", "D.M.S.R.", "Automatic", "All the Critics Love U in New York", "Purple Rain", "Temptation", "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man", the original version of "Computer Blue" (see below at What Could Have Been) etc. etc.
    • The 12'' single version of "America" runs 21 minutes long because Prince and the Revolution jammed away until they had no more room left on tape. This was covered by a quick fade-out. Many of Prince's other 12"s of the 80s, like "America", feature the original version of the song, while the album and 7" feature edited versions. One notable exception is the 12" version of "Kiss" and "I Wish U Heaven", which consist of separate sections.
    • The first CD issue of Lovesexy was indexed as one 45:07 track without any separation between songs, to force listeners to listen to it in its entirety.
    • Then there's his guitar work, from the blistering coda of "Let's Go Crazy" to his show-stealing solo from when he joined Tom Petty in performing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out / The Stinger: The end of The Black Album fades back in long enough for Prince to exclaim, "What kinda fuck ending was that?" before quickly fading out again.
  • Fanservice: Prince has probably appeared more often nude or half nude than any other male singer of his generation.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Enforced early on by Prince, between himself, his bandmates and even the other bands he toured with. Tales of Prince's shenanigans are so legendary that not many are sure how much of the film Purple Rain required acting. Prince also notably created Morris Day's character with rivalry between that character and his own Prince persona in mind. Several of these rivalries started to become antagonistic and ultimately caused The Revolution and his relations with members of The Time to fall apart. Prince has since calmed down, for the most part. To add to this, Prince created rivalries with himself in 1982: The Time were credited with providing the backing music for Vanity 6's album (in reality performed by Prince), so on The Time's second album, they scream "We don't like New Wave!" after a song that makes fun of it. Prince also called out Jamie Starr, the producer persona he used for both Vanity 6 and The Time, as a thief on his song "D.M.S.R." Considering how bad things went with both versions of The Revolution, he stopped antagonizing everyone around him starting in the nineties.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The video for "Alphabet St." features two instances of this. After Prince is shown driving the Thunderbird mentioned in the lyrics, the message "H is 4 punks" appears very rapidly on screen. At the end of the first verse, another split-second message appears, saying "Don't buy The Black Album. I'm sorry."
  • Genre Popularizer: The "Minneapolis sound", which was largely restricted to him and his associates (though often imitated) and didn't survive past The '80s.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: If somebody wanders into Prince's orbit and happens to speak Spanish, he will not hesitate to use that. This is most noticeable on some of his associates' albums, chiefly from Apollonia Kotero and Mayte Garcia, but he also indulged in it with "Te Amo Corazón" from 3121.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The backing track of "Sex in the Summer" uses... a sample of the heartbeat of Prince and Mayte's then-unborn son. Makes the song harder to listen to.
  • Hidden Depths: if Charlie Murphy is to be believed Prince is an incredibly talented basketball player.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: While he did drop mentions and references to Christianity as far back as "Let's Pretend We're Married" (I'm in love with God/He's the only way/'Cause you and I know we're gonna die someday) and did write songs like "God" and "I Would Die 4 U", Prince converted to a Jehovah's Witness sometime in the early 2000s. Goodbye, explicit lyrics of yesteryear. He even went around self-censoring his past songs while performing live for a whilenote . Fans weren't amused.
    • Even before his conversion, Prince famously recalled the Black Album weeks before release, so he could replace it with the spiritually uplifting Lovesexy. Prince really begun excising the freakiness out of his persona around this point.
  • Hypocritical Humour: He derided rappers as tone deaf on "Dead on It", then started incorporating it into his music on Lovesexy's "Alphabet St." and even moreso in The '90s (cf. "Gett Off" and "My Name Is Prince").
    • He dedicates a verse of "We March" from The Gold Experience to lecturing his audience not to call women "bitches" (not to mention trashing Gangsta Rap for the same reason on "Days of Wild"), but only six songs later he blindsides them with a song called "Billy Jack Bitch" (which loops you-know-which exclamation from Fishbone's "Lyin' Ass Bitch").
  • I Am the Band: "Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince." Considering how many instruments he plays, yeah, he kind of is. One wonders why he even bothered letting other musicians tag along in the first place.
    • To perform live?
