When Prince Rogers Nelson released his first two albums, For You and Prince, in the late 1970s, he also launched the unique sound, rhetoric, image and attitude that would come to mark his musical signature. These first albums, recorded and produced by a shy yet ambitious teenager from Minneapolis, hinted at the phenomenon he would become: For You reached number one on Billboard’s R&B chart in 1978 when Prince was still only 19, making him the youngest music producer on Warner’s label. However it wasn’t until the 1980s that Prince would emerge as one of the first African American musical artists to be catapulted into full-scale pop stardom across the planet.
To date Prince has sold more than 100 million releases worldwide, won seven Grammy awards, five American Music Awards, one Golden Globe Award and one Academy Award, and numerous other honours. He has been indoctrinated into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and won the Black Entertainment Television Lifetime Achievement Award and the Soul Train Heritage Award for Lifetime Achievement. The diversity of these various honours demonstrates how varied and influential his impact has been on popular music and culture. Yet in many ways Prince maintains an ambivalent relationship to his own iconicity: his attitudes to stardom, his fans, the digital age and corporate America paint a fascinating picture of an independent eccentric genius, still drawing huge crowds to concerts, and continuing to resist the trammels of the music industry and its financial and creative control over artists.
This book examines Prince’s musical and performative career through close readings of relevant albums, tracks, videos, and concert performances. The approach to analysis is interdisciplinary, with recourse to theory from popular music studies, cultural studies, gender studies, African American studies, human-animal studies, and critical psychology.
Published: Jun 1, 2019