Attention all beat junkies and collectors of record art. There are lots of screenings of The Man from Mo'Wax happening this weekend across the UK. This is the story of the rise and fall and resurrection of visionary James Lavelle, who emerged in the Nineties to run one of the most daring and infuential record labels in the world.Read More
Music journalism means nothing to far too many people.
Not anymore, anyway.
Frank Zappa said it was for “people who can't write, doing interviews with people who can't think, in order to prepare articles for people who can't read.”
Ok, he was talking about rock journalism in the Seventies specifically, but … small details. My point is that the craft is not taken seriously enough, even by the writers themselves. Last week I read a very interesting article in Crack magazine, written by The Quietus editor Luke Turner. In his short rant, Turner calls out the “age of beige” and asks, when did music journalism stop wielding the axe?
And it’s true. When was the last time you read a cutting review of an album or single? One that stuck you with disbelief as you clocked its jarring headline, only to be left questioning everything by the close of the final paragraph…
All too often, we are presented with a sea of bland, agreeable three-star rundowns, publications seemingly in thrall to the artist and their click-baiting potential. Instead of challenging the reader and holding the artist to account, the aim is to be first – without offending anyone. To catch a wave and rack up those page views.
Clearly, there is just far too much music out there and many platforms/publications prefer to devote their energy to saying positive things – understandable in these troubling times. But balance is important. Do we really need more gushing thinkpieces on the latest Beyoncé or Radiohead?
Dig deep down into a subreddit or blog comments section and I’m sure will find some of the most heated and insightful debate on music. But the national newspapers, magazines and digital platforms such as Pitchfork still have great influence and responsibility. And they should go for the jugular more often, especially in this hot-or-not climate. Film critics like Mark Kermode don’t seem to have a problem with that, although he does enjoy himself a little too much.
Today’s critic may be a Twitter handle and all the rest of it, but they no longer have the monopoly on taste. Their seal of approval carries less weight because it is open to challenges from all sides. The web has given voice to anyone with an internet connection. Whether you are in the thick of some obscure trap scene in Dubai, or live and breathe a particular twist of punk music in Chester, you have the means to start a conversation and stir a debate. What you certainly don’t need is a critic on their high horse telling you what to listen to or spend your money on.
Does that mean that everyone is a critic now, that the professional muso should make way or, god forbid, join the marketing department? Hardly. It takes time, skill and knowledge to write a piece that cuts through the noise and makes an original point in an assured and reasoned way.
“The best criticism takes the weaknesses within a piece of art and turns them against it, rather than personally attacking the artist themselves,” says Turner. “The critic has a duty to the artist to treat them fairly, to not go in ‘studs up’ with preconceptions. Yet beyond that, the journalist owes them nothing. Their responsibility is to the reader, and to themselves, to be honest and fearless, to tell the truth, and to do it with flair.
“Criticism has always had a vital role to play in the relationship between art and the public, acting as a filter and a catalyst for debate. I remember back in the day being infuriated when the NME or Melody Maker hacks would go after one of my favourite groups but the negative review would always make me find new ways of appreciating their work.”
I came to music journalism after turning my back on a career in the law. The suit did not fit. Writing seemed to encapsulate the best of life at that point – a vibrant community, a shot at creativity, the satisfaction of getting paid to do what you love, and the opportunity to learn about the world one track at a time. Rebellion might also have had something to do it. The odd guestlist, too. It’s all a blur…
But how do you become a great music journalist? What’s the secret? Scurrying around the web, I was told that Lester Bangs was the guy to read. Coincidentally, I had just seen Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous and couldn’t help but identify with the naïve and earnest 15-year-old lead, a character based on Crowe’s experiences as a young Rolling Stone hack in the Seventies.
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the charismatic, free-spirited Bangs, schooling young William Miller on the business and how to stay the course. The prolific Bangs was notorious for being a savage writer, one who would often double back on himself – presumably for his own amusement. In that sense, he represented the worst excesses of ego in the build-em-up-break-em-down heyday of rock journalism. Part of him, anyway.
Greil Marcus, in his introduction to the collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, justifies omitting pieces on Bangs favourites such as Captain Beefheart and Miles Davis like this: “Faced with an artist whose work he loved and respected, Lester often wrote poorly, passively: he often fell back, quoting lyrics rather than saying what he thought, replacing ideas with adjectives.”