    • Lampshaded and parodied on a season 10 Saturday Night Live cold opening where Prince (played by Billy Crystal) sings a "We Are the World" parody called "I Am Also the World" with his back-up dancers (played by Mary Gross and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and any time another musician (in this case, Willie Nelson [played by Jim Belushi], Bruce Springsteen [played by Gary Kroeger], and Cyndi Lauper [played by Pamela Stephenson]) tries to duet with Prince, his bodyguards [played by episode hosts Mr. T and Hulk Hogan] would beat the snot out of them.
  • I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Even with a song called "Mr. Happy", reportedly Prince named his penis Valentino, and wrote "Manic Monday" for the The Bangles to woo their lead singer, Susanna Hoffs. Have fun never hearing "Manic Monday" the same way again!
  • Instrumentals: Very very few early on - "Venus de Milo" and "2 Nigs United 4 West Compton" were the only ones to make it onto albums in The '80s. There's more on Kamasutra, Xpectation, C-Note and N.E.W.S.
  • Insufferable Genius: Stories abound of Prince's Jerkass behaviour, which was also the source of The Revolution's breakup. He didn't exactly try to hide it in his films either. Dude's like the James Cameron of music or something.
    • For some inexplicable reason, most of his jerkassery seemed to be aimed at Wendy & Lisa. Instead of scrounging up the old Revolution stories, here's a more recent one: in 1998 he announced a Prince & the Revolution comeback album called Roadhouse Garden and tried to get the duo involved. They reasonably asked for some compensation, and said no when he didn't offer any. Then he went and blamed them for the album being shelved.
    • Elton John said of a meeting with Prince, "I went up to Prince and said, 'I'm a big fan of your stuff,' and he looked at me and just walked off... left me standing there like a twat. He's a prat, but he's a clever prat."
    • During the Nude Tour, Prince constantly picked on guitar Miko Weaver, something biographer Alex Hahn and other bandmates suggest was due to him feeling jealous that Weaver had a bigger Groupie Brigade and was generally more popular with the ladies. In a pre-tour rehearsal, Prince even challenged Weaver to "take this shit outside", to which Weaver snarked "Yeah, like I'm gonna come outside with you and your bodyguards" and walked out, but was eventually convinced to return for the tour.
    • During the same Nude Tour, Rosie Gaines complained that she was being mistreated by dancers Tony M., Kirky J. and Damon Dickson, but Prince simply moved her to Mavis Staples' tour bus instead of reprimanding them.
    • Kevin Smith has a diatribe on Prince's eccentric behavior after Prince asked Smith to direct a short film for him.
    • When The Time regrouped to make a new album in 2011, Prince wouldn't let them use that name, to which he owns the rights. They are now known as The Original 7even.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: The end of "International Lover", complete with one of Prince's famous screams.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Do Me, Baby" is pretty soothing for the most part, but the very end is pretty creepy and ominous sounding. "Gotta Broken Heart Again" is a simple ballad that ends with a massively amplified guitar thunk that sounds like a gunshot.
  • Letters 2 Numbers: "Nothing Compares 2 U", "I Would Die 4 U", "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" and many more only known to the most diehard fans of The Purple One.
  • Lighter and Softer: In an intentional case of this trope, every aspect of "Lovesexy" was bubblegum and sunshine. And Jesus. He saw the untitled black album as something inherently and sought to distance himself from it with Lovesexy.
  • Lucky Charms Title: Sign "☮" the Times and "♥ or $" are good examples. Prince also started using an eye symbol in 1988 to replace the word "I"; since it appeared beside another song called "I Wish You Heaven", some fans romanize the symbol as "Eye" (as in "Eye Love U, but Eye Don't Trust U Anymore".) Prince took this even further with the symbol later used for his name, which was first used as the title for his fourteenth album.
  • Loophole Abuse: The reason he switched to using an unpronounceable symbol in The '90s. Stuck in a bad deal with his record label, he found that they didn't own anything he released under another name.
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Implied in the chorus of "Electric Chair":
    If a man is considered guilty for what goes on in his mind
    Then give me the electric chair for all my future crimes
  • Minimalistic Cover Art:
    • For You featured a blur of Prince's face.
    • Parade featured Prince's upper body in a pose.
    • The Batman soundtrack featured a close-up of the logo.
    • The Hits / The B-Sides featured Prince's face in profile.
    • The untitled black album was a black sleeve, with only the tracklisting and production code number written in peach.
    • One Nite Alone… Live! and 3121 featured portraits, with the latter being from behind.
