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Power to the Purple One: The Legacy of Prince

 
By on Monday, 25th April 2016 at 11:00 am
 

2016 hasn’t been a good year for popular music. After losing hard rock great Lemmy before the end of last year, we lost David Bowie in January. The announcement last Thursday that Prince had been pronounced dead at Paisley Park was almost too much to bear. How on earth could a world that had only just starting to get back to normal after the loss of Ziggy Stardust lose another musical visionary?

On paper, Prince Rogers Nelson shouldn’t have become the legend we came to know. Based on conversations I’ve had in Britain and in the context of global superstars such Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and the late Michael Jackson, it may be hard for someone not of colour outside America to understand what I am about to say. We may be in 2016 now, but sometimes I feel like we’re still stuck in the ‘60s. For Prince to have overcome the average American public’s stereotypes of an African-American man and to be embraced for who he was and everything he had to say was, and still is, huge.

Back in the ‘60s, Elvis scandalised our nation – and the world – with what was then considered hypersexualised hip swiveling. Prince took what Elvis and Bowie did, and to many, many levels higher. Instead of tiptoeing around a man’s sexuality, he challenged society right in the face with what had previously been held sacred and behind closed doors. Prince said the kinds of things we all were thinking about sex but were too afraid to express. Tipper Gore was beside herself. And I’m sure it terrified her even further that the person who was blowing off the lid on sexuality and scandalising her white bread daughter was African-American. Years later, performing at the biggest show of American masculinity, Super Bowl XLI in 2007, and playing to thousands upon thousands of fans in that stadium and at home, he’d achieved acceptance in a way that no-one else had before.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NN3gsSf-Ys[/youtube]

Changing the norm is scary. So having Prince step out with his gender-bending falsetto and flamboyant outfits, as the poster child (er, man) for turning the ideal of what a man should be on its head, the value of his then-crazy notions on society and how they changed people’s minds cannot be overstressed. This is of course before we even consider his musical contributions to the world, including his mastery of and virtuosity on guitar that seems to fall by the wayside when considered alongside his outrageous, out-sized on-stage persona. Like Bowie, he was an incredibly talented and incredibly prolific songwriter. We now live in an era where women are having to defend themselves against men who want to control their artistic vision. Have we all but forgotten that Prince’s adoption of an unpronounceable symbol for his name was a stand against the corporate world and Warner Brothers, taking back control of his career for himself?

When I heard the news that Prince had died, there were several musician friends of mine who came to mind immediately, for their music has an indelible connection to him. As mentioned in my review of their newest album ‘Commontime’ that was released in February, Field Music came to the Purple One’s attention late last year, so much that he Tweeted about finding and appreciating their music. To help close out this article, I give you the kindly offered words of Peter Brewis:

I think he has influenced us from the very beginning in lots of different ways. I remember us aiming for a ‘Raspberry Beret’-type acoustic guitar part on a few songs from the first album in 2005 (their self-titled debut) and most recently there were ‘Parade’ (Prince’s eighth album) influenced jazz-orchestra codas on our last album. I suppose he will be remembered by many as the ultimate rock star showman, and admittedly the best gig I ever saw was him proving just that. But, for me, it was his abilities as a great, independent, music-making all-rounder that will always have an influence on me.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tklJdZzUB1Y[/youtube]

Prince was an outsider who made music that tapped into our primal musings, the musings deep down that we pretended we didn’t have but were just itching to let out. Like Bowie, he made it okay to be different and to think differently. Living in America, whether you were white or black or any other colour, you could like Prince and be included in the glittering, over-the-top dance party. Cheers to you, Prince. I hope you’re playing guitar like nobody’s business and smiling at the greatest rave in the sky.

 

MP3 of the Day #859: Fenech-Soler

 
By on Monday, 27th October 2014 at 10:00 am
 

Hmm. I would like to think it was I who gave electropop stalwarts Fenech-Soler *the* nudge in the right direction, prompting them to record this cover of Prince’s ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’. When I chatted with them in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in April before their Glasslands show there, we talked about the possibility of them recording a cover, and I joked to them their benchmark was Glass Animals‘ peerless cover of Kanye West’s ‘Love Lockdown’. This is a suitable, sexy rival.

Listen to the track below. Like it? You can grab it for free courtesy of Mixmag.

 

Roskilde Festival: Day 4 Roundup

 
By on Thursday, 22nd July 2010 at 2:00 pm
 

Sunday. Day 4 of Roskilde. We’re in the homestretch now. It feels like I’ve been running a marathon for the last 3 days (complete with perspiration) and there is some relief that it will be over. But that is tempered largely by the thought that indeed, the festival will soon be over, which means my return to America. A sad thought.

I decide on a lie-in, a relaxing breakfast (as opposed to the semi-frantic protein bulk-up brekky of the day before), not traipsing over to the festival until mid-afternoon. The first act I see is Korean rhythmic group Dulsori, a swirling dervish of drum and stringed instrument players, both men and women. I feel terrible that they are in their traditional garb; they must be boiling. But the power and effort they use to put on a show seems unaffected by the freakishly hot temperatures. I didn’t think they would go down well with a Danish audience, but their performance concludes with loud cheers at Odeon.

