The 75 Greatest Prince Songs

For most important artists, when you piece through their catalog, narrowing it down to 50 songs can be kind of a chore. Most artists aren’t Prince, though. In his case, narrowing it down to 50 is virtually impossible. It was immediately clear when compiling this list that expansion was unavoidable…his catalog is just too damn big… but expand to what? I think anyone with half a grasp on his career could easily piece together 100-200 Prince songs worthy of acknowledging, but where does the selectivity come into play?  When compiling lists, I find the tracks being left off to be equally as important as the ones that made it on. My lists for the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna cut off at 50, and while Prince’s catalog easily outnumbers both of their’s combined, it didn’t seem right giving him an exact double…75 felt just right.

Still, ranking Prince’s mammoth catalog is no easy feat. He was such an innovator in the way he released his music, not to mention he released a whole hell of a lot of it. Between his albums, singles, b-sides, rarities, and a whole hoard of works in the vault, narrowing down his immense body of work is daunting. I’ve attempted to do this multiple times over the years, usually copping out before any sort of realistic ranking comes to form, but with his recent passing, the timing seemed more important than ever. This list is based on importance just as much as it is quality, innovation just as much as it is intuition, and enjoyability just as much as it is pensiveness. At the end of the day, what Prince songs really deserve to be called out from the pack? Is it the ones who have made the greatest impact on society, or is it the hidden gems who deserve their due? Ideally, it’d be the perfect amalgamation of the two, but in the end, the better songs really just bring themselves to the forefront.

So here, without further adu, is the 50 75 Greatest Prince Songs:

It should be noted that only songs recorded and released by Prince were considered.

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75. THE SUN, THE MOON & STARS

RaveLow-key, reggae-lite album track “The Sun, The Moon, & Stars” is one of Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic’s hidden gems. Despite its hokey tendencies, the track’s melody is sweet in a way only Prince could pull off.


74. STARFISH & COFFEE

SignPrince’s unforgettable appearance on The Muppets Tonight was highlighted by a visually-verbatim portrayal this Sign O’ The Times fixture. If that doesn’t sum up why this off-beat little ditty is one of his crowing jewels, I’m not sure what will.

73. SLOW LOVE

SignOne of his more aptly titled pieces, this Sign O’ The Times album track represents Prince at his most sensual, romantic, and authentically soulful, and there’s no denying just how dazzling the end product is.

72. POP LIFE

AroundThe success of “Pop Life” spawned from sheer momentum. There’s no denying that it’s not one of his most imaginative pop moments, but its psychedelic tendencies are just distracting enough to give it a boost.

71. TAKE ME WITH U

PurplePurple Rain is a flawless collection of tracks, but “Take Me With U” would have benefited from replacing the noticeably lackluster Apollonia with more-than-competent Wendy and Lisa, or removing her altogether. It’s definitely the album’s weakest spot.

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70. GOTTA STOP (MESSIN’ ABOUT)

DirtyReleased as a stand-alone single in the early-80s, “Gotta Stop (Messin’ About)” is an intentionally underproduced unique blend of sounds. It has a pop sensibility, and a punk-delivery, but leaves us feeling fully nourished.

69. SCANDALOUS

BatmanLifted from the Batman soundtrack, the sultry “Scandalous” never really got the attention it deserved. With Prince’s fragile, velvety falsetto carrying the soulful melody, this is easily one of his greatest slow jams.

68. U GOT THE LOOK

SignDespite being one of Prince’s biggest hits, “U Got The Look” isn’t necessarily one of his greatest on all fronts. The reason the song is great is far more about arrangement and production than it is about melody and lyrics.

67. WHY YOU WANNA TREAT ME SO BAD?

PrinceWhile the track couldn’t capitalize on the momentum of “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” but remains one of his most important releases. Unleashing his rock side, the single sets the guitar front and center, and his climactic solo is still chill-inducing to this day.

66. GUITAR

EarthOne of Prince’s more prominent latter-day singles, “Guitar” really says it all in the title. The rock track sears with a whirlwind of Prince’s masterful playing of the namesake instrument, but maintains a stadium-sized melody.


