In the last week, I listened to every Prince album and single on Tidal. And I ranked them all. Somewhere between a combination of "I like" and "most popular" and "most important" or some other such ranking. Some albums aren't on Tidal, including: The Black Album, The Gold Experience, Chaos and Disorder, Crystal Ball, Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic, The Rainbow Children, Planet Earth, and 20Ten. This means that great songs are missing from the list (see: Pussy Control, Guitar, The One U Wanna C, Gold, The Most Beautiful Girl in the World and others). Here they are in reverse order...
100. "3121" (3121)
99. "Mr. Nelson" (HITnRUN Phase One)
98. "Wall of Berlin" (Lotusflow3r): Oh, I do love the metaphor here and Prince is doing virtuoso things with the instruments here.
97. "Pope" (The Hits 2): Prince rappping + Bernie Mac + weird metaphors equals a solid B-side.
96. "Push" (Diamonds and Pearls): This one is basically an extended jam that allows the New Power Generation players a chance to work out with Prince, with the key being the note-for-note matching of Prince and Rosie Gaines that is really something to behold.
95. "Ronnie, Talk to Russia" (Controversy): Prince has always been political. Before this one, though, most of his politics were about sex and race. Here, he gets super explicit about it, but stays ridiculously catchy. This is how musicians should preach when they preach.
94. "Strollin" (Diamonds and Pearls): After the filthy funk of Cream, this light pop confection messes with your senses. Are we still listening to the same album? Is that note he just hit humanly possible?
93. "Like a Mack" (HITnRUN Phase One): The guest on this one, Curly Fryz, is another great Prince find. Never heard of this woman, but she both raps and sings here and it meshes super-well with Prince's funk/EDM hybrid music.
92. "4ever" (Lotusflow3r)
91. "Shut This Down" (HITnRUN Phase One)
90. "It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night" (Sign o' the Times): Prince said "oh, you think I can't recreate a live show in one song? Watch me."
89. "My Little Pill" (The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale): This is creepy and weird. I love it.
88. "Feel Good, Feel Better, Feel Wonderful" (Lotusflow3r)
87. "Million $ Show" (HITnRUN Phase One): Oh, I like the retrospective nature of this song, particularly for his last album cycle.
86. "The Truth" (The Truth): After the previous few releases were all Vault-related things with odds and ends that mostly amounted to Prince's worst releases, this outtake of acoustic songs from Crystal Ball is much, much more interesting. This one has Prince getting philosophical and pulling it off.
85. "The Max" (Love Symbol Album): On this one, I kind of picture Prince as a gangster, with a hard -er, and he and his NPG friends are in Zoot Suits and are going to beat up you and your friends and take your dates home (willingly).
84. "Fallinlove2nite" (HITnRUN Phase One): The album version, without the duet by Zooey Deschanel, shows that the song is no gimmick, but that it is still improved a lot by her addition.
83. "Crimson and Clover" (Lotusflow3r): Probably Prince's best cover song.
82. "Tamborine" (Around the World In A Day): Ramping up the Eastern influence of the early parts of the album. This whole album is such a radical departure for Prince.
81. "The Future" (Batman): People, including Prince, seem to hate the Batman soundtrack. Shaun of the Dead is right, though, it is a good album. This song is a solid rocker with samples from the movie. It sticks in your head.
80. "PretzelBodyLogic" (Plectrumelectrum): 3RDEYEGIRL adds to the Prince legacy on this album. He was always great at spotting talent and getting the best out of it. Still true.
79. "Alphabet St." (Lovesexy): Such a weird quirkly little hit. We quoted it endlessly "...to Tennessee" was part of our slang for a year. And for the second album in a row, Prince brings in an unknown female rapper to provide an interesting spark.
78. "This Could B Us" (HITnRUN Phase One): HITnRUN finds Prince getting trip-hoppy and dubsteppy at times, like on this, a much superior version to the one released a year earlier.
77. "Nothing Compares 2 U" (The Hits 1): It makes tons of sense to stick this on a Greatest Hits album, considering its massive success. But it's bold to take a song that was an iconic hit for someone else and rework it into your signature sound and promise it's going to be a hit. Prince wins. Again.
