We’ve all read and heard a lot about Prince’s musical legacy over the past week. And deservedly. From the time of his debut album in 1978 until his untimely death, he was a pathbreaker who lived up to the somewhat grandiose (albeit temporary) nickname “the Artist.”
Prince bridged the gaps between R&B and rock music until they basically dissolved. He also anticipated and laid the foundation for the heavily synthesized, electronic music that would flourish during the 1980s and beyond. While Prince dominated the ‘80s alongside Michael Jackson and Madonna, it’s increasingly clear that his influence exceeds even these two icons.
As a singer, guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, and bandleader, Prince had an uncanny ability to channel the greats of an earlier era (Little Richard, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, etc.) into his own singular voice. Even at his most derivative—the James Brown-flavored “Sexy MF”—Prince sounds unmistakably like Prince.
He was also an incredible songwriter. At his 1980s peak, Prince was writing hit songs and recording albums almost more quickly than the music industry and the market could bear. Some of these songs were given to artists including the Bangles, Madonna, and Celine Dion. Others were framed within his increasingly diverse, consistently strong albums.
In terms of his look and style—both musically and visually—it seemed almost as though Prince lived in another world where there was no need to choose. In Prince’s world, male and female, hard and soft, sex and religion, electronic and acoustic, black and white, all these easily co-exist. Amazingly and almost subconsciously, he introduced us all to his alternate world…And for the most part, we accepted it, because his conviction as a performer was so strong and the songs were so freaking good.
Looking at the world today, Prince’s fingerprints on music, fashion, and culture are abundant. It’s difficult to imagine what the music of 2016 would sound like without his influence. Many of the greatest songs from the past four decades owe at least part of their musical DNA to the Artist.
So here’s our stab at a list of songs that (probably) wouldn’t exist without Prince. We hope you’ll agree that these share at least glimmers of Prince’s distinctive brand of genius. And there are many, many more…
Sussudio by Phil Collins (the prints: Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad?)
What Have You Done For Me Lately by Janet Jackson (the prints: Controversy)
Need You Tonight by INXS (the prints: Dirty Mind)
I Want Your Sex by George Michael (the prints: Kiss)
Brothers Gonna Work It Out by Public Enemy (the prints: Let’s Go Crazy)
Lemon by U2 (the prints: Head)
Closer by Nine Inch Nails (the prints: Gett Off)
Debra by Beck (the prints: Do Me, Baby)
Untitled (How Does It Feel) by D’Angelo (the prints: Adore)
Are You Gonna Go My Way by Lenny Kravitz (the prints: I Wanna Be Your Lover)
Hella Good by No Doubt (the prints: U Got the Look)
Happy Valentine’s Day by Outkast (the prints: It’s Gonna Be a Beautiful Night)
Yeah (Crass Version) by LCD Soundsystem (the prints: All the Critics Love U in New York)
Mrs. Officer by Lil Wayne (the prints: Cream)
Golden Age by TV on the Radio (the prints: Computer Blue)
Wondaland by Janelle Monae (the prints: Pope)
Lonely Boy by The Black Keys (the prints: When You Were Mine)
Latch by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith (the prints: Erotic City)
Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars (the prints: 1999)
Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd (the prints: Soft and Wet)