This is not an article about Prince’s value as an artist. That’s been established by a rumber of groundbreaking albums and foot-tapping singles that will last deep into the century. No, this is more about the sheer scale of his output, the rate of his melodic musings, his prolificness, his evergreen purpleness, if you will.
Did he release too much material for us to absorb? He didn’t think so because he always believed he had something to say, with original arrangements and heartfelt lyrics. But not everyone agreed. The music execs wanted him to slow down, to release less material, to improve quality control – but what if his creative urges didn’t allow him to do that? It might be an obvious point, but some artists simply have more to say than others – and therefore will always release new material if they believe sufficiently enough in their work.
Here’s the Minnesota magician himself. ‘My music does what it wants to do. They’re not all going to sell, but somebody’ll at least buy one of each.’
Doesn’t sound like a man too bothered about success (although, of course, it’s easy to say that if you’ve already gone stellar). But let’s take a detour to another quote from a legendary musician. Peter Hook from Joy Divison/New Order.
‘The way I’ve always been is: if there’s anyone there at all I’ll do the gig. I’ve had none at Oldham Tower and 125,000 at Glastonbury.’
So another multi-selling musician who will play even if there’s only one person interested in their work. And there are many other examples.
The point I’m trying to illustrate is that without this attitude you might not get noticed in the first place. You have to believe in your work because that one person at the gig or album might make the difference in terms of word of mouth or further sales. And then being prolific, only increases the exposure. The one piece of ‘art’ may be good – but only a body of work will truly bring a fanbase,
This is also relevant to novels and, to a lesser extent, film. Why do some people take 10 years to write a novel? Because it’s hard? No, because they have less ideas than the prolific novelist, who is already thinking of their next book while writing the current one. Harsh, but true.
So if Prince released so much material that it was coming out of his ears, it’s fine by me. He had lots to say, had ideas to burn and wanted to share them with the world.
And if only some of it was good, so what? He had his glorious purple patch and we should be thankful that at least some of it stuck in our heads.
Even if it was a fraction of his overall, prolific output.