76. "Little Red Corvette" (1999): This song always made me a little uncommfortable, like I was seeing inside a private moment where I wasn't supposed to be invited.
75. "Housequake" (Sign o' the Times): The best Parliament-Funkadelic song that wasn't written by Parliament-Funkadelic. I defy you to stand still when this song comes on.
74. "Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?" (Prince): A pretty perfect break-up song for the era.
73. "X's Face" (HITnRUN Phase One): Prince was listening to Yeezus and trap before making this one.
72. "Soft and Wet" (For You): One never forgets that Prince did funk. And did it better than just about anyone else ever.
71. "I Wanna Be Your Lover" (Prince): Prince's first perfect song is about as representative a summer 70s pop-disco song as one could imagine. One of those songs that immediately takes you back to a specific time and always works to establish the era when used in movies.
70. "I Wonder U" (Parade): This one is masterful in its beautiful simplicty.
69. "FALLINLOVE2NITE" (FALLENLOVE2NITE): Zooey's vocals greately improve this song.
68. "Let's Pretend We're Married" (1999): Basically an update of his earlier up-tempo disco style sexy jams, but in a more new wave and experimental direction. He also really, really uses his voice as an instrument here, doing things that other human beings can't do.
67. "Girl" (The B-sides): Wait, was he just singing about the West Wing? Why are my pants off?
66. "4 the Tears in Your Eyes" (The B-sides): Mid-80s spiritual New Wave Prince? Hell, yes.
65. "Walk Don't Walk" (Diamonds and Pearls): Yep, Prince can even make a great song out of car horns beeping.
64. "RocknRoll Love Affair" (HITnRUN Phase Two): There is literally nothing wrong with this song.
63. "When Doves Cry" (Purple Rain): One of the most iconic videos ever. One of the most original sounding pop tracks ever. A really uncomfortable commentary on parents and their relationships with their children that struck really, really close to home.
62. "Forever In My Life" (Sign o' the Times): I don't know what genre this song is, electro-soul, maybe? But it's a powerful, powerful moment. In anyone else's career, this would probably be a highlight. For Prince, it's an obscure album track on his weird experimental album that everybody overlooks. Crime.
61. "Paisley Park" (Around the World In A Day): Another game-changer for me. This was kind of a hippie mysticism that I could believe in. I hear things like the Beatles in this song.
60. "Annie Christian" (Controversy): If you thought Prince could be weird before you got to this song, you had no idea. Both experimental in terms of content and sound, this is the first time you have to really think that Prince is on some other level shit.
59. "Free Urself" (Free Urself): Yay! Hippie Prince is back!
58. "Life Can Be So Nice" (Parade): People slept on this album and movie a bit, but songs like this show that it has some of Prince's most inventive work, instrumentally.
57. "The Ladder" (Around the World In A Day): A.k.a., Purple Rain II. It's basically the same song, just moreso.
56. "Love 2 the 9's" (Love Symbol Album): When you make that playlist of Prince songs to make love to, make sure this one is on the list.
55. "Gotta Stop (Messin' About)" (The B-sides): I really hope there are a lot of gems like this in the Vault.
54. "2 Y. 2 D." (HITnRUN Phase Two): This album suite just keeps on giving. This one is a classic, owing both to 70s/80s Prince and James Brown. It's hard to deny.
53. "77 Beverly Park" (Lotusflow3r): Wow, it's amazing how good the Lotusflow3r album is. Prince has made a comeback album here like few in anyone's career. This is maybe Prince's best instrumental song. It's just pure beauty.
52. "Pink Cashmere" (The Hits 1): The one new song that appeared on the Hits 1 album isn't as great as the amazing sounds around it, but damned if it doesn't feel like it is when you listen to it in sequence.
51. "Cinnamon Girl" (Musicology): Alternately rocking and melodic, this song about, let's say terrorism?, is pretty great.
50. "Computer Blue" (Purple Rain): What for many is the worst song on the album would still be a standout on many other albums. It also has the sexiest moment on the album, which is saying a lot, with Wendy & Lisa's intro.
49. "Partyman" (Batman): Jack Nicholson somehow makes the song even funkier. This is a party song extraordiare.
