At 30, Purple Rain Is Still So Good That "Purple Rain" Isn't Even Its Best Ballad

That last one is certainly true, but not like it once was. Despite being something of an early adopter of online freedoms -- ever heard "Emale," where he samples the AOL guy? -- Prince has spent most of the internet age doing what he always does: pissing off the people he works for. Since he's been independent since '96s Emancipation, the people he works for is us, his audience. He's sued fans for sharing his music online, for even discussing bootlegs of music they would happily buy from him. He's demanded that hapless YouTubers yank down videos of their kids singing his songs. His fight against the theft of his music has become a fight against his music still having a place in this culture.

Search for him on YouTube. You'll get Prince Royce and Prince of Persia, but God help you if you need a clip of the man himself in his assless chaps.

After one PR cock-up, in 2007, he tried to appease his hardest of hardcores by offering up a free song to a fansite. Called "PFUnk," and later "F.U.N.K.," its seven minutes of mad just-what-the-title-promises get-down stands to my mind as his best, freakiest recording of the 2000s. Prince being Prince, its currently unavailable in any format whatsoever -- yes, even the free song he gave away to the internet has been scraped off the Internet.

So, here we are, at the ass-end of the age of CDs (and albums themselves), and the little dude who sang "The Future" and ushered it in feels years behind the curve. Yes, he's promising a couple new albums, and he's still swanning through lifetime achievement media appearances. But when the deluxe Purple Rain finally hits, a little too late for its anniversary, will it be the culture-wide event it should be, something like when that last round of Beatles CDs hit a few years back?

Or will it only be the old and nostalgic marveling at the way "The Beautiful Ones" bleeds into "Computer Blue," and "Computer Blue" bleeds into "Darling Nikki" -- and at how Dr. Fink's synthesizer flourishes on "Baby I'm a Star" finally don't sound like 8-bit Nintendo?

And, for what it's worth, 1999 > Sign O' the Times > Purple Rain > Dirty Mind > The Gold Experience > Parade > Lovesexy > The symbol album > Controversy > Come > 3121 > Emancipation > The Rainbow Children > Around the World in a Day > Graffiti Bridge > The Truth disc off Crystal Ball > Batman > The Black Album > Lotusflow3r/ MPLSound > Musicology > Diamonds and Pearls > Planet Earth > New Power Soul > Chaos and Disorder > 20Ten > For You

Hey, you could do worse than following @studiesincrap on the Twitter thing.

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