I am officially nominating the year of 1984 into the Hall of Fame of best years in existence (other years already in the HOF: 1998, 1971, and 1996). What was so great about this year? Here is a short list of the amazing things to happen that year: (1) the “Where’s the beef?” Wendy’s commercial, (2) the first Mac computer is released for sale, (3) Ghostbusters, Beverley Hills Cop, and The Karate Kid came out, (4) LeBron James (the GOAT) was born.
You can already understand why 1984 should be considered one of the greatest years of all time, and I did not even get to the music yet. They probably should have just stopped making music after the mid 80s because that year was perfect. “Solid” by Ashford & Simpson, “Cool it Now” by New Edition, and “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell all came out in 1984 (note about the Rockwell song: he got Michael Jackson to sing the hook and didn’t even credit him on the track, that’s a flex). There were a number of great albums that came out that year as well, with New Edition and Legend by Bob Marley and the Wailers releasing in ’84.
However, there is only one perfect album from this year. It came from the waters of Lake Minnetonka, from a 5’3″ musical icon. Purple Rain, released June 25th, 1984, by the late, legendary Prince Rogers Nelson, aka Prince, is a perfect album. The artistry displayed by Prince in his 6th studio album was unmatched by any other album that was released that year, and stands the test of time.
Hopefully seeing this picture alone will make you understand how amazing Purple Rain and Prince are.
When looking at the total perfection of Purple Rain, there are multiple things that have to be considered. One of the things is how the music album is woven into the fabric of Purple Rain (the film), which is easily just as perfect as the album. If you haven’t seen the movie, you can either (a) stop reading now and go watch the movie, or you can (b) go to the movie’s Wikipedia page and come back.
When it comes down to it, the movie is basically a glorified music video, with the music being the main component of the film. The main goal of the low-budget cult classic was to showcase Prince’s musical talents. For that reason, there are a number of beautiful concert scenes throughout the movie. They perfectly display the talent that Prince and the Revolution had. They stripped away all of the fat from an album and allowed you to immerse yourself in the artistry they had. The Revolution’s performances helped to carry the movie and gave the audience an different perspective on the talent that Prince and his band had. The album had to special in order to allow Purple Rain (the film) to go from a $7.2 million budget to $70 million in the box office.
In terms of the album, Purple Rain is the product of Prince’s growth and refinement of his musical talent. For You, his debut album, was him getting his feet wet, becoming accustomed to the funk and soul that would propel him through his career. Dirty Mind was the album on which he found his voice and direction as sex-fueled, funk dynamo. On Controversy, he continued on the trail that he blazed on the previous album. With 1999, he ventured more into the pop genre, still infusing the funk, soul, and rock that he had forged before. On that album, he broke through with major chart topping hits for the first, with “Little Red Corvette” and “1999.” Purple Rain was the culmination, his pièce de résistance, his magnum opus, the album that cemented his legacy.
The beginning track on the album, “Let’s Go Crazy,” was the final step that Prince needed to take in order to take over music. In a rousing 4 minutes, Prince delivers a dazzling pop, rock, funk mix that showcases his ability to captivate listeners with a delightful mix of sounds. It is a track that causes you to get up and dance and not stop until the song finishes. In a funny way, the title of the first track set the tone for the rest of Purple Rain, because he Prince snapped on the entire album. This album allowed everyone to get familiar with the talent that the Minneapolis native held. For all of the smart music listeners in the world, he is considered one of the 2 greatest guitar players of all time (feel free to have him and Jimi Hendrix up there). He showcases his expertise with legendary guitar breaks on “When Doves Cry” and the aforementioned opener.
While the album is known for high-powered, high energy hits, it also displayed Prince’s experimental side, as he played around with heavy synthesizer effects and keyboards to co-exist with his guitar prowess. On “The Beautiful Ones,” Prince utilizes the keyboards in concerto with the drum machine to create a powerful, emotional ballad. As he silkily croons over the slow rhythm. It’s one of the strongest ballads he’s ever made, powered by the guitar play of the Revolution.
The album is a basically a perfect combination of showcasing Prince’s vocal range, has he screams on each track in a way that’s beautiful and somehow not off-putting, and his guitar and production prowess. It is as if throughout the album, he is workshopping the perfect mix of all the aspects for his music, and each one is working. Once he gets to the outro of his album, it’s clear as to why this album is flawless. “Purple Rain” is a sprawling, magnum opus that blends the perfect mix of rock and soul as one of the most emotional important tracks ever.. Totaling in at 8 minutes and 45 seconds, Prince spends it delivering one of the most legendary pieces of work ever. Few have been able to create a ballad that contains the perfect amount of devotion to another, emotion, and musical skill. After he belts out some of the most recognizable lyrics for 4 minutes (“I never meant to cause you any sorrow,” and “I only want to see you standing in the Purple Rain”), he spends the rest of the track submitting his application for greatest guitar player ever. He shreds for the last 5 minutes of the song in a way that only he could do. It is one of the most beautiful songs ever, hands down. *
*Fun fact: the greatest Super Bowl performance was Prince, in the pouring rain, in Miami, as he belted out “Purple Rain.” He had the entire stadium singing the song with him. He’s the GOAT.
Purple Rain is an album that will stand the test of time, and may even outlive time. If aliens were even to make their way to our planet, and the asked for greatest showcases of musical excellence, we would give them this album first. No other artist could display the mastery and artistry that Prince showed throughout this album. It is a flawless record and should be treated as such. Its perfection played Prince on a level that no one else would be able to reach. Purple Rain will live on forever.