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by Eddie Sayago
Prince was (it’s tough to not type “is”) more than an electrifying artist and performer. He elevated music to a new level. He defied what a musician, performer, and person could be. As our finest ruler in music royalty (and oddly fitting that he takes the spotlight from an actual monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. On her 90th birthday nonetheless.), he could do anything. He played encores well over an hour after the show ended. He made everyone attempt to call him The Artist Formerly Known as Prince for nearly a decade. Hell, he appeared on Muppets Tonight as a singing farmer and on New Girl as himself, poking fun of his persona (“Oh, how rude of me, I haven’t given you enough time to freak now. You may do so now.”).
Here are five of his songs performed by six artists...
Prince was practically a genre. Just about everyone has covered a song of his either on record, on stage, during karaoke, or during a jam session with friends. Two British artists on each end of the musical spectrum and with illustrious careers of their own bring their own swagger to one of the most iconic songs in pop music.
Jones, no stranger to combining sex appeal with his vocal performances, originally began performing “Kiss” during a Vegas residency shortly after “Kiss” debuted in 1986. Avant-garde group the Art of Noise saw Jones live and wanted to collaborate with the man behind “It’s Not Unusual”, “She’s A Lady”, and the delightfully campy and raunchy “Sex Bomb.” That combo resulted in Jones’ first foray on MTV and a Top 40 hit in the US and a Top 10 in his native UK. Thompson, the folksy singer-songwriter extraordinaire best known for “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, delivers a boldly confident performance of “Kiss” in front of a live audience, which was later featured in his album 1000 Years of Popular Music.
In between the massive hits that helped these ladies from Atlanta sell over 23 million copies of CrazySexyCool is a seductive and stylistic cover of “If I Was Your Girlfriend”, which originally appeared on Prince’s 1987 double album Sign “☮” the Times. A look at what an intimate relationship would look like from the perspective of a female platonic friend, this version adds an extra sense of longing and desire. What does her boyfriend provide that she cannot? Why can’t she be her best friend and better half?
You can do a whole series of blogs on the best covers of only this song. One of the best versions is by Patti Smith, which was released on her compilation album Land (1975-2002). Fun fact: When Prince released “When Doves Cry,” it spent spent 5 weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, preventing The Boss (aka Bruce Springsteen) to score a #1 single with “Dancing in the Dark” (it peaked and stayed at #2 all five weeks).
Chicago native Chaka Khan achieved her biggest success on the charts (peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100) thanks to her version of “I Feel for You," which originally appeared on Prince’s 1979 self-titled album. Despite the career revival (and a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance, Female, while Prince won Best R&B Song) Khan admitted to Billboard that she didn’t feel too comfortable with the song but knew that it “appeals to a lot of the younger kids.” (Which may also explain why the video includes break dancers and a (possibly) house music DJ) Fun fact: The harmonica riff at the beginning is performed by Stevie Wonder.
It is impossible to talk about Prince covers without mentioning the one of best cover songs ever recorded. It was originally written and performed by The Family in 1985, which was the same year O’Connor’s mother died. Reflecting upon their complicated relationship, this rendition is a emotionally remarkable performance accompanied by a simple yet powerful music video. After 25 years of performing the song, O’Connor announced in a Facebook post that she would no longer perform it live, writing that she “ran out of anything I could use to bring some emotion to it.”
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