  • Misogyny Song: Some of his unreleased material goes here, like "It Takes 3" (ladies, Sonny T. doesn't want to know you unless you have friends for threesomes!) and "Extra Loveable" (where after a bunch of normal lyrics expressing attraction to an unnamed woman, Prince suddenly starts singing about how he's going to rape her and drag her into the tub for a bath if she resists.)
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Prince's "Minneapolis Sound" involves a huge smashing-together of Funk, New Wave, rock, pop, soul/R&B and psychedelic rock. And it is awesome.
  • New Sound Album: Dirty Mind (showing off the Minneapolis Sound) 1999' (leaning into dystopian cyberfunk); Purple Rain (adding psychedelic bits, pushing the rock and pop parts forward, showing off The Revolution); Around the World in a Day (dialing up the psychedelia); Sign the Times (first post-Revolution solo album, more stripped-down arrangements and production); The Black Album (pure funk with bits of Funk Metal); Lovesexy (poppy); Graffiti Bridge (better technology); Diamonds and Pearls'' (dropping the 80s inklings for more soul, rnb and new jack swing.)
  • New Technology Is Evil: OH GOD YES. Prince is pretty much against the internet and the usage of MP3s and such. He's even gone out of his way to have any songs of his removed from YouTube, even at one point removing a song cover done by Radiohead, only letting it back up when the band and their fans began to complain. There is also the fact that if you have his music online, he will not hesitate to sue you or ruin you. However, Prince will use an electronic platform only if it benefits him financially. He famously set up the NPG Music Club to distribute music and videos, and in 2015, swapped from Apple Music and Spotify to Tidal, since it seemed to give him the best cut.
  • No Ending: "Batdance" cuts to a sudden halt with a sample of Michael Keaton saying "Stop."
    • Prince ran out of tape while recording the extended version of "America", so they added a fade out to hide it. Ditto for "I Would Die 4 U", only they trimmed 20 minutes off as well.
  • No Title: The album commonly referred to as The Black Album was intended to be released in an entirely black sleeve with the catalogue number being the only thing printed on it. The only credit to Prince is a hidden message at the start of the opening song: "So ,you found me. Good, I'm glad. This is Prince, the cool of cools…" When it was officially released in 1994, the packaging remained unchanged, albeit with a sticker on the shrinkwrap saying, "The legendary Black Album."
  • Non-Actor Vehicle: Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon and Graffiti Bridge. Only the first is considered in any way good - more specifically, So Bad, It's Good. Over the years UTCM has attained minor cult status among fans.
    • Unsurprisingly, his most acclaimed movies are the concert films Prince and the Revolution: Live (filmed on March 30, 1985 at Syracuse, New York) and Sign "☮" the Times (supposed to have used concert footage from Rotterdam and Antwerp, but those shots turned out grainy and unusable so most of the film, including the segues, was reshot at Paisley Park).
  • Noodle Incident: Why did Prince withdraw the Black Album? Er, hard to say. Stories circulate about how he became convinced it was evil, and some former associates claim that he came up with this idea after having a bad trip on ecstasy. Even when it was issued in 1994 to help complete his contract, his publicist stated he was still "spiritually against" it.
  • Not Christian Rock: We can go all day over this, but the Hijacked by Jesus part above kind of makes it moot.
    • And considering the content of the vast majority of his songs, it's not all that hard to figure out.
      • Although, Purple Rain and Let's Go Crazy can both be seen as (and have been stated to be) religious metaphors.
  • Older Than They Look: Looking at Prince, it's hard to believe that he's in his early 50s and he still looks the same as he did in the 1980s.
  • One-Letter Name: The symbol, used when he was referred to as "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" Said symbol, while not a alphabetical letter, still had to be printed during this time and Warner Brothers had to send out floppy disks of a special font that included the symbol so that print media could print it.
  • One Name Only: Prince.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: See The Trope Formerly Known as X.
  • Piss-Take Rap: "Dead on It". "Now the rapper's problem usually stems from being tone deaf..."
  • Ping-Pong Naïveté: In "Uptown", Prince is approached by a seemingly loose woman and mentions that he's taken aback by the request to "party in Uptown". His internal monologue even calls her "a crazy little mixed up dame / she's a victim of society and all its games." Considering most of the rest of the Dirty Mind album consists of Prince sticking his dick in things, this is kinda jarring.
  • Pop-Star Composer: Did the '89 Batman soundtrack.
  • Power Ballad: Best match for this criteria: "Purple Rain".
