1999 [2 Disc Deluxe Ed.] – Prince

My God, this is an amazing album. At the time it first dropped, nearly 4 decade ago, we digested music mostly through the airwaves and MTV music videos. We didn’t start listening to Prince on cassette until “Purple Rain”. So, all this time we missed out on these fantastic B-sides. We never heard power ballad “Free”, the pop ditty “Lady Cab Driver,” or even knew that “How Come You Don’t Call Me?” was a Prince song, let alone that it was basically a throw-away B-side. As usual, the songs fill us with sadness. As is our habit, we rotate anything new with his entire career of work, through “Art Official Age” and both “HitNRun” albums. Prince never peaked. His sound modernized and evolved, but he remained a strong and unique pop songwriting voice right up until it was cut short.

We also love to listen to Prince as a playlist mixed with the music of his many disciples. This week, we chose Van Hunt’s “The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets” (2015), Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” (2018) and Bilal’s “A Love Surreal” (2013) and “In Another Life” (2015). As usual, hearing these artists in the context of their biggest influence lifts up their work.

Van Hunt picked up the funk torch from Prince and Monae is all about his dance and pop prowess (sprinkled with his social awareness). Of the 3 disciples we chose this week, Bilal is our favorite. He took up the most challenging part of Prince’s legacy, his jam-based, jazz thread. Bilal records and performs with a live band. He keeps the arrangements fluid and loose, allowing for very dynamic songs, with shifting tempos, drum lines that hold back and then attack, and infectious grooves (we can’t get enough of “I Really Don’t Care”).

For us, the continuing work of these artists and his other disciples are a ghostly extension of Prince himself.