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...
200. "Arboretum" (One Night Alone...)
199. "Tick, Tick, Bang" (Graffiti Bridge): Rumor is there is a punk version of this song, recorded by Prince. That must be much more interesting than yet another glam song.
198. Under the Cherry Moon (Parade)
197. "Life 'o' the Party" (Musicology)
196. "Young and Beautiful" (One Night Alone...)
195. "When Will We B Paid"
194. "The Continental" (Love Symbol Album): I always thought of this one as the name of some kind of dance. It didn't really catch on.
193. "Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother/Wife" (Emancipation)
192. "Arrogance" (Love Symbol Album): The most notable part of this one is the "A-double-A-double-arrogant" chant and "pimp rag, tootsie pop, and a cane" and the feeling that it's channeling Morris Day or Kid Creole and the Coconuts.
191. "The War" (The War): Unlike John Lennon, when Prince got experimental, it's still very listenable.
190. "Xpectation" (Xpectation): Most notable for the use of instruments to make odd sounds, often sounding like an excerpt from a Charlie Brown cartoon.
189. "Xhalation" (Xpectation): Prince gets into big band jazz. This is the best of the unremarkable bunch.
188. "Another Lonely Christmas" (The B-sides): If I were going to listen to a Christmas song, it'd be this one, with its weird lyrics about hating the number 9.
187. "I Love U in Me" (The B-sides): See "Damn U."
186. "Lady Cab Driver" (1999): An otherwise solid song gets crazy towards the end as Prince does the first of what can only be described as rap. While a woman squeals in delight behind him.
185. "Do It All Night" (Dirty Mind): Much like, "I Feel For You," this one has a kind of swinging boogie piano reminiscient of some of the stuff that Billy Joel and Elton John were doing at the time. Impressive in the middle of all this other stuff.
184. "Feel U Up" (The B-sides): Anyone who asked to "Feel U Up" would seem kind of creepy. With Prince, you say "Thank U."
183. "The Rest of My Life" (The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale)
182. "Elephants & Flowers" (Graffiti Bridge)
181. "Partyup" (Dirty Mind): Ah, our first introduction to the pre-Bruno Mars that was Morris Day. He's only here as a co-writer, but Morris Day is probably Prince's most important protege.
180. "FunkNRoll" (Plectrumelectrum)
179. "Northside" (The Slaughterhouse)
178. "Bambi" (Prince): There's some pretty metal guitar in here, surprisingly for Prince in 1979.
177. "Irresistible Bitch" (The B-sides): Here, Prince melds Gil Scott Heron and Sly Stone and you're like, yeah, okay.
176. "I Feel For You" (Prince): The Chaka Khan version is better, which is often something that happens with songs Prince writes, but this one is still worth putting on a playlist or two.
175. "Thieves In the Temple" (Graffiti Bridge): The metaphor of this song, the thieves, kinda blew my mind at the time. I was like, literally, nobody other than Prince would have said it that way.
174. "Something In the Water (Does Not Compute)" (1999): Prince's fascination with technology and computers was absolutely an early reason I was attracted to him (I made my career in related areas). He quickly realized that anything, including computers, could be an instrument and maximized what he could do with that. Me, too. I was also really into nerdy things at the time and the idea that you could be a big fat nerd like Prince and still be the sexiest man alive was a goal to aspire to.
173. "Escape" (The B-sides): The hook repeats the phrase "glam slam" and is much better than Prince's song of that same name.
172. "Crazy You" (For You): After the funky sex of Soft and Wet, this next one has a breezy, but sensual, quality. Prince is wasting no time establishing the sex symbol thing.
171. "If Eye Could Get Ur Attention" (If Eye Could Get Ur Attention)
170. "Marz" (Plectrumelectrum)
169. "When We're Dancing Close and Slow" (Prince): One of the most seductive voices I've heard is on this song. This is why straight men often said over the years that if they had to go gay for a day, Prince would be the way to go
168. "Welcome 2 the Dawn" (The Truth): Almost sounds like it could have been on Around the World In A Day, if the instrumentation were a bit more funky and Eastern-influenced.
167. "Papa" (Come)
166. "Slave" (Emancipation)
165. "Illusion, Coma, Pimp & Circumstance" (Musicology)
164. "So Blue": A simple, but beautiful, acoustic ballad.