  • Protest Song: Not what he's primarily known for, but "Partyup", "Ronnie Talk to Russia" (although he liked Ronald Reagan), "America", "Sign "☮" the Times", "Dance On", "We March" and "Dear Mr. Man" count. These tend to be a bit Anvilicious though.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Purple is the color he often performs in, inspiring "Purple Rain" too.
  • The Quiet One: Prince and The Revolution ended up interviewed on MTV when the "America" single was released, an interview during which Prince refused to speak and instead let his bandmates answer all the questions.
  • Rearrange the Song: Some of Prince's songs got stuck in Development Hell and by the time they came out they'd been drastically revised:
    • "Tick, Tick, Bang" was originally recorded in the Controversy sessions as a Punk Rock song with frenzied drumming, monotone synth and Prince's multitracked vocals. The Graffiti Bridge version somehow grew to include a slower tempo, a beat sampled from Jimi Hendrix, a different synth melody and more samples.
    • "You" was originally recorded by Prince in 1979 as a rock-oriented side-project called "The Rebels", and it was (appropriately) a riff-driven Power Pop song with a droning synth sequence, not too far removed from what Devo ended up doing the next year with Freedom of Choice. By the time Prince pawned it off to Paula Abdul in 1991 with the Princebonics-ized title of "U", the rock part was absent, and it was now more of a dance song.
    • The other surviving Rebels song, "If I Love You Tonight", wasn't radically changed since it started as a ballad, but Mayte's version has a more obvious R&B influence, with drum machines replacing Bobby Z.'s drums, and Princebonics replacing the normal title.
    • "Alphabet St." and "Kiss" both started out as acoustic blues songs in 1987 and 1985, respectively, and their original demos can be found on bootlegs, the former in drastically shortened form.
    • "Strange Relationship" had originally been recorded in 1982, and reworked with Wendy and Lisa in 1985, gaining a noticeable Indian influence through their playing sitar and wood flute. By the time it came out on Sign the Times, The Revolution had disbanded, and Prince altered the mix to bury their contributions. (They weren't removed, but picking out the sitar and wood flute now requires some more careful listening.)
    • In fact, one of the chief complaints of fans against the Crystal Ball boxset, besides the predominance of material from The '90s, is that the 1980s songs were presented in revised form.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Could very well be a Real Life Trope Codifier of this.
  • Record Producer: "Produced, Arranged, Composed and Performed by Prince" ("& the Revolution" for Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day and Parade).
  • Retraux: MPLSound, if the name wasn't enough of a clue, is basically an entire album of Prince ransacking his 1980s Minneapolis sound. Ironically, he showcased it better on ART OFFICIAL AGE, when he wasn't trying to sound retraux.
  • Rockstar Song: "Baby I'm a Star"; "My Name Is Prince".
  • Rummage Sale Reject: This is what he and the Revolution dressed like back in The '80s, with heavy doses of Awesome Anachronistic Apparel when the famed ruffled shirts appeared in 1984. They pulled it off.
  • Same Face, Different Name: Might as well be the Trope Namer.
  • Sampling: Many people have sampled his stuff (example: Public Enemy's "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" uses the squealy guitar solo from "Let's Go Crazy"), not really surprising there. Prince himself first dipped into this with the Batman soundtrack, which featured samples taken from a workprint of the movie, with no ADR or foley, and outright made a Stupid Statement Dance Mix with "Batdance". Starting in The '90s he would use the occasional sample more frequently: "7" is based on the 1960s R&B song "Tramp" by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas, "Tick Tick Bang" yanks the drum beat from Jimi Hendrix's "Little Miss Lover", one version of the bootlegged "Dis Beat Disrupts" samples the famous "When the Levee Breaks" beat.
  • Self-Deprecation: "Prince? That skinny motherfucker with the high voice?"
    • From "Now", a song released during his symbol phase: "Don't worry about my name, it's too long to remember / I could tell you now but we'd be here 'till next September."
    • The extended version of "Hello" ends with Prince suggesting his critics walk in his shoes, only to note that his shoes are all massive platform shoes because of his short height, and that they would fall and die because of it.
    • The unreleased "Blues in C (If I Had a Harem)" pokes fun at his The Casanova reputation.
    • His appearances on New Girl and Muppets Tonight are full of this towards his more Cloudcuckoolander side.
    Bobo: "Uhuh, and your name, sir?"
    Prince: (Looks at camera.) "This is gonna be fun."