That said, the piece the changed it all for me was his review of Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks. I say review, it’s more a meditation, elevating an often routine and formulaic medium to the realms of great literature. This passage is Bangs at his absolute best: “Astral Weeks, in so far as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim.
“It's no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boiled down to is one moment's knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.”
I dare you to listen to that album, read his article, listen again and not feel illuminated in the deepest sense. That review was written more than ten years after the album came out. And perhaps that’s what it takes to see between the notes. You have to take that album for a walk, live with it, feel it, experience it in the context of your life – the light and dark.
MC Talib Kweli made this point well during this take down of a Pitchfork reviewer in 2015. “Blogs are trying to keep the eyes, literally by the second. This means constant, non-stop content and reviews of pieces of art that are lauded for being first, not fair. How could a writer, any writer, take in an album that took us a year or two to put together, in one day? One week? They couldn’t. So they rely on personal bias and past musical knowledge to fill in the blanks…”
In situations like this, the resulting conversation becomes more about the dispute than the work itself. Reviews of reviews quickly become tedious. As do cookie-cutter previews and first listens of tracks with barely any commentary or analysis. Again, just to be first.
So what is the value of a music critic today? I think it’s about being more than a filter or another voice in the echo chamber. Challenge the listener and maybe, just maybe, you might open a few portals to discovery. And don't be afraid to put yourself into it. As Oscar Wilde says, ‘“That is what the highest criticism really is, the record of one's own soul.”
You – your life experience – could be the key to a whole line of inquiry. As was the case with Ann Powers when reviewing Daft Punk’s RAM for NPR. Here is some useful commentary from the 33 1/3 book How To Write About Music.
NYU music criticism teacher Amanda Petrusich concurs: “It is important that a critic know some things about music (history, theory, social utility), and, as with any journalistic pursuit, additional research to bolster that knowledge is paramount. But writers also need to know what they think about a record—how it moves them.”
In turn, a great writer can move the reader. Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings wrote an interesting Facebook post back in the early summer, giving thanks for “the individuals who choose to write about music as artists”, the ones who “set a spark in his mind”. He goes on say those journalists “should fulfil the standards of good creative writing and use music simply as their medium”. In other words, look beyond the functionality and the formulaic. Express yourself. Make it an experience.
Film critic AO Scott, in his book Better Living Through Criticism, argues that “The role of the critic is to resist the manufactured consensus – to interrogate the successful, to exalt the unknown, to argue for ambiguity and complexity.” So don’t be afraid to ruffle a few feathers and challenge this notion of objectivity. Stand firm in the face of hungry trolls and bruised egos. You can be largely positive about a review and still be critical. I thought Lou Reed did a great job with Kanye’s Yeezus.
And finally… Don’t be the kind of writer that Dan Ozzi describes in this Noisey article: “Maybe that’s what people have wanted from criticism all along – to simply be told what they already knew, to reinforce the opinions they’ve long held, and to read positive words about things they like, nodding along gleefully without being challenged.”
This was not a lecture. If anything, it is one big note to self.
If you are thinking about becoming a music journalist, then say something.
PS I may have been reading the wrong reviews and features. If so, which ones stick in your mind? Who are your favourite music critics? Let's start with the one-star gems and work our way up.
Tallinn and I are old friends. I first visited in 2005 to play records, wide-eyed and full of wanderlust, yet completely unsure what to expect having never ventured to the Baltics. A week later I left with many reasons to return, my head spinning with countless adventures and conversations about the past, present and future of this fascinating city.
I also felt reassured because – north, south, east or west – we are closer than we realise. Even in a post-Brexit funk. It could be a mutual respect for family, a belief in community, the call of the dancefloor, a love of art, sharing an ice-cold beer… As familiar as I had become following subsequent visits, it was surprising to see how fast things were changing as I flew in to experience the last few days of Tallinn Music Week (TMW).Read More
For many of us, they soundtracked our youth and introduced us to the art of the mixtape, not forgetting those endless hours of amusement pushing buttons and untangling jams. But is the cassette revival anything more than a nostalgia trip or hipster trend?
Vinyl’s back. A familiar headline over the past few years, whether you are talking about the UK or US market. Last year the former enjoyed its first year of one million-plus sales since the nineties’ Britpop era, while record revenues in the latter exceeded that of ad-supported streaming platforms. What continues to surprise many though, is the sustained comeback of the cassette.
