MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s unclear whether Prince would’ve wanted it this way or not, but all of his Warner Brothers-era albums are now available on streaming services, foremost among them Spotify.
Actually, we take that back. It’s painfully clear from his personal history that Prince would not wanted his back catalog available on Spotify. But, hey, what’s done is done and there are a whole lot of physical media-avoidant millennials who stand to benefit from their forthcoming education.
As crucial as it is that they and everyone else can now add “When Doves Cry” and “Little Red Corvette” to their playlists of their favorite songs, even more important is the chance for fans old and new to dig deeper in his impressive body of work.
Here are seven absolutely essential Prince songs that weren’t issued as singles — and, yes, that includes his amazing B-sides, which are worthy of a whole ‘nother article.
“Private Joy,” Controversy (1981)
By this point in his career, Prince had already established himself as dangerous talent, flexing at the nexus of post-disco R&B and punk rock. But he was just as capable of busting cute, as he did in this absolutely adorable pogo stick of a ditty. It’s playfully flirtatious, in stark contrast to Dirty Mind.
“Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),” 1999 (1982)
The template he began building with Dirty Mind and Controversy reached its apotheosis with 1999, before Purple Rain busted his talent into a million different directions. “Something in the Water (Does Not Compute),” a dark and obsessive masterpiece, is relentlessly industrial. Listen closely and you’ll hear the foundation for techno being built.
“The Beautiful Ones,” Purple Rain (1984)
Including any track from Purple Rain feels a little bit like a cheat. It’s the quintessential “all killer, no filler” album, and virtually every track is as familiar as any of his other hits. But if there’s any song worth “cheating” to include, it’s this one. His finest vocal performance, his most gorgeous arrangement, his most passionate moment. “The Beautiful Ones” is, quite simply, the apex.
“Sometimes It Snows In April,” Parade (1986)
If you’re a Minnesotan, you have posted this song’s title as a social media status update. Probably every year. Apart from its utilitarian function as a lament for the perpetual spring that just won’t start, it’s also one of his most haunting and spare laments. And in the immediate aftermath of his death last year, fewer lyrics stung quite as sharply as “Sometimes I wish life was never-ending / And all good things, they say, never last.”
“Housequake,” Sign o’ the Times (1987)
Technically, “Adore” was not released as a single. But the luxuriously sexy ballad, undoubtedly one of the best songs he ever wrote, did appear on his 1993 compilation The Hits. Technically, one could make this entire list of seven out of tracks from his opus Sign o’ the Times, and you wouldn’t get much argument from Prince fans. But this track. Oh man, this track. It’s a tight little Tasmanian devil tribute to James Brown, and the kick drum is the fault.
“The Question of U,” Graffiti Bridge (1990)
Among the deep cuts from this unsuccessful sequel to Purple Rain, Prince superfans probably opt for “Joy in Repetition,” and it’s certainly one of his best slinks, no question. But it’s no “Question of U.” It’s one of his best songs showcasing his paradoxical ability to create maximum heat from the iciest of sonic environments.
“3 Chains o’ Gold,” Love Symbol (1992)
Even in the beginning stages of his drag-out brawl with Warner Brothers, The Artist Then Formerly Known As Prince was still capable of turning out top-notch material. And of branching out. “3 Chains o’ Gold” is a multi-faceted glam rock jewel, one which suggests he took note of the second wind of success Wayne’s World gave Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”