Today marks five years since Prince’s untimely passing. The iconic musician left behind a massive body of work. In fact, he produced so much that his biggest hits sometimes overshadow a wealth of other classics. To remember the musical gifts Prince gave the world, we’re taking a look at some of The Purple One’s more underappreciated material.
“Uptown” From Dirty Mind (1980)
The centerpiece of Prince’s landmark album Dirty Mind, “Uptown” grooves hard with a prominent funk guitar before exploding with synths during a chorus that sounds like a rallying call. Indeed, this jam is a cry against conformity, racism, and rigid gender expression, as well as a celebration for finding freedom in the titular Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis. Prince had a way of making peace, unity, and love sound so fun it felt like the only answer.
“I Wonder U” From Parade (1986)
Less than two minutes long, “I Wonder U” is more of a mood piece than a standard song. Prince experimented with new sounds throughout the Parade era, and “I Wonder U” sees the artist incorporating woodwinds, horns, and bowed instruments into his minimal funk. Mysterious and enchanting, the lead vocals from Revolution band member Wendy Melvoin add an ethereal, yet sensual, touch to the number.
“Housequake” From Sign o’ the Times (1987)
It may be a stretch to call any song underrated when it’s found on an album often cited as Prince’s masterpiece, but “Housequake” demands attention. In what may be the funkiest, catchiest song never released as a single, “Housequake” is backed by a drum beat that sounds like stomping in the bleachers (“And the kick drum is the fault”). By the time the band lays down the bass, saxophone, and infectious guitar, it’s impossible to stay still. On top of that, the lyrics are so playful and insightful (“Come on y'all, we got to jam/Before the police come/A groove this funky is on the run”), it’s a perfect encapsulation of what made Prince Prince.
“Scandalous” From Batman (1989)
The sweeping, grandiose synth juxtaposed with the minimal drum beat prove to be the perfect pair for Prince’s falsetto in what may be the alluring star’s most seductive ballad. In “Scandalous,” Prince commits to his lover he’s willing to do anything to fulfill their fantasy: “Anything's acceptable/Just ask me and I'll try it/To hell with hesitation/To hell with the reasons why.” If you’re looking for something to set the mood, your search begins and ends with “Scandalous.”
“Strollin’” From Diamonds and Pearls (1991)
In this unassuming jazzy number, Prince invites his beloved to go roller skating, look at an adult magazine while eating ice cream, and, well, “have fun just strollin’.” Who could say no to that?
“Black Sweat” From 3121 (2006)
Prince may have peaked in the ’80s, but that doesn’t mean he stopped making good music. “Black Sweat” underscored His Royal Badness’s mid-aughts mainstream comeback with an irresistible R&B jam. Slick, sexy, and funny, the memeable music video is also a treat. “Black Sweat” is Prince at his best.
“Breakdown” From Art Official Age (2014)
The famously prolific artist had not released a new full-length album in an unprecedented four years. With Art Official Age, Prince pulled back the curtain to reveal an intimate self-portrait. In songs like “Way Back Home” and “Time,” Prince grapples with regret, loneliness, and life on the road. But “Breakdown” stands above the rest. Showcasing Prince’s signature falsetto still in pristine form, the ballad sees a rueful Prince, who was always looking forward, looking back.
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