48. "Dirty Mind" (Dirty Mind): I think this is where Prince really starts becoming unique. There were elements of it before, but this song is singular in its vision and its a predictor of the genius to come.
47. "Comeback" (The Truth): Wow. This is why you keep listening to later Prince albums, despite their multitudes and lack of quality control. This song is simple, but beautiful.
46. "Hardrocklover" (HITnRUN Phase One): Oh, wow, this is Prince at his sexiest. It both calls back to his Purple Sex God days, but is filtered through the many years and advances in technology that have happened since. And it this is all meant as a compliment. In the biggest way possible.
45. "Money Don't Matter 2 Night" (Diamonds and Pearls): This one is like an early 80s Billy Joel piano ballad written by Bruce Springsteen. With Prince's voice. It's even better than it sounds.
44. "Darling Nikki" (Purple Rain): I remember a sleepover at my friend's house where there were no parents. My friend's older sister took each of us into her room individually to listen to the song. We didn't do anything, but quite a few fantasies were spawned in that moment. Later the song was ruined for me in that way because I grew really close to a woman named Nikki who is basically my little sister. That and the Foo Fighters cover. Awkward. Also, this was the song responsible for the Parents Resource Music Center, Tipper Gore's rise to fame, and the Parental Advisory sticker's existence.
43. "Baltimore" (HITnRUN Phase Two): The last important single of Prince's life is one that will grow in its legendary status over time. It's a great song. He killed it live when I saw him perform it in Baltimore.
42. "Around the World In A Day" (Around the World In A Day): My mind is instantly blown the second I hear the opening music and Prince scream. I also learned that my family was racist and I still remember the look on my Uncle's face when I played this at a family gathering. I was baffled that anyone could hear this music and be racist.
41. "I Would Die 4 U" (Purple Rain): This song has pretty much everything, doesn't it? Romantic, dancy, packs a wallop, original to a fault. Just great.
40. "My Name Is Prince" (Love Symbol Album): At this point in his career, Prince has started deciding to stop making up new kinds of music and is just mastering things that other people invented, and doing it better than they are. Here he puts a boast rap over the most unlikely backing track you can think of it. It works. Well.
39. "When You Were Mine" (Dirty Mind): This is where my mind starts getting blown. I had the Dirty Mind album on cassette for most of my life. And I listened to it quite a few times. And I totally forgot this song, which I rediscovered through one of my all-time favorite bands, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, whose indie electronic pop version of the song is one of my favorite things ever. I forgot that Prince wrote it and recorded it first.
38. "Shockadelica" (The B-sides): And it is on this tune that I realized that Prince invented autotune (with his Camille character). And the horrorcore hook on this one is hard to get out of your head.
37. "Screwdriver" (HITnRUN Phase Two): A bit rockabilly, a bit punk, a bit hip hop, a bit funk, a bit perfect.
36. "The Morning Papers" (Love Symbol Album): There's some kind of story going on throughout the Love Symbol album. Doesn't matter, the songs stand up alone. This is a celebratory lover song that showcases Prince's amazing ability to turn a phrase and use words you wouldn't think of to tell you the story he wants you to hear.
35. "Pop Life" (Around the World In A Day): A drastically under-rated pop song that satirizes itself by being exactly what it is complaining about. Brilliant inception-y stuff.
34. "Take Me With U" (Purple Rain) : One of the top 5 most romantic songs ever. Ever.
33. "She's Always in My Hair" (The B-sides): The best Purple Rain song not to appear on Purple Rain.
32. "Peach" (The Hits 2): Prince was very, very smart about the new tracks added to his first Hits collection. This one is just stanky.
31. "Sign o' the Times" (Sign o' the Times): As much as I loved what Prince had done before, this album, more than anything else he ever did, and more than most others ever did, contributed to me being the person I am today. Starting with this song, which was a revelation to me. You could be totally talking about important issues, preaching even, didactic even, and still be funky and cool. This song channels the spirit of hip hop more than anything Prince had done before and is a bridge to him actually rapping later. And the sounds are so innovative and different. And the album is all over the map. It's a sprawling mess. A brilliant mess. No two songs seem to even be in the same genre as each other. And there are so few artists who ever could even cover all these songs, much less came up with them all for an album whose message is "I'm a freak and I'm not like you and I'm going to make you love me anyway, as I am, not as you want me to be." Man, that's powerful.
