Today we present a new feature called The Artists Speak. We ask artists and bands from across the globe to share their favorite songs from one of music’s all-time greats. We then aggregate the totals and share their Top 20 picks. In addition, some will share their views on what makes a legend and their music so influential. In Volume One, we celebrate the greatness of Prince Rogers Nelson – or simply Prince who left us four years ago today.

The 14 artists and bands who participated in this inaugural edition chose 50 of his songs. The list reads like a “Greatest Hits” album, including deep cuts known only to Prince’s most ardent fans. Following the list is information on the participants, along with their statements about the legend and a “choice” selection that didn’t make the Top 20.

Without further ado, here are the selections along with a mini-playlist for your listening pleasure. 

The Top 20* Prince Songs as Chosen by the Artists

(*Disclaimer: actually Top 21 songs due to multiple ties)

 

1. “When Doves Cry”

Marin Patenaude: “The pain is so real in this song. The aggressive approach to its production supports that pain with gritty conviction. His guitar playing and tone makes me shiver all over.”

Sidny (of Sidny x Chaix): “I remember growing up, and my mom had a collection of Prince’s CDs and even some vinyl. My brother sat me down and made me listen to “When Doves Cry” and from that point on I was a fan. I took a deep dive into the whole Prince catalogue after that and it’s undeniable.”  

2. “Kiss”

Chaix (of Sidny x Chaix): “This song has always been so striking to me. That guitar riff intro that slaps you to attention, a secret weapon of every wedding DJ. What fascinates me about this song is the sparseness to the mix. There’s something so intimate about it. The dry, upfront vocals make it sound as if the Purple One is right in your ear. There’s also virtually no bass, but for that thick snare that’s like a punch to the chest.”

Marin Patenaude: “Suddenly I’m a saucy seductress and can’t help but flirt with anything that moves when I hear this song. His vocal performance is off the charts even though he’s being the biggest tease.”

3. “I Wanna Be Your Lover”

The Lagoons: “‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ tops our list because of it’s super tight simple groove that drives the song. It’s easy listening. The song is very groovy and keeps the listener consumed with Prince’s iconic vocals and guitar licks throughout.”

4. “Let’s Go Crazy

Jeremy Redmore: “This was my introduction to Prince and his uncompromising boldness and unflinching courage to be nothing else in the world besides himself. This was powerful for me; it was like my second confirmation. It was definitely a conviction, a sexual awakening, and it tickled my inhibitions. I could feel the suppression, and even the repression, bubbling to the surface, seeping out of the pores of a boy who didn’t really know what was out there in the world… (H)e gave me permission to not be afraid of expressing myself, putting myself out there, being vulnerable, and not giving a fuck what people thought about me. Plus, we are both short.”

Zia McCabe (of The Dandy Warhols): “‘Let’s Go Crazy’ is one of my favorite ‘cut loose’ anthems of all time. Again, an incredible song opening. As a DJ, I’m always looking for the songs that undeniably erase your problems for a few minutes.

4. “Purple Rain”

Mike Ruby: “‘Purple Rain’ is one of Prince’s quintessential songs. It’s almost like two songs in one because the outro is so trance like, it could be its own song. The form and meaning of ‘Purple Rain’ depict his music perfectly: the form is far from mundane, but as catchy as any other hit song, and the lyrics hold so much depth in meaning when you look for them. I think this song is about life and death, going through the good and bad times and being here on earth together. The epic guitar solo with highs and lows signifies the beauty and struggle of us all.”

Sean Royle (of SHADE): “I know this is probably the generic answer for a lot of people, but it’s for good reason. I’m not going to sit here and tell you some deep cut is my favourite to be more hip. This is what introduced me to the artist. There is so much passion behind everything in this track from the words that are sung to the chords that are played. It’s truly a masterpiece. I also love to play the guitar, and to hear Prince do this live is euphoric. Some versions are over 30 minutes long, filled with colourful jams and Prince wailing away on guitar. His final ‘oohs’ at the end give me chills every time.”