Survey the marketplace and specialist labels appear to be thriving, offering expertly curated releases with indulgent artwork. Take Awesome Tapes from Africa (archivist and DJ Brian Shimkowitz’s dusty finds from the Motherland), Burger Records (LA garage rock store that’s sold more than 300,000 tapes since it opened in 2007), Manchester’s Sacred Tapes (noise artfully packaged with letterpress-printed insert and the odd incense head), Opal Tapes (experimental electronica) and limited edition industrial ambience on Umor Rex.
Newer labels are getting in on the act, offering more futuristic sounds such as the dub techno on Cong Burn Tapes and outsider acid excursions on Seagrave Records while San Diego’s Bonding Tapes presents a more abstract, intergalactic take on the classic beat tape. In short, the breadth of spooled music available in 2016 is astounding.
This is no niche enterprise, either. Over the past 24 months major label artists such as The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Marina and the Diamonds have released albums on cassette. Last year the NAC (National Audio Company), the leading cassette manufacturer in the US, had its best year since 1969. They now employ their own graphic artists and produce their own machine parts to satisfy demand.
There is even a Record Store Day international offshoot event called, you guessed it, Cassette Store Day, which celebrates its fourth anniversary on 8 October. Incidentally, the two biggest-selling releases in the history of Record Store Day, according to co-founder Michael Kurtz were cassettes – a mixtape for Guardians of the Galaxy and Metallica's No Life 'Til Leather.
So what’s sparked this movement? A good person to ask is POST/POP label founder Jed Shepherd, one of the biggest tape enthusiasts out there. “This is a tangible rectangle you can hold and kiss and love, which makes all the difference,” he says. “You have more of a connection with your favourite artists than with cold mp3s.”
Artist Daniel Oduntan, who released the first of his acclaimed Palm Wine Beats series as Lo-fi Odysseys on POST/POP, argues that a tape’s limitations can also be its strengths. “There is a whole generation of people that have never experienced physical media,” he observes. “We need to get back to that. The digital age can be toxic. The human mind can only absorb so much information. So slowing down and taking your time is a beautiful thing, and the tape allows you to do that.”
Using the same stock and duplication methods can even produce a signature sound imprint, creating what Opal Tapes’ Stephen Bishop has dubbed the “fifth band member” effect. For Oduntan, it's the ephemerality of the medium that really appeals. “The tape is constantly changing,” he says. “That’s interesting to me. It will grow old as I grow old, revealing other nuances. This adds to the art more than it takes away. Anyway, there’s nothing stopping you from listening to the digital file that most people offer with a tape.”
Although typically produced in modest runs of between 50 and 200, at a cost of about £2 per unit, tapes do provide a valuable additional revenue stream for artists. “You play a gig, you might have records on sale, but who has £25 burning a hole in their pocket nowadays?” asks Shepherd. “However, most people will have £5 they can throw at a band they've just seen, so it's a way of earning what might otherwise have been lost.”
Upcoming producer Wu-Lu fondly recalls singing along to a tape of The Fugees in his mum’s car and falling asleep to the tales of Asterix and Obelix. When the time came to release his debut album Ginga, he chose a low-cost, high-commitment format that listeners could actually hold. “I put it out on tape because I wanted my first release to be a homage to the way that I was exposed to music, as a stream of consciousness,” he explains. “That’s why the whole album was mixed together … almost as one long track.”
Cassette is also a great medium for trying new ideas and being more spontaneous. Exhibit one: Berlin-based Klasse Recordings and their Graffiti Tapes, aimed at writers that make music and vice versa. Over in LA, Leaving Records founder Matthewdavid is using tapes to turn a new generation of listeners on to new age music and promote what he calls “the art of long-form listening”. Following on from the Laraaji reissue package, his Modern New Age series continues a longstanding tradition of pioneering DIY American music, both in body and spirit. Each tape is designed to be “a mindful, meditative, ‘beatiful’ hand-assembled art piece”.
A parallel is often drawn between tapes and files, and cinema and Netflix. Tapes offer more than good value. They are fulfilling a deeper need, particularly among those who have only ever known digital. But will major label interest kill the countercultural spirit of this outsider culture? Tristan Bath thinks not. He hosts Spool's Out, which is a weekly cassette culture radio show on Resonance FM and a monthly tape reviews column on UK music site The Quietus. Bath says this tape community reaches “as far as the internet goes”, with labels producing “labours of love”and even helping to lower postal costs by distributing each others’ releases.