65. AUTOMATIC

1999.jpgClicking in at 9 and a half minutes, 1999’s centerpiece, “Automatic” is Prince at his most creative. The odd piece is darlingly minimal, lacking much melody or structure, but it grooves harder than even you can even comprehend.

64. TEMPTATION

AroundClosing out Around The World In A Day, the funk-rock jam “Temptation” borderline overstays its welcome, yet manages to remain intentional for over 8 minutes. His “God monologue” is a little offbeat, but it’s undeniably entertaining.

63. LOLITA

3121One of Prince’s greatest latter-day party jams, “Lolita” is an undeniable standout on 3121. With an infectious, yet simple synth part at the forefront, he ingeniously keeps the vocal melody to a minimum to really highlight its natural groove.


62. ALL THE CRITICS LOVE U IN NEW YORK

1999.jpg1999’s penultimate track, “All The Critics Love U In New York” is another experimental fixture of the album. The mostly spoken song swirls around a simple groove of understated bass and drums, and despite its repetitiveness, it never feels stale.

61. PAISLEY PARK

AroundThe title alone sets the song on a bit of a pedestal, as it clearly reflects Prince’s famous studio/home, but it deserves recognition in its own right. The psychedelic track is whimsical, uplifting, and deliriously catchy, making it true standout.

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60. THE GREATEST ROMANCE EVER SOLD

Rave Un2 RaveThe Joy Fantastic has never been considered The Artist’s crowning jewel, but it certainly had its moments. Lead single “The Greatest Romance Ever Sold” is an epic production that deserves far more attention than its gotten.


59. PEACH

HitsAs one of three new songs featured on The Hits/The B-Sides, “Peach” is a rock herald. Built around a simple “ooh-ooh” hook, Prince’s guitar handiwork authoritatively rips through and captivates most of the attention. There was no need for much melody.

58. THE BALLAD OF DOROTHY PARKER

SignOne of the most understated fixtures of the epic Sign O’ The Times, “The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker” is an incredible masterclass in production. It sounds intentionally warped, which somehow manages to bring Prince’s narrative to life and remain incredibly groovy.

57. SHE’S ALWAYS IN MY HAIR

AroundAs of one of his more prominent b-sides, “She’s Always In My Hair” is a masterful rock-centric track built around an interpolation of his own composition, “Sex Shooter.” It’s a perfect example of how he could bend genres to create something truly unique.

56. FURY

3121“Fury” is a beautiful whirlwind of a track. Featuring an incredible synth instrumental-hook, Prince attempts to use his guitar as an accent, yet (true to form) it steals the show. The song is deliriously exciting.


55. BAMBI

PrinceOne of his earliest rock-oriented tracks, “Bambi” was ahead of its time. Lifted from his sophomore self-titled, the song is guitar-heavy on a metal level, and paired with lyrics about trying to lure a lesbian in his bed, it’s uniquely Prince.

54. SOMEWHERE HERE ON EARTH

EarthThis Planet Earth highlight is truly Prince giving us a full dose of his sensitive side. The jazzy piano ballad feels masterfully authentic with record-like crackles and delicate nuances of horns, but his melody steals the show.


53. MUSICOLOGY

MusicologyThe title track to his “return-to-form” Musicology LP is not a shy piece. Prince has long fought to keep the integrity in music, but with a groove this infectiously funky, he’s never really made it sound quite this enticing.


52. UNDER THE CHERRY MOON

ParadeUnder The Cherry Moon is not a great movie, but its title track compensates a fair amount. Lifted from the film’s soundtrack, Parade, the piano ballad has a dramatic, but simple structure that makes way for a charismatic vocal delivery.

51. I WISH U HEAVEN

LovesexyOne of Prince’s lesser-remembered singles, “I Wish U Heaven” is a perfect, compact little song that could have grown into excess (see the extended mix,) but instead becomes a masterclass in restraint. It’s impact is greater that way.

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50. CREAM

Diamonds“Cream” is a “gimme” of a song. It’s undeniably catchy and fun, but its real genius is found in its slight-of-hand sexual content and low-key chorus that feels a thousand times bigger than it actually is.

49. ILLUSION, COMA, PIMP & CIRCUMSTANCE

MusicologyLifted from Prince’s Musicology, “Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance,” is a minimalistic funky piece that only he would dare to attempt. For being so simple, the song is incredibly intricate and fully nourishing.


