Dedication Post Prince Dedication

Published on April 21st, 2016 | by Aaron Cooper

16

Prince: The Brain, The Heart, The Beat

Prince RIPThe definition of entertainer is “to hold the attention of  a person or persons, with something amusing or diverting”Even though that’s a bit stark and cold, it does a well enough job describing how we feel about some of our favorite artists. We sing along to their songs, hang posters, quote lyrics, and enjoy seeing them on a screen or on stage. But above mere entertainers, are icons. An icon goes beyond the conventional aspect of entertaining. These individuals shatter perceptions and stereotypes, break down and rebuild opinions, and more importantly, tell us something about ourselves, bringing up questions we didn’t even think to ask. Prince is one of those icons.

It would be easy to sit here and discuss why hundreds of songs in Prince’s repertoire mean so much to us.

“Let’s Go Crazy,” “Kiss,” and “Little Red Corvette” among so many others, are still a staple of anywhere secular music can be heard. I grew up hearing those songs like many people my age, and despite his later output not finding it’s way on mainstream radio, he’s still relevant. Whether they are aware of it or not, the current generation of listeners are hearing Prince’s influence in just about every  popular song on the charts right now, be it samples, references, recording techniques, or even marketing and promotion. While he wasn’t the first artist to bring sensuality to mainstream music, he brought it in a big way. In fact, mainstream’s sexual liberation can in someways be credited to the progressive model Prince perfected years before most of the current breed of pop stars were even born.

 

Prince ObitIt goes deeper than just enjoying one of his simple pop songs though. There’s always been something about his art people connect with. Most of his songs (or at least the popular ones) deal with lust and desire in a timeless, carnal fashion that can be understood by the most naive listener or the most experienced man or woman of the world. As a songwriter, he knew how to hit all the right emotional notes to keep the listener invested in any given story without pandering. Even if the narrative is mundane like the teenage romance of “Raspberry Beret” or the possible exhortation to follow Christian ethics in “Let’s Go Crazy.” He used the common realities of existence and manipulated them into something joyous and interesting. Conventional or vague, it’s not hard to identify with the narratives in his music.

There’s three main aspects of creating pop music. The beat is the ingredient that makes our bodies want to move regardless of what the lyrics (if any) are saying. The heart convinces the listener to feel something by way of words or instrumentation. Then finally, the brain; the component that encourages the listener think. Throughout music history many artists have excelled in one or two of these aspects but only a handful have managed to master of all three at the same time. Prince somehow managed this and on quite a few occasions, displayed these factors in one song! Look at “When Doves Cry” for an example. There’s no bass in the groove! The lack of bass lets the cold beat put the emphasis on the lyrics. The lyrics tell a story of the narrator’s musings on life, which makes the listener ask themselves the question ‘why are we the way we are?’. The beat, the heart and the brain all working in unison creates soul. The Beatles and David Bowie are prime examples of artists who achieved this a number of times throughout their respective careers, which puts Prince among very exclusive company.

 

Speaking of recording techniques, dropping the bass out of a groove, wasn’t the only production trick under Prince’s sleeve, he used plenty of unorthodox engineering throughout his career that were other-worldly at the time, but common practice today. He was one of the first artists to successfully manipulate pitch by tape speed to sing in ranges he wasn’t humanly capable of, as well as integrate synthetic drum machines with tracks of live percussion, creating a strange hybrid of robotic sheen and imperfect live performance. That could very well be used as a metaphor for the style of music he delivered throughout his four decade career.  Technical, smart, and soulful.

RIP PrinceMost intriguing, was the questions his songs made us ask ourselves. Can we devote ourselves to a spiritual belief at the same giving in to our carnal desires? Are we bad people if we act on those same desires? Are we naive to believe in God? Are we worth questioning ourselves if we don’t? These are questions, among others, all of us have asked ourselves at some point or another in our lives whether we admit to it or not. Prince knew how to craft an art form that spoke of those fears, desires, and insecurities in a way that was still extremely fun to listen to. Instead of claiming to know the answers and preaching his opinion as gospel, he encouraged the listener to look within themselves and find the answer they may have already known.

Prince’s influence is felt across genres and trends. He’s among the exclusive company of artists who have not only shaped the way we listen to music in general, but maybe even the way we feel about our own psyche. He used the beat, the heart, and the brain as instruments to speak to something that’s already deep within all of us. The anxiety of insecurity. The temptation of desire. The longing for something more than just carnal feelings.  There’s a constant battle between flesh and spirit, and it’s something some artists are too afraid to tackle. Prince faced that battle head-on with poise and confidence, confirming his status among the greatest artists of all time. More than an entertainer or innovator, Prince was and always will be an icon.

Musician, vinyl collector, freelance writer and a lover of all things music. I don’t care if it’s old, new, or popular in the industry, if it’s authentic, I can dig it at least to some degree. Art is subjective and the only thing important to me music wise, is how it makes me feel.

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16 Responses to Prince: The Brain, The Heart, The Beat

  1. Thipapedi Rampou says:

    Prince was phenomenal: I listened with envy to his music even though I am not an artist. His voice, dance moves, piano, drums and dirty lyrics almost drove me to tears in pure ecstasy. He was a pioneer of my time especially when I caught up with him in my youthful 80s in the Signs of the Times. His other song Morning Papers got me captivated in thought. He taught me what psychedelic meant in music. It is amazing how he tapped into my creative side. He left me smitten by his music. To this day I know not of an artists who has an ability to give abstract number such colour and rhythm. The songs 7 and 1999 echo in my head to this day and so does Cream…

    • Aaron Cooper says:

      Thanks for reading! I agree. I was a little too young to fully understand his songs during his most popular years, but the songs are still embedded in my life. Truly an artist in every sense of the word. He will be missed.