30. "Sexy MF" (Love Symbol Album): This is a song I've quoted endlessly since it came out. It's a jazz funk rap thing with amazing solos that can't help but make you dance or fuck. If you hear me quote this song, somebody has REALLY gotten my attention. It's amazing how much of my dialog in life was written by Prince.
29. "Electric Chair" (Batman): Another good rocker, this one a simple meditation on crime and punishment, gets this album off to a very good start. If you don't think these Batman songs are amazing, I suggest you check out Prince performing this one, and killing, on Saturday Night Live when it first came out. Amazing.
28. "Jack U Off" (Controversy): Bubble gum pop funk porn music? Not really a better way to describe it.
27. "Starfish and Coffee" (Sign o' the Times): Literally one of my favorite things ever. I was 15 years old and listening to the weirdness of this song (which I just learned had an accompanying Muppet video version), I realized that Prince was a fucking weirdo. And he was the most popular person on the planet. I was a fucking weirdo and if the world would let him release this song on a hit album, then I could be the weirdo I was and the world wouldn't kill me or ridicule me for it. Literally, that's the impact this song had on me.
26. "America" (Around the World In A Day): This jams so hard. The interpolation of America the Beautiful is just amazing.
25. "Face Down" (Emancipation): By far, this is the best song on Emancipation. Made the whole thing worth buying for me, back in the day. This is as much attitude as Prince shows in his post-symbol era.
24. "Delirious" (1999): Still, to this day, this is one of the most infectious and catchy beats ever.
23. "Diamonds and Pearls" (Diamonds and Pearls): One shouldn't be able to create ANOTHER fantastic, epic ballad, after having already created Pruple Rain. But with the addition of Rosie Gaines, he damned sure did it.
22. "Black Sweat" (3121): When you hear this song, you immediately think "this is a great Prince hit from one of his earlier albums," but it was from one of his last. But it could have early fit on one of his 80s albums.
21. "Hot Thing" (Sign o' the Times): The best bassline ever. And one of the greatest, most experimental musical songs. Especially at the end. One of the highlights of my life was seeing him experiment with this song live in Baltimore.
20. "Batdance" (Batman): Maybe the strangest #1 hit ever? This is basically an early EDM song, mixed with samples of the other songs on the album, an interpolation of the original show's theme, some random ass Prince guitar and ad libs, and quotes from the movie. And somehow it's all entertaining as fuck. This was my sons' first Prince song that they loved, not surprisingly. Oh, and that insane video with the dancers in the crazy-ass Batman outfits is a spectacle you shouldn't miss. My personal music was greatly influenced by this song, too, since it is assembled from lyrics from multiple songs that go together to fit a bigger whole.
19. "Cream" (Diamonds and Pearls): Prince sang a lot about sex, but rarely in as funky a way as this one. This video is also a one of the most epic and Prince things to ever happen.
18. "Controversy" (Controversy): Oh, what a perfect song about the media and how it treats celebrity. On this album, Prince starts finally getting out of his own heart and pants (and those of his song subjects) and starts adding his cultural critic persona, which was one of his key, and under-rated, elements.
17. "Musicology" (Musicology): This is, by far, the best song of the post-The Hits/The B-Sides era. The idea isn't original in the Prince catalog, but it's rarely been done better. This song is a party. And one you want to go to.
16. "The Cross" (Sign o' the Times): I'm not spiritual or religious. Except when I listen to this song. It's so powerful, I'm among the converted while it is on.
15. "Automatic" (1999): This is probably the first time where Prince heavily dipped into electro-hip hop kind of stuff. And it's amazing. You can hear this being played in a New York Club in the mid-80s while everyone is dancing and sweating and high as hell on coke, coming on right after Kraftwerk and before Thelma Houston.
14. "Gett Off" (Diamonds and Pearls): Something that is hard not to do while listening to this song. My greatest Prince-related achievement was unlocked to this song.