48. MOUNTAINS

ParadeWritten with Revolution members Wendy & Lisa, “Mountains” fuses together rock, funk, and gospel into an uplifting pop song. The entire band is audibly present here, making for an exciting sound that Prince couldn’t create himself.

47. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD

Gold“The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” is noteworthy for being the first release under his symbol moniker, but the slow jam certainly found international success because of its quality. The romantic ballad is textbook Prince, but that’s never a negative.


46. I COULD NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF YOUR MAN

SignFor all of Sign O’ The Times’ various sounds and genres, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man” was the most conventional. It almost sounds too effortless, but when you really take a listen, it’s far from it.

45. UPTOWN

DirtyThe funk-rock exemplified in “Uptown” was a landmark moment for Prince, even despite the track’s lack of commercial success. For everything he had put it to this point, this was the moment it all kind of came together.

44. MONEY DON’T MATTER 2 NIGHT

Diamonds“Money Don’t Matter 2 Night” is easily one of Prince’s most understated singles. The funky, jazzy mid-tempo track doesn’t have much dynamic, but its groove is so incredibly crafted, that it just feels good and leaves us wanting for nothing.

43. THIEVES IN THE TEMPLE

GraffitiHere’s a song that really showcases Prince’s skills as an arranger. The melody in “Thieves In The Temple” isn’t particularly memorable in its own right, but with tinges of Middle Eastern influence and intricate backing vocals, it shines.

42. BABY I’M A STAR

PurpleA clear highlight of Purple Rain, “Baby I’m A Star” is the kind of song that works better in context than it does on its own. Nonetheless, no matter what the situation, when it comes on, an instant party will ensue.

41. DIRTY MIND

DirtyThe title track of Prince’s groundbreaking third album is one of his first tracks to incorporate the new wave influence that helped craft his classic sound. With that infectious, pulsing synth part at the helm, “Dirty Mind” is downright fun.

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40. BLACK SWEAT

3121“Black Sweat” is, in many ways, a sequel to “Kiss.” Similarly to the aforementioned track (and “When Doves Cry,”) Prince leaves out a bassline. Yet, somehow, his funky groove feels complete.


39. STRANGE RELATIONSHIP

Sign“Strange Relationship” is Prince’s “Little Engine That Could.” Surviving several canceled projects over several years, the song found its way onto Sign O’ The Times. It’s an incredible representation of Prince’s creative evolution over such a short time.

38. D.M.S.R.

1999.jpgPrince’s seminal 1999 album featured many long, experimental works, but “D.M.S.R.” is truly something special. With roaring synthesizers and bass leading the way, he actually structures in a bit of melody to move it along that much more.

37. THE LADDER

AroundThis track is pure euphoria. “The Ladder” features an undeniable gospel influence that comes to life with a repeated melody, layered backing vocals, and an uplifting saxophone. You’ll get chills every time.

36. WHEN YOU WERE MINE

DirtyWhile Cyndi Lauper’s cover garnered a little more attention, Prince’s original is a total triumph. Much like the rest of Dirty Mind, he keeps the production to a minimum, but it feels complete and remains insanely catchy.

35. SEXY MF

Symbol“Sexy MF” is Prince at his absolute funkiest. The track is an infectiously groovy piece with a true-to-form lyrical array of blunt sexuality, all highlighted by an extraordinary horn arrangement that carries most of the weight.

34. CONDITION OF THE HEART

AroundThis Around The World In A Day highlight is one of Prince’s most beloved ballads. The album track is a sensitive, heart-wrenching narrative with a stunning melody, arrangement and an authentically emotive performance.

33. DO ME, BABY

ControversyBefore iconic explosive slow jams like “Purple Rain” and “Diamonds and Pearls,” there was “Do Me, Baby.” The title alone sums up its content, but it’s arrangement and euphoric melody are perfect distractions. It’s stood the test of time.

32. HEAD

DirtyThis Dirty Mind fixture more than lives up to its parent album’s name. Musically, “Head” is an infectiously funky jam with an incredible hook, but its explicit lyrics really push the envelope, even for Prince.

