I didn’t have the pleasure of growing up on Purple Rain. Once, as a kid, when driving by a billboard with a Corvette and the line “Baby, you’re much too fast,” I had to ask my dad to explain it. For years, when I heard these popular songs they had the empty pleasure of cotton candy, sweet and fleeting.
That all changed last year. While struggling with a severe bout of depression I found myself inexplicably drawn to Prince’s music. I knew that if I gave into the desire to listen to sad music it would only make things worse, so I banned The National and instead looped Prince’s greatest hits in my apartment after work. I progressed to listening to Purple Rain on repeat in the car, then at home and in the studio. I recited the words to myself when I wasn’t listening to the music.
I would stand in front of the speakers, volume turned all the way up, waiting for Prince to shake the sadness out of me. Though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, I now understand that what I needed was a demonstration of creative freedom and philosophical sincerity. I was exhausted from work; I was questioning friendships and if meaningful interpersonal connection was even possible. I needed to know that there was a way to look at the world that was both positive and genuine.