Quick, name three Prince songs.
Easy, isn't it? Okay, name four Prince songs.
And here's where you all stumble. And those of you who didn't stumble probably have fresh in your mind one of the lesser Prince songs that newspapers threw in there since AP style guide dictates having to name three songs and it's cheating to also mention the Oscar-winning movie Purple Rain.† It was an off year for the Oscars: Purple Rain was also nominated for a Worst Original Song at the Razzies. In fact, the award was discontinued the following year out of embarrassment for not giving it to Kris Kristofferson (or so my Mom vehemently claimed).
Everybody knows "Purple Rain", of course (even though a tiny fraction of those could identify it by sound), along with "1999" and "Kiss" (and even then you probably know it more from the Art of Noise cover version featuring Tom Jones). If I asked this question in 1992 I'm sure more of you would have said "When Doves Cry", but that song hasn't exactly aged well and nobody has listened to it since the "symbol days".
Of all the artists in the 100-119M records sold club Prince is more like Lady Gaga or Cher (known for ridiculous off-stage antics) than Metallica or George Strait or The Beach Boys. Prince's "total certified units" count is 62.8M, putting him behind The Bee Gees and barely ahead of Journey. He's in that regard awfully similar to David Bowie: a weird guy who has a couple big hits you recognize whose star-power has held on by weirdo personality as opposed to musical longevity. As much as the Bee Gees are a product of the 70s, Prince was certainly a product of the 80s.
And that decade is long-gone. Prince-mania is destined to be a short lived bump (already people have basically moved on from David Bowie's death), not like the bizarre Michael Jackson-mania that continues mostly because blacks are very tribal and can't let go of their spirit-animal. Prince just wasn't that big of a star, save for a brief period in the late 80s. He's not MJ, he's not even Madonna. He's the weirdo with the weird songs that with a couple notable exceptions you forget about soon after you hear them.
So not to speak ill of the dead, but Prince's tributes are already overblown. It officially reached peak ridiculous at the Dallas-Minnesota NHL game on Sunday where the Minnesota Wild held a tribute to their state's weirdest son. Think, briefly, in your mind about people who are fans of Prince. Now think equally briefly about people who are fans of the National Hockey League. Do you think there's any overlap between these two demographics?‡
So if you want to remember the infamous weirdo who notoriously threatened people with legal action if they looked at him and wanted to make a fake documentary with nothing but glowing tributes of himself (and, also, to murder a camel), go right ahead. Go ahead and make insane claims about him being the world's greatest guitar player (when every Prince song that charted was famous for having basically no fancy guitar work), or claim that he's a "musical genius" for a couple poppy numbers that were big hits and a bunch of overproduced pretentiousness that you honestly enough don't remember hearing, if that's what suits your fancy. Pretend that he wasn't a religious conservative even, if that puts a smile on your face. [just realize, of course, you're wrong: in that regard at least, Prince is more like Feynman and Coulter's Love Child than Lady Gaga. -ed]
Just don't try to pretend you're reflecting any sort of actual reality. Prince Rogers Nelson has died.§ We haven't lost the musical genius of the 80s. We lost a guy who had a couple songs you knew but who's position in your brain is mainly taken up by the fact that he was an egotistical loon who used gimmicks and called them innovations.
† Or, you're a fan of the 1989 Batman film.
‡ It's hard to figure which is the more ridiculous demographic juxtaposition: the NHL and Prince, or the NHL and sodomite child molesters.
§ He died almost exactly two months after Vanity died which is a weird-ish thing that not enough people have noted.
Quick, name three Prince songs.