31. BATDANCE

BatmanEasily one of the most unique fixtures in Prince’s catalog, “Batdance” is essentially a mosaic pieced together from other tracks-in-progress and audio clips from the Batman film, but Prince, the mad scientist that he is, made it work.

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30. DIAMONDS AND PEARLS

DiamondsOne of Prince’s most sentimental and soulful hits, “Diamonds and Pearls” is a beloved facet of his catalog. With a sweet melody and gorgeous arrangement the piano-led ballad is one of those perfect, understated Prince moments.

29. COMPUTER BLUE

PurpleThe “Computer Blue” we all know is actually edited down from a 7 and a half minute opus, but it undeniably feels like a complete journey. Prince’s tug-of-war between funk and rock is exhilarating, and his guitar shredding is awe-inspiring.

28. THE CROSS

SignPrince has never shied away from exploring religious themes in his music. “The Cross” is one of his most straightforward, lyrically, but musically is easily one of his most gorgeous. It’s an undeniable anthem.

27. IF I WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND

SignIn the concept of his Camille project, “If I Was Your Girlfriend” is his most well executed. The groove is so delicately nuanced that it sounds almost over-simplified, but no one else could come close to pulling it off.

26. ALPHABET ST.

LovesexyThe only real hit lifted from Lovesexy, “Alphabet St.” is one of Prince’s more inventive hits. With a repetitive progression and little structure, the song is not only fun, but incredibly interesting and uniquely Prince.

25. 17 DAYS

PurpleThis Purple Rain-era b-side is as good, if not better than some of the actual album tracks. “17 Days” clearly didn’t fit in the context of the album, but this highly-emotive, new wave-infused piece is one of his greatest triumphs.

24. I WOULD DIE 4 U

PurplePurple Rain’s final megahit, “I Would Die 4 U” is a perfect, compact little pop gem. With a frenzied drum loop and a melodic synth hook, Prince embraces new wave head-on, but injects plenty of funk in there to keep it true-to-form.

23. I FEEL FOR YOU

PrinceHere’s another prime example of a brilliant Prince song overshadowed by another artist, in this case Chaka Khan. While her cover soared to the top of the charts, the original will always be the better listen.

22. HOUSEQUAKE

Sign“Housequake” is one of Prince’s defining party anthems. This Sign O’ The Times stand-out is gloriously funky with an intricate arrangement harking back to James Brown, but feels audaciously fresh.

21. HOW COME U DON’T CALL ME ANYMORE

1999.jpgThis is bare-bones Prince. With just a piano, vocals, and a ton of reverb, this iconic b-side is exhilarating from start to finish. Prince charismatically pushes his falsetto to its peak, and creates one beautiful, epic track.

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20. DARLING NIKKI

DarlingNikkiDespite not being released as a single, “Darling Nikki” remains one of Purple Rain’s defining fixtures. Right off the bat, it’s easy to identify it as one of Prince’s most controversial in content, but as a piece of music, it’s a complete masterpiece. Folding in elements of funk and hard rock, the song is insanely melodic without containing a chorus and features one of Prince’s most insane vocal performances. The way he unleashes his piercing scream in a climax of hard-hitting keys and guitar is alarming, but insanely impressive. Only he could really conceive a track like this, put it together, and pull it off effortlessly.

19. ANNA STESIA

AnnaStesiaPrince’s Lovesexy was one of his most outright efforts juxtaposing his views of sex vs. religion, and possibly his most masterful. The record’s biggest highlight, “Anna Stesia,” abandons the soulful funk of most of its album-mates, but acts as the the conceptual glue, and remains one of his most powerful works. Outlining an inner-struggle with temptations of the flesh, and ultimately choosing God, the song is both haunting and uplifting, climaxing in an absolutely euphoric hook, “Love is God, God is Love, girls and boys love God above.” It’s just a perfect, perfect song.


18. DOLPHIN

DolphinOf all the tracks released during his “The Artist Formerly Known As” era, “Dolphin” stands out as something truly special. The rock-oriented piece features an incredible lyrical array to match its bittersweet melody. It’s as anthemic and powerful as anything Prince has ever done, but, in a way, much more tactful. The way the calm verses explode into the soaring chorus is hardly a unique arrangement (especially for Prince,) yet his attention to detail is so impressive that he actually takes it to a different level. “Dolphin” may actually (and definitely arguably) be the greatest hidden gem in Prince’s vast catalog.


