Local Current Blog

What are the best Prince tracks released since 2016?

Images below courtesy the subjects. Andrea Swensson photo by Nate Ryan/MPR; Jay Gabler photo by Anna Weggel/MPR; photo of Elliott Powell with Sean McPherson by Jesse Wiza/MPR.

It’s undeniably been bittersweet to hear the Prince music that’s been released from the Vault since the artist’s tragic death in 2016, but there’s also no denying the power of the sounds that Prince left behind. We asked several prominent fans to share their favorite tracks to emerge over the past four years.

De Angela Duff

“Make-Up” from Originals
“Purple Music” from 1999 Deluxe
“Rearrange” from 1999 Deluxe
“Love and Sex” from Purple Rain Deluxe
“International Lover” from Piano & A Microphone 1983

The most important Prince release since 2016, in my humble opinion, is Originals. This release illustrates to the “Purple Rain people” Prince’s genius for writing and producing amazing songs for others. (Purple Rain people are folks who think that Purple Rain is either the only album Prince ever recorded or is the best album Prince ever recorded.) My absolute favorite track from this release is “Make Up.” Even though Niko Bolas didn’t mix it faithfully to Vanity 6’s version, I love what he did with it, despite still preferring the V6 mix. The mix of “Make Up” on Originals is the most pristine of all the released, “unreleased” tracks on post-2016 projects so far.

I hope more Originals volumes are released. Alternatively, deluxe versions of all of Prince’s side projects would be even better. Number one on my list would be a super deluxe box set of Vanity 6 and Apollonia 6 compiled together, alongside the original tracks where Prince sings all of the V6 & A6 songs, V6 versions of A6 songs, unreleased tracks from V6 and A6, and live audio and video footage.

Susan’s tracks were always my favorite. They had a different, quirky vibe to them that I always loved. “Make Up” is the epitome of this love. I hope there are unreleased Susan V6 tracks in the vault. Also, I always thought that there should have been a Brenda 6 album because Brenda Bennett’s vocal tone is amazing and was the glue that held V6/A6 vocal recordings together. So, I’m hoping that there are some unreleased Brenda tracks in there, too. I have to champion Prince’s side projects because we all know that the songs were his anyway. I’m extremely disappointed that the Vanity 6 and The Time live sets were not included in the 1999 Super Deluxe edition from the “Triple Threat” tour. So, I was elated that their songs were not left out, alongside Jill Jones, on Originals.

De Angela L. Duff is a designer, photographer, web developer, DJ, and podcaster. She is also an Industry Full Professor in Integrated Digital Media (IDM) progams at NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, New York. De Angela is hosting a three-day Prince symposium titled DM40 / GB30 celebrating 40 years of Dirty Mind & 30 years of Graffiti Bridge at NYU, April 9-11 2020. Pre-register on Eventbrite.

Andrea Swensson

“How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?” (Take 2, Live in Studio) from 1999 Deluxe
“Irresistible Bitch” from 1999 Deluxe
“Purple Music” from 1999 Deluxe
“Baby, You’re a Trip” from Originals
“I Feel For You” (Acoustic Demo) single

I can only listen to “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore” once a week, but I listen to it every week. It’s so intimate and raw, it feels like sitting in the room alongside Prince as he pours his whole entire heart out in the piano studio at Sunset Sound. You can hear his foot stomping the beat, his sniffles between verses, his heartbroken pleas and wails about person who’s done him wrong. I can’t listen to this without thinking about Prince’s engineer, Peggy McCreary, who was the only person in the room for so many of his sessions at this time, and how she was sitting in the booth slightly buzzed on Remy Martin (which was ordered to the studio at Prince’s request, along with a bottle of Asti Spumanti for him) and pinching herself at being the first to hear such a powerful song.

Andrea Swensson is a host and writer for The Current and Purple Current. She helms The Local Show, a weekly show dedicated to exploring the Minnesota music scene, and can be heard on Purple Current on Thursdays. Andrea is also the author of Got To Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound.

Prince’s Friend

“Baby, You’re a Trip” from Originals
“Love and Sex” from Purple Rain Deluxe
“Moonbeam Levels” from Prince 4ever and 1999 Deluxe
“Purple Music” from 1999 Deluxe
“Deliverance” from Deliverance (unauthorized release, currently unavailable)

“Purple Music” is my top vault track from 1999 deluxe, followed closely by “International Lover” (Take 1). It says so much about Prince’s stance on music itself, and I feel it should be required listening going forward for everyone.

