Capable of upstaging Eric Clapton on guitar, releasing powerful pop that toed the line between apocalyptic and sexy, and contorting his voice to do just about anything, there was no limit to Prince’s abilities. But not everybody is aware the purple one was also a prolific ghostwriter, penning hits for everyone from The Bangles to Kenny Rogers and Stevie Nicks.
New posthumous album ‘Prince: Originals’, which has been released by the Prince Estate in collaboration with Warner Bros and Jay-Z’s streaming platform Tidal, has raided the vaults of Paisley Park to bring together 14 reference tracks Prince laid down for other artists, with this collection acting as a fascinating time capsule of the 1980s.
Prince nails the deep nasally vocals of a country singer on ‘You’re My Love’, a track he tellingly penned for Kenny Rogers, while his effeminate vocals channel the experience of being an independent black woman on ‘The Glamorous Life’, the hit single he wrote for frequent collaborator Shelia E. Hearing. Prince, singing two songs that are so different stylistically, reminds us just how insanely talented he was, with the artist possessing a chameleon-like ability to master practically any genre of music.
‘Prince: Originals’ is at its best when Prince lets loose and embraces his cheekier sider. The phallic symbolism of ‘Sex Shooter’, which contains the playful lyrics “I need you to pull my trigger babe / I can’t do it alone”, is one hell of a ride, while the absolutely bonkers ‘Holly Rock’ sees Prince talking slick over a beat that sounds like it was crafted from a psychedelic pinball machine. Honestly, it’s a shame Prince ever gave these tracks away to other artists.
Although the camp synths and indulgent guitar solos present on a lot of these tracks are clear by-products of the decade that gave us cone bras, Super Mario and The Goonies, this music also sounds prescient, with the raw experimental funk of ‘Wouldn’t You Love To Love Me’ (written in 1981 for singer Taja Seville) sounding like it would be right at home on bold 2019 releases such as Tyler, The Creator’s ‘Igor’ and Steve Lacy’s Apollo XXI. The fact you can hear Prince so obviously channeled when listening to these two modern black artists is a powerful reminder of just how ahead of its time his music was.
A lot of the songs on this collection have a playful innocence to them and it’s clear Prince enjoyed writing music for other artists, seeing it more as an opportunity to be experimental and loose, rather than a coldly technical chore. You can almost feel the beaming smile Prince was rocking while singing the original ‘Manic Monday’ (the smash, which he penned for The Bangles, is one of the highlights here) while ‘Jungle Love’ (a hit Prince wrote for The Time) is reflective of an era where music was about making you dance first and think second.
Both tracks are infectiously joyous, and if this collection is any indicator of the quality of the thousands of hours of unreleased music Prince still has in the vaults, then don’t be surprised if we’re still partying to new Prince music in 2099.