17. RASPBERRY BERET

RaspberryBeret“Raspberry Beret” is one of those universal Prince songs. With an infectious pop hook for the ages, a light bouncy arrangement, and an endearing psychedelic twist, it’s no surprise this is one of his most recognized tunes. In a similar vein to many of his records, any explicit content is disguised in a seemingly harmless array of pop sensibility and melody; it ingeniously comes off as cheeky-at-best here. For all of its apparently effortlessness, “Raspberry Beret” is anything but, Prince’s intuitions are so in tune with our needs that its complications often go overlooked.

16. 1999

1999songThis is one of those songs that has really grown legs of its own. “1999” not only re-established Prince in the commercial realm, it ushered in a new era of inventive, groundbreaking pop music. From the second that instrumental hook comes exploding out of a flurry of electronic drums, the party is in full swing. Not only was using his bandmates (soon to be fully identified as The Revolution) to alternate lines in the verses was a stroke of pure genius, but detailing an apocalyptic celebration 17 years in advance really makes for one of the most unique pop songs of all time.

15. GETT OFF

GettOffThe lead single from Diamonds and Pearls, “Gett Off” is a breakthrough-of-sorts for Prince. Embracing hip-hop head on, this complex arrangement features half-rapped verses that build into one of his catchiest choruses. While there’s nothing particularly conventional about the track, it’s endearing. There’s a flute, a James Brown interpolation, and a whole hoard of sexually blunt lyrics, but it’s Prince’s vocal arrangement that stands out more than anything. The way he intricately weaves in and out of the beat is nothing short of masterful, especially paired with the first major prominence of the New Power Generation. “Gett Off” is nothing short of spectacular.

14. NOTHING COMPARES 2 U

NothingCompares2UWe all know Sinéad O’Connor’s famous cover, and to a lesser extent, The Family’s original, but Prince (thankfully) did release a version of his epic composition “Nothing Compares 2 U” to fill out his The Hits/The B-Sides compilation. Going strictly off his own release, a live recording performed as a duet with NPG member Rosie Gaines, is a stunning representation of Prince as a live performer and a band leader. With a stunning horn arrangement and second-to-none vocal performances, this version is far more emotive, intricate, and down-right impressive than any studio recording could ever capture. It’s a rare, cosmic snapshot.

13. SOMETIMES IT SNOWS IN APRIL

SometimesItSnowsInAprilWith just piano, acoustic guitar, and vocals, “Sometimes It Snows In April” is arguably the most gorgeously poignant facet of Prince’s catalog. As Parade’s closing track, there’s something particularly noteworthy about its placement and context. While it lyrically references his character from the album’s associated film, Under The Cherry Moon, it’s hardly pinned down to one interpretation. Whether Prince is lamenting the literal or figurative death of the film’s protagonist or peacefully dissolving The Revolution, the lyrics are equally as haunting as they are hopeful. In the wake of his passing, “Sometimes It Snows In April” especially takes on a whole new context.

12. EROTIC CITY

EroticCityPrince has a wide array of funk in his cannon, but “Erotic City” is his crowning jewel. Inspired by P-Funk’s many eccentricities, the song is built around a groovy bass lick and memorable little synth hook, but keeps never becomes overly-complicated. Prince distorts his vocals throughout the song to sound both higher and lower and utilizes Sheila E’s voice as a perfect foil to drive the melody; it all creates such a unique texture. Despite only being released a b-side, “Erotic City” has gone on to become one of Prince’s most recognized songs, and with good reason.

11. 7

7Whatever this “7” is exactly referring to has long been a mystery, but one thing is crystal clear… this is a production masterpiece. The song is Middle Eastern influenced, featuring heavy drums and a prominent acoustic guitar, but it’s the vocal arrangement that stands out. With an intensely multilayered arrangement, Prince’s vocals are truly larger than life carrying the unique, but oddly satisfying melody to an entirely new stratosphere. It all ends up feeling so intense and powerful, but he never strays too far from the central message of the song. “7” is one of the most unique pop songs ever made, and only Prince could ever even come close to pulling it off.