“Nobody's afraid to put their music out on tape,” he adds, “from harsh noise to power pop. Most of these DIY labels are doing limited runs (under 100) and for the most part it's weird music for weird people. The fact that several thousand people might have a copy of that Guardians of the Galaxy mixtape won’t change the fact this music is often niche.”
Ironically, one undisputed driver will be technology. More and more retailers are offering players – from walkmans at Urban Outfitters to twin decks on the high street – while Sony recently announced a 185 terabyte tape for our lossless pleasure. Audiophile collectors, meanwhile, can hunt for treasure such as this.
CDs scratch and can alienate. Vinyl is ultimately a luxury. Tapes, on the other hand, are little affordable objects of desire, like a handwritten letter to a fan. Some are still being popped in to car decks and players decades after being opened. I think they call that staying power.
“Sometimes I wish life was never ending / and all good things, they say, never last” [Sometimes it Snows in April]
Hearing the news this evening was like a funeral at dawn – eerie and premature. I took a long, meandering route to the bus stop under dark skies, gazing vacantly into the eyes of passers by, looking for some faint acknowledgement of the bombshell that had just landed. Some solemn faces were hunched over their phones, others fatigued and gazing vacantly into the distance. Had they heard? The loss of another alien legend, only three months before, had done little to prepare us for the fact that the fragility of human life inevitably seals our fate. Even the extraordinary among us.
My initial reaction was one of confusion. Just before my phone ran out of power I texted my friend to ask whether he would be joining me at an exhibition. He simply replied, “PRINCE.” Had be taken up his Prince2 project management course again, I thought? Then jealously swiftly kicked in. Had he caught wind of another secret gig by the Purple One, the same flu-ridden figure who had been rushed to hospital only days before? No, such a speedy recovery seemed ridiculous. Then I thought, “But, it’s Prince,” echoing the words of Kevin Smith as he recounted a bizarre attempt to make a documentary at Paisley Park. Anything is possible. The world collectively breathed a sigh of relief and moved on to the next hashtag talking point.
Then … disbelief.
Growing up in the Eighties you fell into one of two camps. Prince or Michael Jackson. Sure, you might love both – pop superstars with catchy songs, slick moves and soul-deep deliveries. Singular talents and trailblazing heroes for their people. But I chose a side. To this day, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was because Jackson was more ubiquitous on TV and in the press, simultaneously their darling and punchline. The conservative choice for a conservative kid like me. Prince was an enigma, in comparison – aloof, androgynous, shape-shifting, x-rated. Undoubtedly, some perceived him as being blacker and therefore more authentic but Prince maintained he grew up in "a black and white world, rich and poor, night and day". He strived to make all kinds of music and be judged for the quality of his work and not the colour of his skin. The Face put him on their cover in September 1984, proclaiming him “The Cool Ruler” and asking, “Can Prince take Michael Jackson’s crown?”
They never did square off in that ‘Bad’ video. In Prince’s words, “The first line of that song is ‘Your butt is mine.’ Now who’s gonna sing that to who? Cos you’re sure not gonna sing it to me. And I sure ain’t singing it to you. So right there, we got a problem.”
Seeing this clip from 1983 for the first time was definitely a calling. A priceless artefact dug up long before the dawn of YouTube. I watched in amazement as three legends met in the arena for one night only. A moment in time that would never be repeated. Prince managed to squeeze a concert’s worth of drama into two minutes on stage … and off! Who is this guy? I thought. I mean, really?
It was only after I passed into adulthood and my knowledge of the roots of black music began to grow that I came to truly appreciate the full extent of his abilities. From there, I became increasingly fascinated about lesser-known aspects of the man. There was that legendary interview with Electifying Mojo in Detroit (brilliantly sampled by Moodymann), the fact that he also wrote irresistible pop oddities such as ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ and The Bangles’ ‘Manic Monday’, his love of Joni Mitchell and Cocteau Twins, his jams with Miles Davis at Paisley Park, the influence of those drum machines and freaky synths on legions of dance producers, and the roots of the Minneapolis sound he helped to establish. There was also a warmer and more down to earth side that the public rarely saw: his qualities as a loyal and supportive friend to the likes of Arsenio Hall, Mariah Carey and Toni Braxton for instance. “An amazing, rounded human being” as Fox 9 reporter and Paisley Park regular Iris Perez described him. In secret, he was a humanitarian that supported numerous projects in areas such as Oakland and Chicago. And let’s not forget his wicked sense of humour… Prince on Sesame Street, anyone? Or Jimmy Fallon’s ping pong story? To think, at 5ft 2” he was a baller. Literally. Gets me every time.
