Iconoclastic and impossibly original, Prince was literally a symbol for revolution

The music media tends to play fast and loose with the term “legendary” when speaking of artists, but this year has seen the death of several true musical legends; George Martin, David Bowie, and Merle Haggard all left us this year, and each left behind artistic legacies that not only changed the way we think about music, but the way we think about the world. It’s not fair, but early this morning, we lost another: Prince was found dead today at his estate at the age of 57. While he was hospitalized for the flu earlier this week, an official cause of death has yet to be disclosed.

Like Bowie before him, he seemed almost otherworldly as he crashed into the ‘80s rock scene with his sexualized sound.

Small in stature, a musical bonfire burned within Prince — one that his modest size could barely contain. Prince was an unparalleled musical icon. Equal parts musicologist, philosopher, prolific writer, brilliantly talented instrumentalist, and enigmatic rock god of the highest order, there has simply never been a phenomenon like him before. And there never will be again.

Prince emerged into the greater consciousness with such panache and originality, it’s nearly impossible for those on the outside to imagine the man behind the legend. Like Bowie before him, he seemed almost otherworldly as he crashed into the ‘80s rock scene with his sexualized sound, laden with white-hot synthesizers, gut-wrenching guitar, and lyrics that toyed with themes of sex, devotion, and style with a child-like dash of tongue-in-cheek. His performances were the stuff of musical wizardry, including a certain Super Bowl performance in 2007 widely regarded as the greatest ever to grace the grand stage.

In Memoriam: Goodbye, David Bowie, you beautiful, chameleonic rock god

Born to humble origins in Minneapolis, MN, Prince Rogers Nelson grew up in a musical household. His father, John Nelson, was a jazzer and band leader, with his mother on vocals. As reported by Rolling Stone, Prince began his musical career at a young age, a prodigy who taught himself keys at the age of seven, guitar at 13, and drums at 14 — the same year he started the band Grand Central, which later became Champagne.

After a demo tape made it to Warner Bros. four years later, the musician put out his first album, For You, in 1978. He found small success with two more albums, including the bizarre concept album Dirty Mind, which had a racy song about fellatio, and another about incest. On each of his first five albums, Prince played every instrument and produced nearly all of his own work from the early ‘80s on. All the while, he was evolving his sexualized stage presence, and his diverse band, the Revolution, which included his friend Andre Cymone on bass, Matt Fink and Lisa Coleman on keys, and Wendy Melvoin on guitar. The Revolution’s sound melded a strange alchemy of pop and hard rock influences, mixed with jazz, dance-pop, and experimental sounds.

Prince’s breakthrough double album 1999 hit the charts in 1982, with top 10 singles Delirious and Little Red Corvette carrying the album to platinum status. According to Rolling Stone, the latter track also became one of the first videos to host a black artist on MTV.

He was unforgettable onstage. He was unmistakably brilliant. He was, and still remains, a legend.

While the Revolution hit the road performing in front of larger and larger audiences, Prince also brought other Minneapolis acts along with him, including The Time and Vanity 6 (with frontwoman Vanity), both of which he was rumored to have produced under the name Jamie Starr, though he denied it.

In 1984, the world was smacked in the face by the absolutely mind-melting musical and stylistic colors of Purple Rain. A film starring Prince and his cohorts, The Time, as well as the newly formed Apollonia 6 (with Patricia “Apollonia” Kotero replacing the group’s original lead) the semi-autobiographical film about the Minneapolis music scene put the town on the musical map, and put Prince on the TV screens and radios of seemingly every young music fan in America. Purple Rain was Prince’s Magnum Opus, staying atop the Billboard 100 for 24 weeks, and charting with multiple singles including two number ones, When Doves Cry and Let’s Go Crazy, a number two hit with Purple Rain, and two others in the top 25.

It’s hard to overestimate the impact of the film/album, which not only changed the Minnesota rock scene forever, but influenced artists across the world. And Prince didn’t stop there. Becoming immensely prolific, he released over 20 studio albums throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. In total, before his untimely death at just 57 years old, Prince had released nearly 40 studio albums.

As much as Prince’s beautifully-alien music changed the lives of its listeners, it’s arguable that it had an even grander effect through its influence on his musical contemporaries. Not only did Prince’s wild mix of musical styles directly affect the music scene at large — especially the bizarre chaos of the ‘80s pop scene — but his band became a springboard for a host of musicians over the years, with multiple stars from R&B, jazz, and pop launching careers from within his bands.