6. “Raspberry Beret”

Pyramid Tropic: “The song grabs you from the opening Linn Drum beat and Prince’s count. Then, when David Coleman’s cello and Novi Novog’s violin kick in, the track ramps up to a whole new level of brilliance. It’s a one-listen song: once you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it. Primarily known as an RnB artist, the ‘Raspberry Beret’ single and the ‘Around The World In a Day’ album were a bold move for Prince, establishing his restless creative spirit and sheer genius.”

7. “1999”

Pyramid Tropic: “The ultimate riff-and-party song with a propulsive beat. Once the keyboard part opens the song, it is relentless. On this song, Prince shares the lead vocals with members of the Revolution. In that sense, it’s a throwback to the best Sly and the Family songs, which employed a similar melodic device.”

8. “Little Red Corvette”

Fire on the Radio: “An incredible piece of pop music. We always thought if you listened to Cindi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ (released later the same year) it sounded like a slowed down version of this song. Prince’s influence remains lasting and far reaching among all his peers, and this song is a shining example.”

Mike Ruby: “(It) is perfect, both lyrically and musically. It’s a quintessential timeless song about the wild one that you can’t tame and can’t ignore. The hook is simple, fun, and to the point and portrays the person completely in just two short sentences. It’s my favorite Prince song for a reason, and if I’m being honest, one of my favorite pop songs of all-time.”

8. “When You Were Mine”

Jeremy Redmore: “I love this album and especially this song, the sound and aesthetic suits my penchant for a stripped-down, raw sound. It reminds me of a tight, perfect, indie song, yet with a subtle undeniable funkiness. The song to me just feels like Prince. It can’t be pigeonholed to race or genre. It is euphoric in its delivery, ambiguously jilted in theme, and is sexually obsessed and androgynous with swag and strut.”

Marihuzka Cornelius (MC of Bloods): “The ultimate torch song. The lengths of his pining for this woman who is so openly unfaithful to him, it’s almost like a dominant/submissive relationship love song. It’s also a banger.”

10. “If I Was Your Girlfriend”

Chin Injeti: “‘If I was Your Girlfriend’ is in a league of its own. The high bass line keeps it driving and hypnotic, making space for the brilliant lyric. Also the the backups are amazing, and the fact that his vocal is pitched up – and don’t forget that it’s all on 2 Inch.”

Joe Lonie (of Kathy Bates Motel): “The best song about jealousy EVER! Raw, painful and revealing with a gently foreboding, funk groove dripping with delicate, intricate melodies. Prince is willing to show an ugly side of himself here, but it’s unflinchingly honest, relentlessly human, and ultimately very beautiful. For me, this is Prince’s most tender and touching vocal performance, made even more affecting by the brave production decision to have it artificially raised in pitch. Also brave is the choice to allow the song to go off the rails lyrically and harmonically near the end, like a tortured soul plagued by jealously and spiraling out of control.”

10. “Sign o’ the Times”

MC: “This is Prince getting political, and he is an incredible story teller.”

12. “Gett Off”

Cesare Papa (of Otiuh): “Guitar shredding, flute sample, drum machines. I thought we had the formula nailed, but it turns out Prince already did it. Along with one of the most wild music videos ever. And this track was funkier.”

13. “Nothing Compares 2 U”

MC: “OH MY GOD! The ultimate break up song. How does anyone ever listen to this after having their heart broken? It is absolutely, gut-wrenchingly, sad and just as beautiful.”

The Lagoons: “‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ is such a beautiful love song. Personally we like the Sinead O’Connor version better even though it was originally written by Prince, which makes you realize how incredible of a songwriter he was outside of his own personal project.”

14. “Darling Nikki”

Zia McCabe: “‘Darling Nikki’ was the the first song to make me feel a tingling between my legs. I was 13 when my mom bought that album for me. I listened to it non-stop on my Walkman.”

Sean Royle: “Our drummer Z introduced me to this tune when I was first getting into Prince. He’s a big fan of the song and will always mention how much he loves the drum tracks on it. I really dig the rhythms in this as well. It’s so unique, from its opening lyrics to the a cappella outro. I mean the opening line talks about hotel lobby masturbation. Extremely unique way to open up a story to say the least. The song itself is written beautifully with such an eerie yet unique chord arrangement. To know that Prince was a god by this point, just throw on this track.”