He had more comedy in one look than most stand-ups have in their whole career.
Listening to the Little Richard special on BBC6Music a fortnight ago, the flamboyant singer was quick to recognise the debt Prince owed to him, as well as Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone. A touch of Charlie Chaplin too, according to Miles Davis. Such was his magnetism and gift for theatricality. Here was a guy who assimilated the best of each artist, shook them up and made something far greater than the sum of its parts. As the years passed, Prince would himself become the inspiration and mentor, endorsing the careers of new artists such as King, Esperanza Spalding, Janelle Monae and Lianne La Havas as well as his own band 3rd Eye Girl.
Although he was notorious for being a harsh taskmaster, souring relationships with numerous band members and protégés such as The Time, he could also be a generous collaborator and guide for those fortunate enough to be allowed into his domain. Many of them were women looking for a break. “I am a giver by nature, I like people,” he claimed while in conversation with Will Hodgkinson for Mojo magazine in 2014. “But I test people in many ways.” For more on the creative process and a revolving door of supporting players, check Matt Thorne's book.
Signed to Warner Brothers in 1978, Prince instantly gained a cult following with his first three albums For You, Prince and Dirty Mind, fusing classic r’n’b and lithe funk with rock and new wave while courting controversy with explicit tracks such as ‘Head’ and honing his outrageous stage craft to the point of orgasmic release; till the crowd were “burnin’ up”. But it was Purple Rain that sent him stratospheric, a melodramatic funk opera about a young kid trying to make it in urban America, steeped in gospel and blues – a black experience electrified by the technology of the day.
Beside the carnal there was something almost spiritual at play. Prince never truly got his props as a lyricist but he could certainly write a poignant line or two. How about, “The beautiful ones, they hurt you every time”? Or “If I was ur girlfriend, would you let me dress you? I mean help you pick out your clothes before we go out? Not that you're helpless, but sometime, sometime, those are the things that being in love's about.”
In a BBC documentary about Prince’s eighties’ period, Rolling Stone’s Anthony DeCurtis perfectly expresses the catharsis of the epic title track. For many, Prince's masterpiece… “The level of emotional nakedness and honesty is often overlooked. That sense of injuring someone and almost wishing you weren’t doing it, as you’re doing it. This longing for a place, this purple rain that could just wash all that away somehow and allow you to have that connection without all the pain. It’s deep.
“I remember when I was going through a divorce, I listened to that song and just started crying. In a very indirect but profound way he gets at those emotions of what went wrong. There’s no way I can make it better, I may even be at fault but can't something save us from this? Let’s go to another world, let’s get to a place where we can get beyond this. That’s what ‘Purple Rain’ is about.”
I have this recurring dream, a fantasy perhaps, of dancing in front of the Pyramid Stage as the heavens opened … under the purple rain. My one entry to Glastonbury by the grace of the ticket gods. It felt like inevitability. A dream it shall remain.
The breadth of creativity on Sign O the Times still astounds me. It’s probably my favourite album of his, although Parade has its moments as this Pop Matters anniversary feature attests. From the rap social commentary of the opener to the brooding, gender-bending devotion of ‘If I Was Ur Girlfriend’ with that Linn LM-1 heartbeat, to the giddy sweetness of ‘Starfish & Coffee’, all-time favourite love song ‘Adore’ and the ultimate New Year’s party starter ‘It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Night’. But that’s the thing about Prince – scores of fans have their favourite album, their go-to track, even those who didn't quite “get him”. He had the keys to your soul. Even if you didn’t know it.
Then there was his mystique. This afternoon I watched a fascinating discussion about the legacy of David Bowie, featuring photographer Kevin Cummins, producer Ken Scott and GQ editor Dylan Jones. Cummins brought the house down with his comment that he’d never want to see David “Instagramming his f-ing breakfast”, and preferred to always assume that he lived on a spaceship and ate moon dust each morning. It was a poignant lament about the lack of mystery and mythology in music today. Although he eventually did join Instagram, Prince always kept you guessing. The wicked flirt, the compulsive tease. The closer you felt you got to him, the further away he pulled. Here was one artist that couldn’t be figured out, followed and ignored.
