When David Bowie died at the beginning of this year, there was a chorus of disbelieving people saying they didn't realize Bowie could die. It seemed there was no other artist out there so unique, so influential, so prolific, that their absence could leave such an unfillable hole in the music and culture landscape.
But now we've found that other artist, just four months later. Prince was found dead today at his Paisley Park recording studio and, again, it was hard to even fathom. Prince! How?
In Minneapolis right now...and it's raining...
— Lupe Fiasco (@LupeFiasco) April 21, 2016
It's tough to come to terms with, but here at Chart Attack we have a method: counting down everything that made him unforgettable, unreplaceable, cool. After Bowie and Prince, cool might not still exist to do this again. But in the meantime, here are 7 reasons Prince was cool.
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He was a genre unto himself
It became known as the Minneapolis sound, but really, it would've been named for wherever Prince hung his hat. He was an ambitious and eclectic experimenter — which also says something for his insane musical aptitude and vision — cross-pollinating the sounds of funk and New Wave and hip-hop and hair metal and pop and paisley underground rock and prog and R&B and, well, you get the picture. No artist encompasses the '80s and its myriad styles, subcultures and scenes like Prince. His influence is felt in Kanye and St. Vincent, D'Angelo, and about a thousand rock and funk bands, but no one could do it quite like him. - Chris Hampton
He's responsible for some of the best stories ever told
Just as Prince is a genre to himself, so are Prince stories. Everyone has one, and they're all amazing. There's the above beauty from Charlie Murphy on Chappelle's Show, there Questlove's story about the time Prince replaced him with Finding Nemo, Kevin Smith's 30 minute tale about almost directing a documentary with Prince that basically led to his whole podcasting empire.
There's his legendary afterparty appearances, like how, just a few weeks ago, he played a 4:15am set at the Everleigh in Toronto just for the staff and their friends. Five years ago there was a book about the beginnings of MTV and the Prince stories were so captivating they might as well have just called the book Prince Stories. It would probably have been a bestseller. - Richard Trapunski
He was prolific right up until the end
We've been toying with the idea of doing a Prince PRIMER for the last few years, but decided not to because his music is too hard to embed (more on that later). It would be a serious undertaking. Prince has something like 40 albums, plus more if you include albums under other names, groups he was a part of, and live albums. No one quite does Prince like Prince, but luckily he did it a lot. He was even recording in his Paisley Park recording studio when he was found. It's sad to think how many more great albums he might have come up with had he not died today. - Richard Trapunski
He protected his art fiercely
Prince's stand against the internet is legendary. He actively blocked his catalogue and performances from YouTube and online streamers, except TIDAL (which seems like the only virtual place you can go right now to purge your purple tears or party like its 1999). His opposition has been, at times, frustrating, especially for those of us who do most of our listening by computer. But what's sometimes appeared as bullheaded and anachronistic ludditism, is actually a principled protest against the way our on-demand, freemium music marketplaces compensate artists. He was against exploitation, in any form. - Chris Hampton
He had maybe the best super bowl performance of all time
Once again proving Prince is the exception to every rule, he took the staid, bloodless institution of Super Bowl halftime performances, in 2007 still scandalized by nipplegate, and put some life back into it. His performance felt spontaneous, loose, virtuosic, and, above all, unpredictable.
Where you usually get a medley of pre-approved artist hits, Prince came out with a huge epic jam on "Purple Rain," some "Let's Go Crazy," a Hendrix-referencing "All Along The Watchtower," and, out of nowhere, a cover of the Foo Fighter's "Best of You" that bests any version they could ever do. Taylor Hawkins called it "revenge" for their version of "Darling Nikki," and that just might be true: in front of the biggest TV audience of the year, he made them seem totally redundant, along with every halftime performance before and since. - Richard Trapunski
He wrote hits for everyone
When we think of King Purple's genius output, its probably songs like "When Doves Cry" and "Sign O' The Times" and "Raspberry Beret," the Billboard toppers logged under his name (or symbol), which come first to mind, but the truth is, you could compile a Best of Prince from songs he wrote and co-wrote for other performers. Sinéad O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U," The Bangles' "Manic Monday" and Stevie Nicks' "Stand Back" all include Prince Rogers Nelson in their writing credits. - Chris Hampton
He was an androgynous sex symbol
The title track off his fourth studio album Controversy begins by asking "Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?" The song continues, "Life is just a game, We're all just the same, Do you wanna play?" Though, in later years, his politics around sex and gender were muddled (conservative Christian and all), he spent three decades showcasing that ambiguity and fluidity weren't just valid expressions, they were sexy. The takeaway from a Prince album was always to be that nasty you, whatever that looked like. He basically was sex. It's now cancelled. - Chris Hampton