A Final Few Words About Prince (For Now)

He approached singing in the studio as intimate work, a game of going beyond and between the notes to uncover stuff you’d only pick up if you were right there, next to him. His catalog includes endless variations on flirty pillowtalk; each has distinct character, and each lands at a different place on the horniness spectrum. Likewise, he is frighteningly specific about loneliness and sadness: The blues-tinged anger of “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” is about a galaxy away from the more philosophical (but no less visceral) weeping of “The Beautiful Ones.” We process his recorded screams (there’s a characteristically great one in “I Would Die for You”) as confessional outbursts, but they’re also worthy of study as musical events, polytonal arrays flecked with intense dissonance. Listening to him, on record or live, you got the sense that this is not random manufactured drama; he shredded his vocal cords to fit the situation, to offer particular clues about particular torments.

As funky as he could instantly be, Prince was also a master of control. The three-minute marvel that is “Do U Lie?,” from Parade, begins as a little French music-hall bonbon. He sings the opening verse with a proper, buttoned-up delivery, and as he goes on, he skips into falsetto for a thrilling imitation of an opera singer. Then, without missing a beat, he changes character to conjure the weeping-willow pitch-bending genius of Sarah Vaughan. You don’t question it, the whole thing just flows, a river of music....

-- Moon on Prince: He had more tools than just about anybody. Ever. A critic’s take on how to remember Prince, CuePoint



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