Prince’s Friend is the host and curator of the Prince’s Friend YouTube Channel. Having recently surpassed three million views the channel is heading into 2020 strong. Watch for Prince’s Friend to be on hand for Celebration 2020 and stay on the lookout for new projects coming in 2020. Go to YouTube.com/PrincesFriend to join thousands of others exploring Prince’s music and legacy through reviews, discussion, interviews, and all-out fun!

Darling Nisi

“Gigolos Get Lonely Too” from Originals
“I Feel For You” (Acoustic Demo) single
“U Make My Sun Shine” reissued on Anthology 1995-2010
“Do Yourself A Favor” from 1999 Deluxe
“Mary Don’t You Weep” from Piano and a Microphone 1983

Hearing “Mary Don’t You Weep” over the credits of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman kept the entire audience at the theater I went to locked into their seats. That song has a rich history: much more more than the subject of the song being a woman, it was a coded message that originated as a slave song of hope passed down through an oral tradition across generations. This is a song had a resurgence in popular consciousness due to Amazing Grace, Aretha Franklin’s historic live recordings of her New Temple Missionary Baptist Church performances from 1972. Aretha is someone Prince covered many times throughout his career, especially in his live work, and it’s amazing to have an official record of the rich cultural heritage they both pulled from and infused into their work in direct ways like this.

Darling Nisi is a Prince enthusiast who can be heard on the podcast Muse 2 the Pharaoh: Prince from a female perspective.

Jay Gabler

“I Feel For You” (Acoustic Demo) single
“The Glamorous Life” from Originals
“Yah, You Know” from 1999 Deluxe

As a kid growing up in Minnesota in the ’80s — and way too young to be allowed to watch Purple Rain — I knew Prince was from Minnesota, but only when I visited Paisley Park did it really hit home, so to speak. That magical land is here. He actually lived here and worked here, and not just in hopping downtown Minneapolis but in bucolic suburban Chanhassen. “Yah, You Know” is a priceless outtake from the 1999 sessions, with Prince ripping on his state’s Sven-and-Ole stereotype, and tossing in a reference to ‘ludes just so you know it’s 1982. A relatively rough track that’s clearly a lark, it still bangs like a Grumpy Old Man.

Jay Gabler is a digital producer at The Current.

Elliott Powell

“Vagina” from 1999 Deluxe
“International Lover Take 1” from 1999 Deluxe
“Bold Generation” from 1999 Deluxe
“You’re My Love” from Originals
“We Can F***” from Purple Rain Deluxe

Yes, I know various bootleg quality versions of “We Can F***” have circulated on the internet and between Prince fam for years. And yes, I know Prince released an alternate (yet still incredible) version of this song with George Clinton entitled “We Can Funk” for the 1990 Graffiti Bridge movie and album soundtrack. But these previous iterations can’t hold a candle to the (re)mastered version we got in 2017 as part of the Purple Rain Deluxe release.

“We Can F***” is ten minutes of pure, unadulterated, freaky, and raunchy funk. Backed by Jill Jones, Wendy Melvoin, Lisa Coleman, and Lisa’s brother David, “We Can F***” finds Prince inviting listeners to join him on a journey through a casual sexual encounter — from courtship to “climax” to post-coital conversation. Prince sings about the Kama Sutra, oral sex, and role playing (with even a slight nod to queerness as Prince offers to be his partner’s “boy or girl”).

But for me, Prince is at his lyrical best with the following lines: “Sex between two people is alright/ whether they’re in love or not/ as long as they’re not trying to hurt nobody/ just as long as it’s hot.” Here, Prince rewrites the standard “the birds and the bees” narrative. He positions sex as a site and practice of lust (rather than love), of pleasure/being “hot” (rather than procreation), and of gender inclusivity (note Prince’s reference to sex as taking place between “people” rather than exclusively between a man and a woman). And it’s perhaps because these disruptions of gender and sexual norms that one of the initial daily work order titles for “We Can F***” was “Moral Majority,” an allusion to the Jerry Falwell founded evangelical political organization that centered and supported conservative Christian “family values.”

Elliott Powell is Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota working as an interdisciplinary scholar of U.S. popular music, race, sexuality and politics. He teaches a class at the University of Minnesota titled “Prince, Porn and Public Space: The Cultural Politics of the Twin Cities in the 1980s.”

  • Martin

    I need to know where to get the T-Shirt Elliot is wearing… please?!

  • I love this! So many of my picks here too – We Can F**k, Gigolos Get Lonely Too (love The Time’s but this has so much more emotion), Purple Music (yes – so freaking funky!), Make Up, and Baby Your A Trip would likely be my top five, but I’d have to give a nod to Do Urself a Favor, I Feel for You (acoustic demo), Electric Intercourse and Our Destiny/Roadhouse Garden too. Great article though. And yeah… that t-shirt Elliot, hook the purple people up!