  2. Larry says:

    That was really a good article and enjoyed reading it aaron

  3. Kyanna Kitt says:

    Prince was magical. I mean there are so many aspects about him as an artist that put him in his own arena. He had, in my humble opinion, a very distinct musical style. I mean, I was really in love with his vocals when I was younger. I couldn’t really wrap my head around the concepts he sang of but now, as an adult, I can and I appreciate his music so much more because of it.

    A few years back I believe he played an awards show on BET and he absolutely slayed! I never really kept up with him but my gosh when he performed I don’t remember ever feeling like I wanted to change the channel or anything like that. He was just so captivating and that’s saying a lot becuase not many people or things interest me on that level.

    I am always a fan of people willing to challenge societal norms and he did that quite often. The questions he made us ask ourselves have awaken many people into a higher state of conciousness (of themselves). For me, Prince and people like him make me feel comforted and at ease with being a person who doesn’t really ‘fit.’

    ‘When Doves Cry’ is one of my favorite Prince songs. I remember (one summer) I made my mom so sick of hearing it because I kept singing it. Hahaha.

    Beautifully written piece, Aaron.

    Kyanna Kitt

    • Aaron Cooper says:

      Thanks for checking it out Kyanna! I agree with what you said and it’s kinda what I wanted to say in this article. His music worked on different levels regardless of your age or whatever, but even as though provoking it was, it was still enjoyable and never felt too heavy. There aren’t too many artist who could do that. I appreciate you giving this a read and taking time to share your take!

  4. ThatGirlllll says:

    That was a really good read Aaron! I really liked how you brought up the battle between being spiritual and sexual. I haven’t read too many articles in the past few days that have touched upon that. Very good observation. Also I didn’t pay attention that there isn’t bass guitar in When Doves Cry. You learn something everyday!

    • Aaron Cooper says:

      Thanks for reading! Prince always dealt with spiritual themes just as much as sexual themes in his music and sometimes it’s easy to over look that. For me that was just another piece of the puzzle of why I love him. Thanks for the comment!

  5. Lesley Khan says:

    It took me a while to find the words to begin a response because in my eyes, out of all the writings I’ve read since his passing, your piece encapsulates everything that Prince represents. I use ‘represents’ because although he is no longer physically present here on earth, everyday I see a reflection of his being here with us.
    Reflecting on growing up in the late 80’s/ early 90’s I remember clearly, dancing to his funk-tastic beats in my mom’s kitchen :DDD, even though I was too young to grasp the meaning of his lyrics. Hailing from the Caribbean, I am forever grateful to my parents for the exposure of all genres of music, including the genre I call ‘Prince.’
    As the years passed and being able to purchase my own albums, my collection on this indescribable artist has allowed me to ‘see’ his growth and the evolution through the instrument of the art-form. To see him live has always been on my to do list, but sadly this dream would no longer be realized. However, I hold fast to his mammoth-sized catalog of music and the type of life that he lived as a true example of Love, Talent, Dedication to Dreams, Craftsmanship, Hard Work and Sacrifice.

    • Aaron Cooper says:

      Hey Lesley! First and foremost, I must say that the first section of your comment is hands down, one of the most humbling responses I’ve ever recieved for ANYTHING I’ve ever written. Thank you for that, it sincerely made my day. Next, I want to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings on Prince! I think all of his fans share a similar story on some level because in spite of genres, age or race, Prince shared his passion for the universal language that is music. Music has the ability to speak to the listener even without words! If the passion is there, so is the connection. Prince embodied that in just about everything he did. Thank you for the kind words, your opinion, and taking the time to share them. You rock!

  6. Naomi says:

    This is the most beautifully written article about Prince I’ve ever read. Well spoken and to the point. So many writers tried to make their pieces look important by infusing lyrics of “Purple Rain” or “When Doves Cry” but you nailed it completely without using tired, cliche puns.
    When I read “The anxiety of insecurity. The temptation of desire. The longing for something more than just carnal feelings. There’s a constant battle between flesh and spirit, and it’s something some artists are too afraid to tackle” it literally gave me goosebumps!
    I don’t believe I’ve ever read any music themed article anywhere, and had a similar reaction. You have the God given talent of understanding many writers would die to have. Thank you so much for writing this! Cheers!

    • Aaron Cooper says:

      Wow thanks! that’s one mighty compliment Naomi! I wrote this article a few hours after I heard Prince had passed. I didn’t have a lot of time to pull an epic piece together. Some of the other writers had already written amazing retrospectives and obits, so I just decided to write about what I was thinking. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  7. Anita says:

    Well done Aaron Cooper.

  8. BlurryFacesUNITED says:

    Nope sorry. Prince was just 80s shit with zero emotion or soul. He’s only popular because he died. He only had like what 3 hits tops? Pretending to worship a hasbeen because they died from drug abuse is bullshit.

  9. Kiersten says:

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    Do you have any? Please allow me recognise in order that I may subscribe.
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