“The Beautiful Ones” by Prince & The Revolution (1984)

A week ago today, I was in Minneapolis. I made that trip for several reasons.

a) A friend’s band was playing shows out there and I’d never seen said friend play before.

b) My friends Matt and Annie were also coming to Minneapolis for those shows and I was able to share their hotel room with them.

c) A record store I work with and love called Electric Fetus is in Minneapolis and if you ever visit that town, you better check that record store out. It’s fucking amazing.

D) My boss lives in Minneapolis, so it was a rare opportunity to get some face time.

E) Prince is from Minneapolis, and I wanted to go to Paisley Park. If you haven’t figured this out yet, I’m a huge Prince fan. I mean, “The Beautiful Ones” is the ninth Prince song on this list so far. We’re still early in the “B”s, and no other musician has more than 3 songs. I love The Jacksons to death, but the entire family combined has as many songs as Prince does on this list so far.

Anyway, let’s go back to Paisley Park.  I hadn’t been in Minnesota for 12 hours before we were headed out to Chanhassen to visit the compound at which Prince made some of his most impactful post-1987 work. It was a surreal experience. There’s a nightclub in there. The main studio could fit my entire apartment 3 or 4 times. There are doves! There’s also Prince. I mean, his spirit is still very much in that place. But so is his urn. Which was a little disconcerting, and I also think fucked with my head a little bit, because there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe Prince is dead. It’s weird how the mind works. It’s more plausible to me that MJ and George Michael and even Whitney and Amy Winehouse are gone. There was a self-destructive streak that led to a very plausible belief that they would die young. There was also a tragic lead up to each of their passings, or they’d been out of the public eye for quite some time dealing with their issues. But Prince was so present and never gave any indication that he was struggling with anything that would take him away so soon. Hell, I thought he’d outlive me. So, the finality of his passing is still fucking with me from a logic perspective. Paisley Park is amazing, though. Do go if you get the opportunity.

Right-so, “The Beautiful Ones”. As you’d imagine, Prince came up in conversation quite a few times when I was in Minneapolis. This song in particular was brought up, and I don’t know who I was discussing it with, but they blew my mind when they mentioned that it’s one of the only songs that starts out completely electronic and morphs into a full band performance by the end. Even if that band still consists mostly of Prince, it’s still a pretty awesome feat of arranging.

“The Beautiful Ones” finds Prince delivering one of his most unhinged vocal performances. That’s fitting, when you consider that he’s asking a love interest to choose between him and another man. If you made a list of the best Prince screams of all time, there are a few shrieks in “The Beautiful Ones” that could contend for the top spot. I think his passionate shouts actually kinda scared me as a kid. Speaking of musical progression, it should also be noted that Prince uses practically his entire range of voices here. From creamy falsetto to tortured soul-man belt, it’s all here. “The Beautiful Ones” would be the best song on 85% of albums ever made. I’m not even sure it’s in Purple Rain’s top three.

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