I struggled to find something to write about this week. My personal and professional lives have been especially difficult these past two weeks. I found myself retreating into comfort shows instead of trying something new. I still haven’t seen the new Orphan Black. Rather than pass on the entire entry, I want to tell a couple of stories.
In college, I belonged to a LARP group. After the release of Pirates of the Caribbean, we all flirted with a pirate obsession that culminated in us attending a pirate festival in Key West in the middle of December. The festival itself was a great time, but one of my favorite memories was of visiting an old used bookstore. The kind with dusty boxes, little light, and questionable organization. I grew up in places like this. While my friends fought off their hangovers in the shade of palm trees, I combed through boxes. I found a couple of books, but it was the boxes of records in the back that drew me. The owner was an old hippie, amused by my pirate garb. I haggled over prices and he ended up giving me a deal- 2 books and 4 records for $25, $5 of which I had to borrow from a friend.
Not having much of a social life in high school, I spent a lot of Saturday nights lying on my bedroom floor listening to the 80s mix on a local radio station. CDs were expensive at the time and most of my small allowance went to books. Later, when I had a job, it went to my expensive Anime habit. Instead, I had boxes of mix tapes, carefully labeled, representing hours spent with my brother’s stereo waiting for specific songs to come on. I knew a lot of singles but not many deeper cuts from albums. Two of the records I bought that day were The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Purple Rain. The album covers were tattered or falling apart completely; Ziggy Stardust was held together by tape yellowed with age. Scratches were everywhere and I had to skip over entire sections because of them. I loved them both anyway and once I bought a cheap, barely functioning player from a Goodwill, I played them all the time.
Prince was beautiful and brilliant. There never was and will never be anyone quite like him. A quick Google search will provide you with multiple GIFs and pictures that show how he was a master of shade. More importantly, he was unapologetic for who he was and uncompromising with his art. You couldn’t tell him what he should sound like, look like, or sing like. Prince was who he wanted to be. I think we forget how incredibly hard and brave that is. We work so hard to show the best part of ourselves and hide the parts that might be weird or outside of societal norms.
I wanted to be free like Prince. I wanted to be cool like him when I wore my white blouse with the fake pearl buttons and purple skirt in grade school, my hair perfectly curled by my mother. I wanted to be sure of myself and my worth like him when I listened to When Doves Cry on repeat in high school. I wanted to cosplay his Joker/Batman hybrid.
No comic books or shows this week; these are my top 5 Prince songs, in no particular order.
Picking one song from this album is incredibly difficult. It’s my desert island album. I listen to it at least once a week, especially when things are bad. Out of all of them, the titular song has a special place in my heart. Whenever I felt like life is getting too much, I sing Purple Rain in the car – my voice cracking as I cry. I yell out the lyrics, butchering the high notes until I can’t help but laugh. It’s instant catharsis.
If I Was Your Girlfriend
This is quintessential Prince. This is No Fucks Given Prince. This is the Prince who refuses to be put in box of what society thinks he should be. This is gender fluid, boundary-pushing Prince.
I Wanna Be Lover
I can’t sing. I never could. That doesn’t stop me from singing Prince with all of my heart. I’ve been butchering this song since before I knew what the lyrics really meant.
After living through that year, it’s a wonder how much I still love this song. If the world was going to end at the stroke of midnight of 1999, we were all going to go out blasting this song, in style.
The Beautiful Ones and How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore
I’m cheating and doing a tie for my last one. Both are gorgeous songs about love and yearning and heartbreak. Prince had a wonderful gift of infusing emotion into every word and chord. And who didn’t want to be Apollonia in that scene?
The first honorable mention goes to the rest of Purple Rain. Every song is wonderful. To me, it’s a perfect album. I’m going to leave you with my second honorable mention, which I think is apt for this moment in time: Sometimes it Snows in April.
Sometimes it snows in April
Sometimes I feel so bad, so bad
Sometimes I wish that life was never ending,
But all good things, they say, never last
All good things that say, never last
And love, it isn’t love until it’s past