In Memoriam: Country music loses a legendary outlaw: Merle Haggard dead at 79

Of course, Prince was also known for his enigmatic demeanor and odd behavior, amassing pages and pages of stories, from the bizarre change of his name to “the artist formerly known as Prince” (in which he was famously represented only by a symbol), to his knocking on doors in Minneapolis as a devout Jehovah’s Witness. His legend alone evoked its own comedic myth when Dave Chappelle’s brilliant sketch show hosted Charlie Murphy, who told a brilliant story about Prince schooling him at basketball — and then serving him pancakes.

Through it all, Prince remained a beloved and idolized source of musical genius, selling out shows and bringing the house down with his screaming guitar solos, sexualized vocals, and incredible stage presence that mixed sexual ambiguity with sheer masculinity as only Prince could. He was unparalleled in talent. He was unforgettable onstage. He was unmistakably brilliant. He was, and still remains, a legend.

As we have all come to learn – perhaps no more poignantly than in the dark year in music that has been 2016 — the great flames of our musical history cannot burn forever. But this flame went out far too soon. Rest in peace, Prince. We’ll miss you forever.

Home Theater

Google brings ad-supported YouTube Music to its Google Home speakers

Hot on the heels of Amazon's announcement that it's adding a free version of its Amazon Music service to Alexa-powered speakers, Google is adding a free, ad-supported version of YouTube Music to Google Home smart speakers.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix in March, from Buster Scruggs to Roma

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix right now (April 2019)

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Movies & TV

From comedies to biopics, these are the best movies about music and musicians

The best movies about music range from hilarious comedies to powerful and informative biopics that illuminate the world of sonic expression from all possible angles. Here are our current favorites.
Home Theater

Record Store Day is here! Here's how to build a killer vinyl collection

Feeling the vinyl vibe? You're not alone. If you're interested in starting your own record collection and listening to tunes the analog way, we're here to help. This guide will take you through everything you need to know.

Amazon rumored to be launching free music-streaming service

Rumors are swirling that Amazon is planning to take on Spotify by launching its own free, ad-supported music streaming service. This seems to be a move aimed at Echo users in particular.
Home Theater

Puro’s kids headphones don’t just sound great, they help prevent hearing damage

Puro Sound Labs' PuroQuiet headphones are a pair of noise-canceling over-ears that are designed for young listeners, allowing them to jam out to their favorite tunes, but limiting volume to avoid long-term hearing damage.
Home Theater

Surface Buds? Microsoft might make AirPods competitors, joining Amazon and others

Microsoft is reportedly hard at work developing its own true wireless headphone model to compete with top offerings from Apple, Samsung, and others. It's aiming to take on the AirPods and Galaxy buds with its own pair of portable in-ears.

You can get V-Moda’s excellent wireless over-ear headphones for just $100

In the market for a pair of Bluetooth headphones? You can get a pair of V-Moda's first-generation Crossfade Wireless for a third of their original $300 list price, a fantastic deal for a pair of great-sounding headphones.
Home Theater

Sony releases wireless turntable, new soundbar amid slew of 2019 audio devices

Sony has announced pricing and availability for its 2019 home audio lineup, including a brand-new wireless turntable, a new soundbar, and a slew of Bluetooth speakers that range from small and portable to huge and cupholder-laden.

Here's how you can download the best free music players for your Mac

Tired of your Mac's default music player? Take a look at our picks for the best free music players available for your Apple rig. Whether you're a casual listener or an audiophile, you're sure to find something that fits your needs here.
Home Theater

Amazon’s free Spotify competitor is here. Just ask Alexa

Just ask Alexa to play your favorite song. Amazon has launched a free, ad-based music streaming service to compete with Spotify's free tier on its popular Echo devices, aiming to bolster subscriptions to Amazon Music Unlimited.

YouTube Red is now YouTube Premium. What's changed, and should you subscribe?

Thanks to Google, YouTube Red is now YouTube Premium. We explain what exactly a YouTube Premium subscription gets you, how much it costs, and break down if it's a good choice for you.

Get some bud-green Master and Dynamic wireless headphones for $50 off this 420

Looking for the best possible audio experience to pair with your favorite herb? Master and Dynamic has announced a special 420 edition of its gorgeous on-ear and over-ear headphones, which will be available for $50 off this 4/20.