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10. LET’S GO CRAZY

LetsGoCrazyWithout a doubt, “Let’s Go Crazy” is one of Prince’s defining songs. Opening Purple Rain, both the album and film, with that sermon declaring, “We are gathered here today to get through this thing called life,” the tone is immediately set for a frenzied ride only The Purple One could curate; it’s easily one of, if not his most iconic moment. When that famous riff comes exploding out, it’s impossible not to get completely swept away in its glory. In true Prince fashion, while the lyrics detail themes of mortality and morality, we are left completely distracted by the whistle hooks, party-ready production, and one hell of an epic guitar solo. Quick aside, the Special Dance Mix is the quintessential “Let’s Go Crazy” experience.

09. CONTROVERSY

ControversySongThe title track to Prince’s important-in-hindsight fourth album, Controversy is one of the most important, audacious works in his catalog. From the opening verse’s self-aware, “Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?” to inserting the Lord’s prayer in the middle of the track, Prince clearly was willing to let the content live up to the title, but probably in a more satirical way than we’re initially led to believe. Lyrics aside, the track is a perfect production, equipped with one of his funkiest, most authoritative bass lines ever. The way the sounds all come together has really made this a definitive representation of the “Prince sound,” if you could ever pin one down.

08. ADORE

AdoreWhile never released as a proper single, “Adore” is one of Prince’s most recognized works. Closing out his epic Sign O’ The Times LP,  this smooth, soulful jam is unapologetically lush with a live/improvisational feel, despite clearly being a thoughtful work. With an array of horns carrying the intoxicatingly sultry melody, the track feels just as classic as it does modern, and yet impossibly timeless. Despite clocking in at 6 and a half minutes, the way Prince commands our attention so profoundly, “Adore” could have easily been twice as long and felt just as nourishing and intentional. This will always be the go-to when searching for something soulfully romantic.

07. SIGN O’ THE TIMES

SignOTheTimesAs the title track to Prince’s opus double-disc, “Sign O’ The Times” stands as one of his most important work. Not only was it the first real taste of the artist following the dissolution of The Revolution, but content-wise saw him embrace social commentary head-on, tackling themes such as AIDS, drugs, and gang violence. It’s striking just how relevant it feels almost 30 years later despite it’s very specific references to current events. Musically, the track is tactfully simple so as to let the lyrics sit front and center. There isn’t much of a hook, nor even much instrumentation, but it feels so incredibly full and fulfilling.

06. THE BEAUTIFUL ONES

BeautifulOnesEven with only 9 tracks, Purple Rain almost has too many highlights, and despite never being released as a single, “The Beautiful Ones” is one of the album’s brightest moments. The soulful, psychedelically-tinged ballad begins with little more than an off-beat drum loop and a bouncy piano, the song grows into an eternally chilling, orgasmic climax. It’s Prince’s vocals that do most of the work here; this is quite possibly (and arguably) his greatest vocal performance on record. The fragile falsetto in the verses he maintains complete control over explodes into a downright scream-fest for the ages; it’s unfathomable that a human being could ever produce these sounds.

05. KISS

KissFor as many songs as Prince has, few are quite as immortal as “Kiss.” Not only is it one of his most recognized works, it’s one of his most intricate. Similar to his mega-hit “When Doves Cry,” there is absolutely no bass-line here. Not only is that a rarity for pop, but it’s damn near unheard of in funk, and “Kiss” is easily one of Prince’s funkiest jams. Bedazzled with his piercing falsetto and a masterful melody, he doesn’t need to coax us into grooving with him. As soon as that famous guitar riff rips through the speakers, we’re all his, and while he could have taken every cheap shot in the book, he takes us on an impressive journey of guitars and lyrical charisma. It’s equally as sexy as it is romantic, as danceable as it is thought-provoking, yet it all feels kind of effortless. This song is not an inevitability, only Prince could have conceived it, concocted it, and sent it to the top of the charts around the world.

