Monday, February 05, 2007

A comment Prince's performance

From Ann Althouse's blog: (And whoever Drew W. is, she writes a little like Camille Paglia, imo.)

Drew W said...

I figured that Prince's transition to oldies act was complete after I heard that he was playing the Super Bowl. I’d read somewhere that he got booked because the promoters were still spooked by the Janet Jackson breast-baring incident a few years back and he could be relied upon to spare them any unpleasant surprises.

Ahh, but who remembers the nervous public perception of the sexually ambiguous -- and even racially ambiguous -- Prince in his heyday? He was a supercharged mash-up of Little Richard’s manic energy and Rick James’ raunch. Of the two leading nonwhite pop stars of the early ‘80s with broad interracial appeal, he was considered the “bad boy.” It was Michael Jackson whose persona appeared to be a “safe” alternative.

Today, Prince is honored rock royalty whose largely ignored albums still contain moments of brilliance, while Michael Jackson has become the butt of child-molestation jokes whose grandiose attempts to get another hit single are a source of general delight when they fail.

Ultimately, Prince just morphed into another eccentric pop genius, with the “eccentric” cruelly smacking down the “genius” when he changed his name to an unpronounceable hieroglyph, still used for the stage and his last guitar tonight. (And Prince was not even the first to replace his name with a symbol. One predecessor was a British band whose official name was a kind of conjoined circle, squiggle and arrow, called Freur. But Freur made it clear that their symbol had a pronounceable name, something Prince apparently hadn’t thought about.)

I could’ve done without hearing him play “Purple Rain” in the halftime set, as I find it enjoyable but a tad turgid compared to so many of his songs. I’d like to think that he skipped “Little Red Corvette” to avoid the appearance of impropriety since Chevrolet was a sponsor, and he didn’t do “Kiss” because it was so exhaustively played in “Happy Feet.” (And I suppose the pouring rain/Purple Rain connection was too good to pass up after all.) His revisiting of “Proud Mary” seemed a reasonable showbiz move, but when he tossed in “All Along The Watchtower,” he gave a nod not only to Dylan, but especially to his “black gypsy” forebear Jimi Hendrix.

I see Prof. Althouse managed to capture the guitaro-phallic pose he struck for just a moment there. It made my old heart glad to see that he hasn’t abandoned filth altogether. [My bold.]

And aside from playing electric guitars that still function while dripping wet, I think he (as much as his dancers) deserves credit for not slipping on that rainslicked stage. He’s a consummate performer, and he alluded to that work ethic in one of his wittiest tunes, “All The Critics Love U In New York”: “The reason that you’re cool is ‘cause you’re from the old school, and they know it.”

And on an unrelated musical note: Is it because I’m just too weary and old, but why am I not as incensed as I ought to be that Sheryl Crow is touting the Buddy Holly/Norman Petty classic “Not Fade Away” as a part of an ad campaign for Revlon’s Colorist?

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