The Poser’s Guide to Prince

The Poser’s Guide is a monthly column, by Max Pasion-Gonzales, dedicated to giving a concise summary of the career, discography, narrative, and themes of a particular artist. This information will guide readers in listening to each respective artist in an encapsulating and beneficial way while providing the necessary tools to give the illusion of being “cool” or “cultured” to their peers. If you or someone you know is a poser and would like to learn more about a relevant artist to gain social clout or other forms of cultural payoff, this column is for you.

The Poser’s Guide to Prince

Greetings posers!

If there’s anything you gather from this first iteration of The Poser’s Guide, it should be this: Prince is undeniably one of the greatest music artists to ever live, debatably the second best of all time to The Beatles. An at least baseline knowledge of his legacy and music is essential for any serious music listener.

Approaching Prince’s discography can be rather daunting; he has nearly 50 albums across 42 years. Despite being a huge Prince fan, his massive catalogue renders even me a poser, as I have yet to consume even close to half of this music. Still, I’ve heard my fair share, including all of the solo studio albums from 1978-1988, which is regarded as the prime of his career.

Richard Avedon

Prince released 10 albums in this glorious 11-year stretch, resulting in an album per year, every year, with the exception of 1983. All ten of these efforts are outstanding works of musicianship and they’re almost entirely written, composed, and performed by Prince, who was of course assisted by The Revolution for certain albums along the way. Despite the consistency throughout this period, there is only one proper point of entry, Prince’s single greatest and most beautiful musical accomplishment: Purple Rain.

Purple Rain is the defining album of the 80s.

It’s a highly stylized and theatrical form of pop, funk, and rock fused seamlessly and performed with an unmatched altruism. It is a perfect album. I could ramble endlessly, but the best thing I can do is to simply implore you to listen. Let the Rain fall down and cleanse you with catharsis and indulgence. Let it flow into your veins and fill you with life. Once you’re done basking in the glory and processing the beauty you have witnessed, then move on to the rest of his work. It is all put into perspective by this moment.

Prince, 1984

Listen to his ‘78-’81 stretch after that. Prince delivers an extremely dynamic, entertaining, and accessible four album stretch here. Each is around the 30 minute mark, making them excellent for bike rides, work commutes, yoga sessions, or meal preps. You could even knock them all out in a funky two hour marathon. It’s fascinating to watch how rapidly Prince improves and develops across these four years. If anything, this run of albums is worth it solely for “It’s Gonna Be Lonely,” the closer on the self-titled album.

This batch is likely going to be your core day to day listening with Prince, and it’s a great segway into 1999, Prince’s first monumental, long-form statement.

Allen Beaulieu

Refine your Prince palette with 1999, Sign O’ The Times, and Around the World in a Day. These albums show Prince leaning more into his experimentation and instrumental prowess, opting to move away from the accessible power-pop gold from his early career. Here you’ll be listening to longer works, albums to really meditate on and sit with. Absolutely give these hard listens. Don’t be intimidated, they’re highly rewarding. 

He’s a coffee table book, one to continually come back to and rethink, applying to your newer context.

Prince, 1984

By this point, you’ll have a strong understanding of Prince as a creative, and you should naturally want more. Feel free to round out your listening with the remaining two, Lovesexy and Parade or try out some later catalog stuff. Favorites will ebb and flow, with your album power rankings changing with every new pondering. This is absolutely natural. As of now, my only absolute with Prince lies in Purple Rain being his best, but where the rest stack up continues to perplex me. Prince is the kind of artist who will always be in the lives of his listeners. He’s a coffee table book, one to continually come back to and rethink, applying to your newer context. He’s truly ubiquitous; his influence lives on endlessly in modern music of multiple genres and his albums continue to be revered by millions to this day. But these truths are for you to discover organically. Take the journey whenever your time comes, it’s never too early or too late. Prince will always be there.