04. LITTLE RED CORVETTE

LittleRedCorvetteWho knows what Prince’s career would have been without “Little Red Corvette.” To this day, one of his most recognized works, the track is one of his most ingenious lyrical cover ups. Sneaking in lines about used condoms and a lover who keeps pictures around of her former partners, Prince makes it all sound so incredibly innocent and endearing. The arrangement and melody are second-to-none, and the instrumentation is so gobsmackingly good that it’s easy to get lost in his groove and not dive into his elaborate (but obvious) lyrical metaphors. This is a peak for Prince’s pop sensibility. “Little Red Corvette” could have been a hit for literally anyone who recorded it, no matter how they recoded it, the song is that good… but Prince doing it on his own terms? It just doesn’t get any better.

03. I WANNA BE YOUR LOVER

IWannaBeYourLover“I Wanna Be Your Lover” is Prince’s first major commercial hit, so it will always remain a special fixture of his catalog, but there’s a reason it was the only track from his first four albums to captivate pop radio. The song is pure perfection. It’s funky, it’s dancy, and it’s downright catchy, and it’s relentlessly unique. Prince’s fearless falsetto and infectious melody distracts from the slightly-inappropriate lyrics, a slight-of-hand he is renowned for as an artist. It’s no easy feat getting the public to embrace a line like, “I wanna be the only one you come for,” but that’s why he was a genius. Especially with its 3-minute instrumental outro, “I Wanna Be Your Lover” is just so much more than any artist at this stage in their career could ever have pulled off.

02. WHEN DOVES CRY

WhenDovesCryWhen it comes to Prince’s pop chart dominion, there is no track more important than “When Doves Cry.” It’s an insane fact considering just how damn unconventional it is. Similar to many of his songs, Prince recorded the entire track himself (as the story goes, overnight,) building an audacious groove around a simple synth progression and a now-iconic drum loop…and no bass line. This incredibly intricate, larger than life track has absolutely no bass line. No one but Prince could pull that off, and, guaranteed, no one else would even try. Still, the end result is as dynamic and groovy as anything he’s ever done. The melody isn’t very intuitive, but he uses his layered vocals for height and depth in such a profound way that it moves as seamlessly as any great pop song. Truthfully, though, the outro, criminally removed from the radio edit, is the highlight of the track. For 2 and a half minutes, Prince unleashes a mostly instrumental jam for the ages that takes this intricately laced tune to an entirely new planet. “When Doves Cry” is everything there’s ever been to love about Prince, but its importance is unparalleled.

01. PURPLE RAIN

PurpleRainIs Prince’s greatest song really “Purple Rain?” That’s not an easy question to answer. Prince’s range as an artist in style, genre, and content could never be summed up in one track, but that’s not necessarily the direction to go. His artistry was damn near defined by his lack of restriction, which is exactly why “Purple Rain” really stands out from the pack. While it combines elements of rock, soul, country, and gospel, the ballad can never really be pinned down as anything specific, other than being uniquely Prince. It simultaneously captures the essence of a time and place, yet remains inexplicably timeless and universal. Because the bones of the recording were recorded live and overdubbed in the studio (similarly to many of its album-mates,) not only is its mystique highlighted, its anthemic qualities are exaggerated. When that famous “ooo-ooo” climax emerges from one of rock’s greatest guitar solos, you’re going to emote. It could be tears, goosebumps, or a compulsion to sing along, but something is going to happen. That’s why Prince was such an important artist. He knew how to play with our senses and enhance our emotions better than almost anyone else, and there’s truly no better example his mastery than “Purple Rain.” It’s a song that transcends comprehension, but it’s so easy to get lost into. In an ocean of opuses, this is his magnum.


UPDATE: 2/18/2017

A significant portion of Prince’s catalog’s is now available for streaming. I’ve updated the available tracks with Spotify audio links. Unfortunately, there are still some gaps. I still encourage purchasing his albums for a complete experience.

It didn’t seem worth making an incomplete playlist specifically for this list,  but check out HUH’s Playlist REBOOT: Dance/Music/Sex/Romance: A Celebration Of Prince.

ORIGINAL POST: 4/25/2016

Prince has largely removed his music from being available on the internet, therefore there are no Spotify links. I highly encourage purchasing these songs, or better yet, their parent albums if you don’t have them already.

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