  • Self-Titled Album: His second album, Prince was this. The symbol that was the name of his fourteenth album was later used as his legal name.
  • Sexophone: Surprisingly this is rarely imployed, but finally saw use on 1989's three-part "The Scandalous Sex Suite", a 19-minute re-imagining of the song "Scandalous" from the Batman soundtrack. The woman in question being Kim Basinger, who converses with Prince throughout the song. This may have also been used in the infamous Underwear scene from the cinematic classic Graffiti Bridge.
  • Spoken Word in Music: Numerous examples exist throughout his career. The most famous examples would include the start of "Let's Go Crazy".note  The most infamous example would probably be the intro to "Computer Blue":
    *guitar feedback*
    Lisa: Wendy?
    Wendy: Yes Lisa?
    Lisa: Is the water warm enough?
    Wendy: Yes Lisa.
    Lisa: Shall we begin?
    Wendy: Yes Lisa. *Epic Riff*
    • Additional examples include the talk with God at the end of "Temptation", the entirety of "Bob George", the monologue/sermon that comprises the first half of "One Song" and the aformentioned "Scandalous Sex Suite". Smaller examples include the intro to "Eye No", the last few lines of "200 Balloons", and the skits in between a couple of the songs on the Love Symbol album (Prince eventually cut several minutes of skits out of that album to fit one more song in.) The cake-taker is "The War", a 25-minute live jam with Fauxlosophic Narration making up the lyrics.
  • Subdued Section: Too many to count.
  • Subliminal Seduction: Inverted entirely with "Darling Nikki". The song itself is about a "sex fiend" who has her full way with Prince, leaving him a wreck that begs for more. The backward message that concludes the song? "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know that the Lord is coming soon." During live performances on tour, that section would be played forwards, because there was no way to properly reproduce it live.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: "Batdance", which is Frankenstein'd together out of samples from Batman, quotes from Prince songs from that film's soundtrack (as well as the 1966 Batman theme), a backing track from a song rejected for the film, and a typically Princetastic guitar solo.
  • Take That: He's recorded quite a few songs bashing on Warner Bros. Records, like "Dolphin", "Face Down" and "White Mansion".
    • The unreleased song "Extra Loveable" zings departed Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson with "Hey Dez, don't you like my band?".
  • Take That, Critics!: "All the Critics Love U in New York". The title says it all. Additionally, "Bob George" is rumoured to be a reference to Nelson George, a Billboard and The Village Voice music critic who gave some of his albums bad reviews.note 
    • The b-side "Hello" is a big take that to all of his critics, specifically those who criticized his absence in "We Are the World".
  • Textless Album Cover: The Black Album (<Spinal Tap reference goes here>), Sign the Times and Batman.
  • Their First Time: From "Adore": "You made love to me like you were afraid… Was you afraid of me? Was I the first? Was I your every fantasy?"
  • Unusual Euphemism: Plenty.
    • "Dirty Mind": "In my daddy's car, it's you I really wanna drive."
    • "Le Grind": "We're gonna do the grind y'all, gotcha where I wantcha. Girl, it's gonna feel so good. Up and down, up and down, on the beat y'all, like a pony would, pony would."
    • "Cindy C": "I'm sure you're quite intelligent, a whiz at math and all that shit but I'm, I'm a tad more interested in flyin' your kite tonight..."
    • "Cream": "Cream, get on top; Cream, you will cop; Cream, don't you stop; Cream, sha-boogey-bop."
    • "Come": "Like a strawberry, chocolate, fender jazz, mashed potato fuzztone all over your thighs, oh baby!"
    • "Hot With U": "I wanna get you underneath the cream and do the marshmallow."
  • Villain Song: "Dance with the Devil", where The Joker is explicitly compared to Satan.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Prince was one of the first to use this to write his song titles and lyrics, to the point that the system was nicknamed "Princebonics" (and reading it is the easiest way to send your inner Grammar Nazi into fits of fury). Starting in 1981, "to" = "2", "for" = "4", "you" = "U", "I" = an eye symbol (geddit?), "are" = "R", and so on. Prince fans usually romanize the eye symbol as "Eye" instead of "I", as the album Lovesexy featured two songs named "Eye No" and "I Wish U Heaven". This system reached its apex with the 1986 song "♥ or $", pronounced "Love or Money". Prince's use of his own system became jarring to read when he set up the NPG Music Club, as every press release and article on the site never broke usage, even on the legal documents.