163. "Solo" (Come)
162. "17 Days" (The B-sides)
161. "Black Muse" (HITnRUN Phase Two)
160. "Sarah" (The Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale)
159. "S&M Groove" (The Slaughterhouse): A flashback to early NPG sounds (and 70s/80s funk).
158. "In Love" (For You): I forgot that Prince did pretty amazing disco.
157. "Condition of the Heart" (Around the World In A Day): See "International Lover."
156. "Free" (1999): And now one of those recurring moments, where Prince turns in a totally pop direction and just gets sublime. This one is almost a lullabye.
155. "Eye No" (Lovesexy): This is the first time, on an album, I think, that Prince really gets into the big band kind of sound, like he's on a stage with 30 people. It's an amazing thing to see live, regardless of the song content.
154. "Horny Toad" (The B-sides): Prince: "What do you mean I can't make a sexy, funky song about a frog?" The Revolution: "That song's about a toad." Prince: "Shut up and dance."
153. "It" (Sign o' the Times): The song, about sex, is much less notable for its topic or lyrics than it is for the totally experimental musicianship behind it. The song is jagged and jarring like sex can be. It's a thing that should be comforting and fun, but sometimes, it's not. This song captures that sonically.
152. "If I Was Your Girlfriend" (Sign o' the Times): This song was a revelation to me at the time. I never knew it was okay to mess around with gender roles. Prince made me realize that it was totally fine.
151. "The Other Side of the Pillow" (The Truth)
150. "FunknRoll (Remix)" (Art Official Age): This is so much better than the 3RDEYEGIRL version. The other version is good, but the alternate instrumentation here is an improvement.
149. "Don't Play Me" (The Truth): Prince is angry here, but he downplays it, which creates an interesting effect.
148. "Strange Relationship" (Sign o' the Times): After the last song, this is exactly the phrase that every listener was thinking. Good joke, Prince, good job with the sequencing. When this album was out at the time, I lived in a small town called Perry, Fla., living in a house trailer with one end that had been crushed in a storm and the open end allowed cold air to get into the trailer. Needless to say, I was an outcast in the school at the time. I met this guy named Preston. Preston, at 16, dressed exactly like Prince. He wore a long overcoat, the frilly shirts, everything. He wrote like Prince. He used the letter U for "you" and Ur for "you're." He wrote songs with sexy Prince lyrics that were basically rewrites of other songs by other artists, just with new words. Oh, he was the whitest kid in school. We became fast friends. In the tiny redneck town we lived in, I'm shocked he didn't get murdered or something.
147. "The Flow" (Love Symbol Album): Very old school rap vibe, but with Prince.
146. "Big City" (HITnRUN Phase Two)
145. "Right Back Here in My Arms" (Emancipation)
144. "D.M.S.R." (1999): I can see a young Bruno Mars hearing this song on vinyl and deciding exactly what he was going to do for the rest of his life.
143. "All the Critics Love U In New York" (1999): For funsies, Prince turns into Andy Warhol on this one.
142. "Blue Light" (Love Symbol Album): Prince can do light reggae better than you, too.
141. "How Come U Don't Call Me Anymore" (The B-sides): And on this song, Prince invents Alicia Keyes.
140. "The Plan" (Emancipation): Prior to this song, there isn't a lot of instrumental music on Prince's albums. This one makes it clear that was a bad idea, one he fixes later.
139. "The Question of U" (Graffiti Bridge): Apparently this was supposed to be on the Parade album, which sounds much more connected to it, stylistically, than this album does. I think of it as "funky blues."
138. "La, La, La, He, He, Hee" (The B-sides): And on this song, Prince invents Snoop Doggy Dogg.
137. "When She Comes" (HITnRUN Phase Two): There are so many incongruous elements here, this song is hard to describe. Prince has never sounded more like Elvis than on parts of this song.
136. "Joy In Repitition" (Graffiti Bridge): This is Prince getting deeply meta. At this point, having listened to 12 Prince albums in a row, you do see repitition. As prolific as Prince is, there have to start being repeated themes and sounds. This is Prince telling us that he knows that and he doesn't care. Also, this is an album made up largely of outtakes from earlier albums, and necessarily echoes those earlier albums (a fourth soundtrack?), sounds, and themes. But it also reflects his growing disdain with the record industry. And the song sounds repititious and has no joy, pumping up the irony.