Even in his later years, when the star mellowed, found god and stopped doing the splits, he continued to experiment on stage, rarely playing the same tune in the same way. With limitless talent and hits like his, why would you? The One Night Alone and 3121 tours in particular helped to rekindle people's adulation while also introducing the artist to a new generation of fans. (A show-stealing medley with Beyonce at the 2004 Grammys didn't hurt either.) He was also a leader in the fight for artistic freedom, taking control of his intellectual property and being the first major artist to sell albums, his preferred canvas, through the web. He saw the potential for the internet to be a “direct line” to his “friends” long before others.
I think back to spring of 2014 and those guerrilla gigs he blessed us with in London. A refreshingly mischievous way of simultaneously treating and torturing fans. Many of those in attendance weren’t necessarily part of the Purple Army, fanatics willing to entertain every whim and indulgence, the kind you’d hear on overblown sets such as Emancipation, The Crystal Ball and The Rainbow Children. But seeing him was something you simply had to do before you died. Or before he died.
It’s a bittersweet memory as I remember waiting outside Ronnie Scott’s for seven hours, slowly creeping up to the door and hearing the faint strains of classics as revellers kept each others’ spirits up beneath a projected image of the main man.
I finally reached the entrance round midnight only to be told that no more punters would be let in. To make matters worse, staff refused to open the door even a few inches to make us feel part of the ceremony. Suddenly, there came a decree from on high, as if from the Royal Badness himself: “Party where you are.” We did. At least I managed to catch him at the O2 during his 21-night 20TEN tour, a blistering trawl through his hits. But it was the after hours afterparty that I really craved. Prince going way out there – no format, no limits.
His influence on music and popular culture is undeniable. You can hear him in D’Angelo and Pharrell, you can see him in Miguel. Hell, you can feel him in the colour purple. He claimed his own colour. Can you believe that? As Robin Givhan describes in her brilliant piece for the Washington Post, Prince made purple "complicated, sexy and mysterious". She continues: "The clothes were his. His choice. His style. Uniquely him. He did not appear to be searching for himself in fashion."
There will be an outpouring of tributes over the next few weeks, some impressive in their recollection of key moments and astute in their observations about his influence on music. Others will be heartfelt testimonials, sharing experiences of records and performances as true rites of passage. And I have no problem with the latter. In a world that’s becoming increasingly cynical, where compassion, humanity and emotional honesty are exceptions rather than the norm, I think it’s beautiful that the music changed lives, brought strangers together and made them feel. If artists can give others the confidence to stand out, even better. Let’s not have a repeat of Bowie's “grief police”.
It is impossible to make sense of tragedies like this. The last time I wrote a tribute to a fallen idol, it was James Brown on Christmas Day 2006. How apt that this is for one of his children. But life should be filled with more hellos than goodbyes. I expected Prince to be composing for an orchestra into his sixties or making mental jazz music after that. But alas, it wasn’t to be. We can now only wonder where he might have gone next.
A wise man once said: "It's time we all reach out for something new. That means you too." So what now? How many young artists can ride the waves of change and stay the course like him through sheer dedication and application? This YouTube comment perfectly encapsulated the gaping hole Prince and a handful of others have left.
Who will be our icons in 20, 30, 40 years’ time? Who will carry the torch? What will they stand for and how will they change our lives? With a song, an experience, an encounter. Hopefully, this moment will be an awakening, a new beginning for the next generation. All that music to inspire. And if the vault is opened, well…
Eccentric? All the way. Cryptic? U bet. A savvy puppeteer of the media? No doubt. But to his credit he was not in the least bit interested in the cult of celebrity. Instead, Prince was utterly consumed by the craft, achieving complete mastery of studio, stage, audience and image. In turn, we submitted. As Nextdraft editor Dave Pell put it so bleakly in his mailout today: “Think of all the instruments that make up a band. One of the greatest players of each of those instruments died today. And he was one guy.”
For me, Prince will always be his own energy. His own universe. The ultimate showman, a liberator of body and mind and the greatest musician the world has ever seen.
Always on the one.
With a cheeky smile.
For now, that is all there is to say. Off to dream of heaven. I know he’s there among friends.
Watch. Listen. Cherish. Remember.