15. “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker”

Chin Injeti: “(It) is so brilliant both lyrically and musically, the production still sounds as relevant as it did when it first come out.”

16. “I Would Die 4 U”

17. “Erotic City”

Chin Injeti: Erotic City is just so funky. Listen to it loud and see what I mean. The guitar line is so crisp and tight. Again, the vocals in this song are unbelievable from the backups to the lead, some of them pitched up; some not. No one has been able to recreate this today, even with all the autotune plug-ins. Also let’s not forget the sick has keyboards probably on a prophet, who uses a whistle like this?! SMH Crazy !!

17. “Pop Life”

17. “Soft and Wet”

MC: “This song is so full of bravado and ridiculously sensual, and it blows my mind that this was his first single. How do you follow up from that? It could very easily have been a one-hit wonder.”

20. “Gold”

20. “I Feel for You”

Sean Royle: “Man this song should make anyone feel good! Top down cruisin’ kinda tune! Well, I don’t have a drop-top, so just windows down! From that opening drum fill to the outro jam, this track slams. Really great chords arrangement and production on this. Also love Prince’s vocal harmonies he does. He has a very original style with that all through career. Very sexy track.”

 

Participating Artists & Bands:

Cesare Papa of Otiuh (Australian rap duo who have a new song, “21”, out with outlnd and Adrian Dzvuke)

“He’s the pure definition of myth. Did he really exist? How many songs did this man make? It could easily be two or ten thousand – either is believable. I read Eric Clapton said you should ask Prince to find out what it was to be to be the best guitarist in the world. Most people don’t even know him as one. I didn’t. He was my mum’s absolute favourite. I grew up hearing him in the house, and her playing his songs on the piano. I surprised her with tickets to his Perth (Australia) show in February 2016. He came out sporting an afro, purple suit and rode out on a bicycle. I had never seen an arena of people so captivated by a man and a grand piano. A couple months later he passed. I’ve been going through his discography since that show.”

Choice cut: “Head”

 

Chin Injeti (Indian-born, Canadian-based producer, who recently released “Falling”)

“Prince to me is a Top 5 greatest artist of all time. His relationship with his craft is unprecedented. Not to compare, but there is none like him. He is a multi-instrumentalist, and by that I mean a virtuoso on everything he played – the guitar, the bass, the drums, the vocals, wind instruments, the drums, etc. A master arranger, producer and performer. On top of the music, he revolutionized the business by controlling his masters and inspiring other artist to do the same… There will never be another artist like Prince (RIP).”

Choice cuts: none (all 10 of Chin’s selections made the list)

 

Fire in the Radio (indie alt-rock band from Philadelphia whose new album, Monuments, has received strong reviews, including from The Line of Best Fit)

“The things we respect about Prince is that he had an incredible work ethic, prolific output, and tireless pursuit of writing prolific, genre-bending, pop songs that still sound fresh and inventive today. Prince, in the same breath, could amalgamate Motown soul, ’70s funk, and guitar-ripping rock n’ roll with flawless perfection in a way that few artists have ever achieved. His music will continue to cast a long shadow.”

Choice cuts: “Baby, I’m a Star” and “Partyman”

 

Jeremy Redmore (multi-award-winning songwriter from New Zealand who fronted the popular Kiwi rock band Midnight Youth. His sophomore solo album, The Brightest Flame, is out now.)

Choice cuts: “The Cross”, “A Case of You”, and “Sometimes It Snows in April”

 

Joe Lonie of Kathy Bates Motel (New Zealand-based indie band who released a new single, “Damaged Goods”, in February)

“For me, Prince is joy. I have the love symbol tattooed on my inner wrist. I put it there because I knew that I needed a constant reminder of the possibility for joy, inspiration, and vitality in this cruel world of ours. Every note of his music is alive and life-affirming to me. It keeps hope in my heart and shows me how to be happy.”

Choice cuts: “Lady Cab Driver” and “I Wish U  Heaven”

 

The Lagoons (LA-raised, Texas-based brother duo creating fresh indie-pop, like “Wanna Know Something”)

“Prince is hands down one of the most iconic, influential songwriters and artists of the 20th century. He paved the way for so many different styles of music and really was a role model for freedom of expression. He broke away from the mold and truly was a one-of-a-kind artist that marched to the beat of his own drum and was truly unique to the core.”