Pavilion is close by to Odeon and quite near to what became my go-to food stall for sheer overall food size. (Slight hilarity that most of the food I ate at Roskilde came from a place called ‘Dixie Burger’ that served Southern-American style hamburgers.) And Pavilion is hosting the highly-touted Californian band Local Natives. Maybe it is because the festival is drawing to a close or I have seen so many great acts already, but I am not impressed by the band from Los Angeles. My ears perk up when I hear the riffs of ‘Flake’, a song by American surfer dude Jack Johnson that came out when I was in uni. I hang out with the tired festival-goers in the shade and watch Johnson from the Orange Stage jumbotrons. He was another act that I thought would get ‘lost in translation’ at Roskilde, but his low-key, ambling guitar pop seems to fit everyone here to a T.

After the cut: this review of day 4 continued with more photos.

Continue reading Roskilde Festival: Day 4 Roundup

 

MTV’s Greatest Album Ever: Results

 
By on Thursday, 9th April 2009 at 1:10 am
 

MTV Greatest album (side)We introduced a few weeks ago MTV’s hunt to find “The Greatest Album Ever“. It raised a fair few questions, and a lot of angry responses from you guys as you listed your favourite bands who weren’t included.

Rather unsurprisingly, Michael Jackson topped the poll, having announced his sensational run of London shows between the announcement of the show and the results. Almost one in three of all votes went to the crazy American. In a shock move, Craig David was number 2 in the poll, and has been deemed more popular than Radiohead and Nirvana, receiving more votes than the Oxford based quintet and Seattle grungers combined. Surely that’s got to be some kind of mistake?

Over forty thousand votes were cast, which gives a pretty good perspective of what people think. Many in the comments of the previous post asked about some pretty seminal albums, however it should be noted that these are the best albums since 1981 – when MTV began, so many classics (Pink Floyd, Smiths, Who etc) aren’t eligible for the list. However, as Thom so rightly commented…. no Libertines? Crazy, no?

Speaking of wacko Jacko’s win, Trevor Nelson commented

I don’t think there’ll ever be another album like it ever in the history of music. There will never be a marriage of producer and artist and song writing and pop sensibility – it just won’t happen again. And also, due to the way people buy records now, there’ll never be an album that sells as many copies – and that’s the thing that will keep it at number one.

Interestingly, Zane Lowe didn’t agree with Craig David’s high ranking, commenting

The guy was hugely successful and there’s no denying that album is a great listen from start to finish as a pop record. It probably stands up as the greatest British urban pop record of the last twenty years. Still no one’s really topped it – apart from Winehouse. Should it be number two in The Greatest Album of all time? No, in my opinion, but I’m not going to begrudge anyone’s success, and if his fans voted for it then what’s encouraging for me is that they still consider that record to be an important part of their lives and that’s what music is.

After the jump: the complete list of albums
Continue reading MTV’s Greatest Album Ever: Results

 

MTV’s Greatest Album Ever

 
By on Thursday, 26th February 2009 at 3:42 pm
 

MTV Greatest album (side)It seems every awards season we have another “Greatest album” survey, most of them from one random source who have basically surveyed their friends to see what they like best that day.

However, when MTV do a survey you know it’s going to be the right choice. They’ve just launched their hunt to find the “Greatest Album Ever“, after they crowned Duran Duran’s Rio as having the “Greatest Video Ever” last year.

In conjunction with music industry experts, MTV’s flagship music channels VH1, MTV Two and MTV Base have each collated their top ten greatest albums since 1981, the year MTV launched. The debates to select the albums were chaired by channel presenters Edith Bowman (VH1), Zane Lowe (MTV Two) and Trevor Nelson (MTV Base).

Suggs (of Madness fame) was one of the key contributors to the shows, talking about Amy Winehouse’s decline and then subsequent rejuvenation:

It’s great to see her looking marvellous again. There was quite a gap between her first and second album and I used to see her around Camden a lot, and when you see someone regularly its harder to notice their demise. I’m so glad she looks well again. It was fate putting her together with Mark Ronson for Back to Black, and was so good for her putting her voice right in the middle of it.

Meanwhile, as only MTV can, Pete Burns gave us an, erm, “intriguing” insight into his friendship with Morrissey, who failed to make the top 10 for any of his solo albums, but whose Smith’s classic “The Queen is Dead” appeared in both VH1 and MTV 2’s top 10’s:

I knew him personally back in the day, he gave me a copy of this album. I loved it from track one. He has a very unique sense of irony and humour. As a person he’s very difficult and awkward to get on with. He stopped talking to me over a fur coat, and still to this day he holds a grudge about it!

Personally, I’d love to see REM get the award. All the others are great, but people seem to underestimate the consistency of REM. Plus, Michael Stipe is a legend in my eyes. Either that or Human League, but I can’t see them beating the big boys – can you?

Voting for the top album is now open over on MTV’s website. Each channel’s review of the top 10 albums can be seen this weekend, with Trevor Nelson presenting the MTV Base run down Saturday 28 February at 9pm, followed by Edith Bowman presenting VH1 and Zane Lowe MTV Two both on Sunday 1 March at 9pm. The final winner will be announced on Sunday 12th April.

After the jump, check out the top 10 albums chosen by each channel.
Continue reading MTV’s Greatest Album Ever

 
 
 

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