RaR39 – 1999

DIRECTIONS:

Listen to the recording of the tune by clicking the attached mp3 file. This will open the recording in a new window or tab. Listen and follow along with the listening guide in the book.
Read the liner notes below.
Read the information “What to Listen For”
Respond to the Rate-A-Record/Questions by clicking on the assignment link and then click on on the button “Write Submission” (to the right of Text Submission) to record your response. Do not use the comments field.

1999 by Prince

(Note: This was written before Prince’s passing) Prince was Michael Jackson’s only real competition as the pop king of the 1980s, but his career has proven more durable, if no less controversial. Prince Rogers Nelson (he was named after his father’s jazz band) began playing the piano when he was seven and later picked up guitar and percussion, but he didn’t pursue wider avenues of music-making until he reached his teens. After running away from home he put together a band and began teaching himself to play bass. Once he learned the basics of sound production he began recording demo albums, and just after his nineteenth birthday he signed with Warner records. The deal indicates how firmly the label was convinced of Prince’s potential as a hit maker: he was given a six figure multi-album deal and given complete artistic control. The latter included the right to produce his own albums, which made him the youngest producer in the label’s history.

His first two albums—For You and Prince—were all Prince; he not only wrote and produced, but he also played all of the instrumental parts and sang. Both albums explore the boundaries between rhythm and blues, soul, funk, and pop and did well on the R&B charts. When he was signed by Warner’s he had never played a live show; in 1979 he began playing clubs in Minneapolis, and by 1980 had developed a provocative and highly charged stage show. He was such an influence on the local music scene that other bands soon emerged emulating Prince’s androgynous stage persona and dance-oriented R&B/funk. By this time he had a reputation for solid songwriting and was so prolific that he sold or gave songs to others to record.

Beginning with the 1981 album Controversy Prince began assembling a band—the Revolution—and he started to gain recognition as a mainstream pop artist. His breakthrough was the synthesizer-heavy 1982 album 1999, which produced the hits “1999,” “Delirious,” and “Little Red Corvette”; the latter was one of the first videos by a black artist to be placed in heavy rotation on MTV. In 1984 he starred in a semi-autobiographical film called Purple Rain, which received stellar reviews and earned Prince an Academy Award for best film score; the soundtrack album won two Grammys and stayed on the pop charts for most of the year. He released albums nearly every year until 1996; while a few were less than stellar, some, like Sign o’ the Times and Symbol proved that he was still a master of latter-day funk.

Prince gained a reputation for self-indulgent and eccentric behavior. In 1987 he blocked the release of the Black Album—for reasons that are still unclear—as the record was being shipped to stores; he hired and fired backing bands on a whim; and in 1993 changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol. Many behaviors were symptoms of an interior struggle between pop stardom and religious conviction. He seems recently to have achieved some sort of internal balance; his latest album, Musicology, is his strongest in years.


WHAT TO LISTEN FOR:

Awesome groove is driven by a great backbeat.
Heavy synthesizer use.
Unique vocal sounds and harmonies. Technology effects on vocals.
A great hook/chorus!
RATE-A-RECORD/QUESTIONS TO ANSWER:
In your view, who’s more important in the grand scheme of rock music history? Michael Jackson, Prince, or Madonna? Defend your answer.
Give it a rating: 0 = Bad, 100 = Awesome. Defend your number.

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In your view who's more important in the grand scheme of rock music history

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