13. "Erotic City" (The B-sides): The perfect funk song. The perfect 70s hook. One of the greatest whistles ever. This song feels like drugs.
12. "Kiss" (Parade): I imagine in the five minutes or so it took Prince to write this perfect song, Prince thought to himself "yep, I just made a million dollars."
11. "Sometimes It Snows In April" (Parade): This is some Inception shit. Prince singing about the death of his character from the movie. The character died in April. Just like Prince did. Biggie did this kind of thing.
10. "The Beautiful Ones" (Purple Rain): Soon to become one of my karaoke staples, this is one of the most beautiful, profound, and personal songs ever. All at once. This is a love song. Both a love song to someone and a universal song about love itself.
9. "U Got the Look" (Sign o' the Times): Man, what an amazing fucking song. Ridiculously funky. Super duper sexy (Sheena Easton at her best). Amazing fucking percussion from Sheila E. And the beginning of what I describe as Prince's sexy feminist strain of songs. He fucking loves women and this song is a great example. He had the power to turn his vision on any woman and find the beautiful things in her, her uniqueness. He loved women, both sexually and emotionally. He sets himself up as a bit of the heel here, letting Sheena knock him back down to size ("Oh, please") without losing her interest. It's a declaration that traditional gender rules don't matter any more and that a smart, straight (or bi) man knows that a sexy, strong, powerful woman is wonderful for many, many reasons. And he's willing to give them equal footing, or even be submissive, while at the same time being masculine and powerful. What a balance.
8. "I Could Never Take the Place Of Your Man" (Sign o' the Times): This is just another perfect song, one I love to sing at karaoke. It's just a great rock song and a great song about break-ups and love and lust. And then it gets just kinda crazy and bridges the kind of extended instrumental jam that would be at home anywhere from a Doors song to a Jack White concert.
7. "1999" (1999): This is where my Prince story began. This song changed my life. Before this, I'm not sure I knew what having a "favorite song" could mean. There was nothing I did not love about this. The catchiness, the apocalyptic imagery, the sexuality, the philosophy, the synths, the lyrics, the teamwork, the weirdness. The first time I saw this video, Prince was my favorite artist.
6. "Purple Rain" (Purple Rain): The best ballad ever.
5. "Baby I'm A Star" (Purple Rain): This is my Prince go-to at karaoke. Like it works at a Prince show, I establish myself at a new place, by announcing my talent by performing this song, cockiness and bravado and all. And then I rap. My musical showmanship and sense of challenging the audience comes directly from Prince. So does a lot of my voice.
4. "Rasperry Beret" (Around the World In A Day): Just a perfect pop gem. Amazing music, amazing video, and just enough sass and attitude to melt anyone. The use of green screen and the dancing in the video still are among the most memorable images I've ever seen.
3. "Mountains" (Parade): Wow, an extension of Raspberry Beret that is somehow better than its predecessor.
2. "Let's Go Crazy" (Purple Rain): Picture this scene. Three high school boys driving around in a puke green Nova with a poster of a giant cockroach taped to the inside ceiling. They're driving around in 1988, probably cradling Keystone Lights or warm Mad Dog 20/20. The tall one in the front seat who would grow up to be a bearded, tattooed, rapper-writer in the nation's capitol turns and recites the opening monologue to Let's Go Crazy from memory. Much merriment ensued. (And no one got arrested or hurt. That night). Also, this song established Prince as a rock star, too. This is straight up rock and roll, as good as it gets. Also, this established Prince as one of the greatest guitarists ever. Also, this song firmly established the Prince-Jimi Hendrix parallel forever. Also, from the first note of this song, through the end of the album, everything is perfect. There are no mistakes. There are no bad choices. This is the best album ever. Also, I once sold a copy of this album to a stripper for $50 at the Banana Stand. Her coked-out boyfriend tried to steal my cat.
1. "7" (Love Symbol Album): If you added up the parts of this song, you would get nothing like the masterpiece it is. The story, which seems like a twisted version of Aladdin, with weird demonic laughter, Eastern elements, a random love story, some kind of apocalyptic whatever, and Prince's standard funk and hip hop elements from this period. It's epic and celebratory and WTF. And it may be my favorite song ever.