Choice cut: none (all their selections also made the Top 20)

 

Marihuzka Cornelius of Bloods (Australian garage punk-pop band, who have a new EP, Seattle, coming out May 15th).

“What I love the most about Prince’s music is how deeply he dives into the emotion of whatever he was writing about. His lyrics are so evocative in a way that, if an artist is able to have that kind of clarity just once, they’d be feeling like they’d unlocked some kind of gift from the universe. Prince’s music was more than just ‘pop’ – it was art and poetry all wrapped up in platforms, sequence, and sex.

“I was lucky enough to get to see Prince play in my very early 20s and it was just a gigantic party. His band was made up of the most insanely good players – all were female – I thought that was the most badass thing I’d ever seen (because I knew the standard he would hold would be so unbelievably high and he never doubted the ability of women to be able to do the job). Prince is a true icon and one of the most worthy of the title ‘musical genius’ that has ever lived.”

Choice cuts: “Alphabet Street” and “Uptown”

 

Marin Patenaude (a classic folk singer-songwriter from British Columbia who easily could be from Appalachia, as demonstrated on “Cold Front”. Her new album, Sight Unseen, arrives May 29th.)

“He epitomizes freedom. His music inspires me to confidently write from an honestly painful place. Musically, we’re worlds apart, but his dedication to his craft was like no other. And the talent! Uffff. Endless.”

Choice cuts: “Starfish and Coffee and “Delirious”

 

Mike Ruby (Canadian-born, LA-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, who is a mix of John Mayer and Lauv. New single, “Burn Again”, is available everywhere.)

Choice cut: “Diamonds and Pearls” (another surprise omission from the Top 20)

 

Pyramid Tropic  (synth/dance-pop duo from Toronto that are bringing the ’80s to the 2020s with songs like “Last Forever”)

“Prince and the Revolution created some of Prince’s most memorable and enduring songs. They were audacious, dangerous, and wildly charismatic. Like Sly and the Family Stone before them, the group was comprised of men and women, blacks and whites, making it one of the first fully integrated bands. They were inspiring musicians who could handle rock, R&B, pop, funk, and psychedelia. During their time together, Prince and the Revolution achieved two number one albums and six top-ten singles. Their influence is still felt today, just listen to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer album and her “Make Me Feel” single! We were definitely ingesting a steady diet of Prince and the Revolution when we were recording our two EPs.”

Choice cuts: “Around the World in a Day” and “Girls & Boys”

 

Sean Royle, bassist for SHADE (five-piece rock ‘n roll band from Hamilton, Ontario, whose new album, Combat Rave, drops April 30th. The title track was released two weeks ago.)

“I first heard about Prince when I was in high school and pretty new to guitar playing. I never really checked out his work until (SHADE drummer) Zander’s brother asked me to play in his band at the time. At one of our first jams he asked if I’d ever heard ‘Purple Rain’ by Prince and at this point in my life I hadn’t. Anyways, he showed me the four chords to the tune and we jammed it. I dug the tune a lot right then and there, but when I got home and put on the actual version that’s when my love affair for Prince began.”

Choice cut: “17 Days (demo)” and “So Blue”

 

Sidny x Chaix (collaborative project involving a smooth vocalist [Sidny] and a chilled producer [Chaix]. They’ve released a few songs, including “Someone New”.)

“When you think of generational artists, classics, pioneers, and icons, it’s hard to not mention Prince in the conversation. Prince has been influential in so many different facets of entertainment not only in music but film and fashion. Purple Rain was a movie that people will talk about forever and had such an impact on people’s lives.”

Choice cuts: “How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore?” and “Computer Blue”

 

Zia McCabe, DJ, realtor, and member of the indie-rock legends The Dandy Warhols (who recently released a 3-hour, 34-minute album of previously unheard music called, Tafelmuzik Means More When You’re Alone)

“To me Prince is the perfect combination of sex and music. As a female musician it means a lot to me that he worked closely with so many talented females. As a DJ sometimes is tough to not play too many Prince songs.”

Choice cut: “Cream” (The only song from Zia’s 10 choices that didn’t make the final list)

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