Minneapolis, MN

Prince: New Album Five Years After His Death - Everything Old is New Again?

Joseph Serwach

Prince, Kurt Cobain, Nat King Cole? New music after you die?

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3bC0if_0ZILrOWe00 Prince playing at Coachella in 2008. Image by Penner via Wikimedia Commons.

April 21 marks five years since the death of Minneapolis native Prince, but we are in the middle of a media campaign for the July release of his next album.

Throughout his life, Prince shined uniquely. The pioneering creator of the “Minneapolis Sound,” a combination of funk and rock, never “went Hollywood.”

He was born and raised in the Midwest, recruited for fame from Minneapolis at age 19. Considered by many to be the greatest artist of his generation, he remained in Minnesota when he died in 2016 at age 57.

The people of Minnesota pride themselves on having “the Midwestern work ethic,” rising early, working hard every day anywhere from factories to farms (dairy cows need to be milked three times per day every single day).

Prince is a quintessential example of applying the Midwestern work ethic to show business: he produced 39 albums but left a massive vault of uncompleted projects:

  • It’s believed that potentially dozens of albums and more than 50 never-released music videos are part of his “vault” of unreleased work.
  • During his lifetime, he also released hundreds of songs under his own name and pseudonyms. Few know major hits performed by other artists like “Nothing Compares 2 U” and “Manic Monday” are Prince songs.
  • Some claim he wrote somewhere between 500 and 1,000 songs.

When the old work of the dead out-sells the new stuff…

For artists, including Prince, aka “The Artist,” many can see their popularity rise or remain strong in death:

  • The artist Vincent Van Gough only made about $500 selling his art while he lived, but its value soared soon after he died.
https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=0OUi3w_0ZILrOWe00 Image by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay.
  • The best performing author on Amazon remains Dr. Seuss (30 years after his death).
  • The Rush Limbaugh Show (blending clips with a guest host) similarly draws a bigger audience than his rivals two months after his death.
  • Prince’s new album, Welcome 2 America, arrives five years after his death.
  • Artificial Intelligence is creating new Kurt Cobain music (he died in 1994).

Some art isn’t ready for “the times” — until later…

In one of the newly released Prince songs, “Born to Die,” that uniquely Prince falsetto funky style jumps out. It’s pure Prince, instantly recognizable yet something we haven’t heard before.

When he sings of the “home of the brave, home of the slave,” it touches you differently in 2021 than it might have when he sang those same lyrics in 2010. Because music, like a child, takes on a life of its own.

We speculate on the idea of modern technology being able to “bring back” any lost artist, perhaps even to have concerts hearing their beautiful music again and seeing holographic images of them right before us.

The idea intrigues and frightens people simultaneously. Like a car accident, we don’t want to look — but then we want to see and learn more.

“Hard to say what’s right when all I wanna do is wrong.” ― Prince.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are, Cobain once wrote, adding that he preferred being “hated for who I am than loved for who I am not.” He thanked his critics for his tragedies, saying he needed it for his art.

Cobain was just 26 when he died, and like artist Van Gogh, his art exploded after his death. But is it fair to use AI to reproduce what we think he might have sounded like?

Was it fair for Natalie Cole to pull out her father’s 1951 music to create their beautiful “Unforgettable” duet in 1991, long after his death? Oddly, both versions (the 1951 solo song and the updated “virtual duet” with the father who died in 1965 and the grown daughter years later) both peaked at №14 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

But the duet has taken on a life of its own with Billboard writing, “Through the magic of digital technology father and daughter duet on this timeless song that swells with lush orchestration and moving harmonies.”

In Prince's case, he died without a will or “plan” to continue his work after his death. Comerica Bank oversees his estate as his siblings try to work out a plan in court. Morris Hayes, Prince’s longtime friend, and collaborator spoke with “60 Minutes,” saying we “have to ease into it.”

“It’s very raw,” Hayes told 60 Minutes. “With ‘Welcome 2 America’, it’s a lot of different stories and the different songs, and everything just kind of has its own little chapter in the book.”

For centuries, classics and the Great American Songbook would be written by one genius and then passed on to countless others who performed the work and made it their own.

Shelby Johnson, who sang with Prince and performed on the new album, told CBS it might be better to have this 2010 work released in 2021. Some of the songs, she added, “might not have been absorbed the way that it will be now, with everything we’ve been through in the last 10 years.”

Mortals come and go, but great music is immortal. As Prince once said, “A strong spirit transcends rules.”

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=2ZCNKC_0ZILrOWe00 Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay.

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