Having gone over the pros and cons of usage of the N-Word last week, I am now prepared to delve into an even more controversial topic. One which has divided millions for over 30 years now. Before I even start writing this I know that no matter what I say, someone who reads this is going to be pissed off at something. That is the nature of this argument: Michael Jackson vs. Prince.
I’ve written before about my childhood idolization of Michael Jackson, and obviously I have this category on my blog dedicated to him, where I’ve reviewed most of his adult albums (I may get to the two posthumous albums someday). But I am also a lifelong fan of Prince. Unlike Michael, I have seen Prince perform live. It was 2004, the Musicology tour, live at the Staples Center, 14th row, with Sheila E. as the opening act. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. He was incredible.
The thing is, these two men really shouldn’t even be compared to each other, and I can understand why this particular issue has always rankled Prince. It’s obvious why they constantly are, due to various superficial similarities. They were two Black males, the same age, who became mainstream crossover pop artists during the 80’s. But, really, they are very different. Comparing Michael Jackson and Prince is like comparing Sammy Davis Jr. and Jimi Hendrix. They’re both geniuses at what they do, they’re both icons, neither one is inherently “better” than the other. It all just depends on what type of music and entertainment that YOU prefer.
I’d say that Michael was an entertainer first, while Prince is a musician first. Michael would make music as a means of entertaining people (which he did very well), while Prince seems more interested in making music for the sake of itself, and therefor was more willing to experiment. They both have a common “ancestor”, if you will, in James Brown.
It all began with the Godfather of Soul, and they’ve both acknowledged that. You can see him in both of them. But it’s like they each took different things from him. Michael took James’ showmanship, Prince took his musicianship, while both also took his perfectionism and work ethic. But it’s in their other influences where the differences become apparent. With Michael you can also see how took from guys like Sammy Davis Jr., Gene Kelly, Jackie Wilson, Fred Astaire, and Sam Cooke. While Prince’s other influences are evident in the styles of Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, Sly Stone, George Clinton, and Miles Davis. Again, neither is “better,” they’re just “different.”
But now let me purposely get controversial. Recently Chris Rock wrote an article about Prince’s classic album, Purple Rain:
Good article..except that I have to object to one part:
There’s not a bad record on Purple Rain. Thriller is allegedly the best album of all time, and that has at least two bad songs on it. There’s no “Baby Be Mine” on Purple Rain.
SAY WHAT NOW?!?
Dude, first of all “Baby Be Mine” is effing awesome! That’s actually my favorite song on THRILLER!
Chris Rock is trippin’. I don’t know what the 2nd “bad” song he’s talking about is, but I like every track on Thriller. By contrast, Purple Rain? Okay, that’s a great album, but what about Darling Nikki? I’m sorry, but no one is going to tell me that’s really a good song. No one is putting that song on during a party or a club and going “That’s my jam!” The song is memorable because of the line about “masturbating with a magazine,” but that’s all. There’s also Take Me U, which is just okay, but could have been better. The biggest problem with that one is Apollonia’s vocals. She just wasn’t a very good singer, and that brought the song down. I’ve often said, frankly, I’m not even sure I’d consider Purple Rain to be Prince’s best album. I’d say that 1987’s Sign O The Times is a more creative album, as well as the often overlooked album The Gold Experience from 1995. That’s probably my favorite Prince album.
Thriller is the perfect blend of Pop, Rock, and R&B music. The songwriting, the production, and Michael’s vocals are all at their peak. And altogether it is much better album than Purple Rain.
Just my opinion.
But I still love them both.