I’m gonna admit right off top that I’m a big fan of Prince. Musically, I think he’s one of the geniuses of our era, and business-wise I think he’s done some amazing things that struck big against the major-labels and also set himself up to be a real powerplayer as an idependent artist (which is he is right now).
But all that aside, I finally bought the Purple Rain DVD the other day, and I’ve gotta say it was well worth the purchase because of the 2nd DVD that comes with it. There’s a few behind-the-scenes type of extras on the DVD that really shed light on some of the process and making of that album and movie that I would have never thought of. If you’re a fan of his, definitely cop it. I’ve watched the bonus DVD twice already.
Now, onto what I thought was the most interesting bit of information about the making of the album:
First, there were over 100 songs recorded for the album, and if i remember correctly there are only 9 or 10 songs on the actual album. This in itself i find very interesting, particularly because when it comes to classic albums we always tend to think that the artist just did 10 songs and all of them were great, but this is hardly the case. In fact, the more i research older albums, the more i find the opposite to be true. It seems like almost every truly great album has a story about a ridiculous amount of songs being recorded for it, as opposed to that artist just being “on fire” at that point in time, did 10 amazing songs, then turned into the label like “here’s this classic, let me know when it goes 10x platinum“, lol.
But that brings me to the second interesting fact: Prince himself did NOT pick the songs that made the album.
Just think about that one for a second and let it marinate. Because the common assumption is that Prince is a loner and a visionary that does things his way and cant be told anything–or at least that’s what his relation with Wendy & Lisa in the movie would have you believe–yet Prince didn’t choose what songs made the record. He basically wrote a movie script, did 100 songs, turned those songs into the director, and said “you choose the best 10“.
What does this mean? Well, first of all it means that the process of creating something classic involves creating a LOT of work. No, Prince does not sit down and write a song as good as purple rain every time he sits down. In fact, statistically, he could only do it 10% of the time, but that doesn’t mean that Prince is a failure by any means, or even less great than you may or may not have perceived him to be. But what it does mean is that he is a much more aware and humble artists than many people give him credit for. Shit, you’ve got to be pretty humble to sit there and know that you’ve done 100 songs and that all of them are NOT great, but that when you actually do hit on something great–holy shit, you smack it out the park.
What it also means is that while creating something great does involve a lot of time and a large body of work, filtering (or “the edit” as i like to call it) is just as important. At the end of the day you have to admit that your shit stinks like everybody else, and that sometimes you may be too emotionally attached to said body of work to really be honest about it. That’s the hard part. As an artist I can truly say that I’m just now getting to a point where i am not as emotionally attached to my music anymore. Its not that i don’t care about the music, or that it creating doesn’t excite me anymore because it still does, probably more so than ever. But what it means is that am now emotionally attached to the results, as opposed to the process or the agenda behind creating a piece of art.
Here’s a good example of what I’m referring to. A large part of hip-hop production involves collecting records and finding samples. Now, there is a value attached to these records sometimes, and sometimes there isn’t. But as the value of said record (which is usually proportional to how rare it is) starts to increase so does our emotional attachment. When you finally sit down to make a beat out of that, your emotion is attached to what it took you to find that record, and what it means to have made a beat out of some record that almost nobody else has. This is dangerous, because the only thing that should matter is if the beat is dope or not, or better yet does the beat get the reaction that you want it to without anybody knowing the backstory, right?
This is what is so impressive about Prince doing 100 songs and letting somebody else, that he didn’t even know choose them. He was able to completely remove himself from that part of the process because he wanted the stuff that everybody would respond to, which may or may not be the songs that he did the most technical stuff in, or the songs that it took him the longest to write, or the songs that were emotional to him because they were about his own life. That’s hard to do, and i assume even harder when you’re already successful and everybody is kissing your ass.
So that’s all i got on this topic. If you’re an artist or creative type and reading this, i hope it inspires you like it’s inspired me.
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