135. "BoyTrouble" (Plectrumelectrum): 3RDEYEGIRL start rapping on this one. It's a good idea.
134. "New Position" (Parade)
133. "The Gold Standard" (Art Official Age)
132. "Thunder" (Diamonds and Pearls): Here's Prince randomly talking about Jesus again. Here's me singing along with him again.
131. "Vicki Waiting" (Batman)
130. "Christopher Tracy's Parade" (Parade)
129. "Breakfast Can Wait" (Art Official Age)
128. "Trust" (Batman)
127. "Groovy Potential" (HITnRUN Phase Two): Pretty accurate title. Very good use of autotune.
126. "Uptown" (Dirty Mind): This isn't the first Prince song I heard, but the mix of funk, new wave, rock, and R&B here, expanded elsewhere, is what attracted me to Prince early on.
125. "Still Would Stand All Time" (Graffiti Bridge)
124. "For You" (For You): There aren't a lot of careers introduced more interestingly than this track. In the album credits, Prince is credited for creating sounds (instruments, vocals, etc.) 29 different ways. On his first album.
123. "Come" (Come)
122. "Do Me, Baby" (Controversy): Prince remade this song a lot. It was never my favorite song on the album, his sexy, funky, extended love ballad, but damn if he didn't do it better than anyone else.
121. "$" (Lotusflow3r)
120. "affirmation I & II" (Art Official Age)
119. "Daddy Pop" (Diamonds and Pearls): Every album or two, Prince almost completely re-invinted his sound. Up to this point. This type of large band, almost sounding live, but impeccably recorded. He played with the sound before, but it kind of settles into the bulk of what he did live from this point forward. This song isn't a major milestone, but it is catchy and is the type of thing that I've seen many, many other bands try to recreate live. In the present.
118. "Girls & Boys" (Parade): A nice funky little number, that he would do a better version of on the Batman soundtrack called "Partyman."
117. "Head" (Dirty Mind): Prince isn't allowed to sing about this stuff, is he?
116. "Xtraloveable" (HITnRUN Phase Two)
115. "June" (HITnRUN Phase One)
114. "Can't Stop This Feeling I Got" (Graffiti Bridge): This is another one of those seemingly casually tossed of Prince songs that sounds like a hit for anyone else, but isn't even one of the better songs on the album it's on.
113. "Play in the Sunshine" (Sign o' the Times): I can't imagine a song title in the entire collection that is more evocative of the sounds that go along with this. This is what playing in the sunshine feels like, in music form.
112. "Letitgo" (Come): It's often the smallest things that make a Prince song work. On this one, for instance, a tiny double tap on what sounds like a wood block makes the song stick in your brain.
111. "Jughead" (Diamonds and Pearls): Prince isn't playing with the record company executives here. His anger translator, Tony M. takes the lead, and Rosie Gaines throws in some impressive rapping, too.
110. "Round and Round" (Graffiti Bridge): Prince said "I'm taking the best song I wrote for the album, and I'm just gonna sing back-up and make Tevin Campbell a star." It worked.
109. "My Medallion" (The Chocolate Invasion)
108. "Shake" (Graffiti Bridge): The instrumentation makes this Time song one of the album's best, and what, the Time's third or fourth best song.
107. "Stare" (HITnRUN Phase Two)
106. "Live 4 Love" (Diamonds and Pearls): In this song, Prince invents all live rap shows in 2015.
105. "Colonized Mind" (Lotusflow3r)
104. "Ain't About 2 Stop" (HITnRUN Phase One): On many songs, what you see is Prince throwing together disparate ideas he has. When he's at his best, they all work, no matter how weird. Just below that is this type of song, where a lot of the ideas work, some are perfect, and a few fail, resulting in a net positive. Without Rita Ora, this might have been a great song, but too much pop added into what was otherwise a really weird, interesting song.
103. "Man in a Uniform" (The Truth): This is a funky, quirky little number that seems unlike anything else I've heard in the Prince catalog up to this point.
102. "Incense and Candles" (3121): This starts off as another sexy jam, but then gets very rhythmic with autotune and hardcore hip hop flows. The diversity makes it strong.
101. "The Arms of Orion" (Batman): This is a deeply sappy duet that with Sheena Easton at this time sounds like her "Somewhere Out There" duet with Kenny Loggins, but with better lyrics and imagery.