How do we properly describe the impact of such a cultural icon? How do we start exploring the emotions we feel because of this giant loss? Twitter is full of grief, anecdotes and posts that just read the word “NO” over and over. Sad texts are being exchanged, crying emojis are being utilized, and on the IRL front, tears are being shed around the world. We are all processing this news in different ways, but Prince’s death is different than many other musical passings in recent years—namely, because it’s much harder to share his music.
As a famous proponent of performance rights and copyright law, Prince—perhaps more than any artist in modern music history—simply would not allow his music to be posted online in unauthorized ways. In 2007, he sued YouTube for allowing his songs, videos and performances to appear on its site without his permission. As a result, it remains nearly impossible to find a solid YouTube clip of almost any of his most popular songs. Prince’s catalog also does not appear on several of the world’s most prominent streaming services, including Spotify and Apple Music. Spotify has the (underrated) 2015 single “Stare,” and that’s about it.
As a result, our collective mourning of Prince is unlike the collective mourning of the recently deceased David Bowie, Phife Dawg or Scott Weiland. We cannot swap favorite performance videos, link to our favorite songs to stream or watch the “Kiss” video over and over. So what do we do? Where do we turn? How can we cope with this tremendous death in a way that prevents us from getting up from our computers and trying to walk somewhere on a day as bleak as this one?
Here are six ways in which a Prince fan (or novice) can mourn the man during today’s very public wake:
1. Buy something. Sounds easy enough, right? You won’t find Prince on Spotify, but he’s all over iTunes, with “Little Red Corvette” available for a measly 69 cents and his most indispensable album, Purple Rain, listed at $9.99. If iTunes isn’t your thing, head to any local record store—they still exist (even if you have to go to, like, Best Buy or something), and will be well-stocked with Prince LPs.
2. Download Tidal. Prince may not have been on board with some streaming services, but he signed an exclusive deal with Tidal last year. Jay Z’s baby also boasts a playlist created by Prince himself: Titled “Always,” the 10-song mix includes tracks by Curtis Mayfield, Jill Scott, Floetry and Willow Smith (!). If you hate the idea of paying for a streaming site, bite the bullet, sign up for a free trial and go crazy for the next few weeks.
3. Watch his “Creep” performance. In 2008, Prince headlined the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and performed a cover of Radiohead’s “Creep”… which immediately became a viral sensation, to his chagrin. Prince had the videos of the performance scrubbed from YouTube, but Radiohead argued that it should be posted since it was a cover of their song. Sure enough, the “Creep” performance is one of the Prince clips readily available on YouTube—and it truly is worth soaking in.
4. Listen to the radio. Expect tons of Prince tributes on AM and FM over the coming weeks, and right now, Apple’s Beats 1 Radio and NPR’s The Current—the station based in Minneapolis—are both playing all Prince, all the time. Tune in, and hear a wide array of the sounds that made Prince so special.
5. Wait. There’s a good chance that, despite Prince’s long-standing aversion to companies like YouTube and Spotify, his catalog will become more available now that someone (or something) else is in charge of his estate. Those details are not clear, and it’s too morbid to pore over them in any way right now; however, expect a slight shifting of the party line in the future.
6. Appreciate. Here’s the upside to Prince’s strict policy against unauthorized sharing of his music: There are no terrible YouTube videos in which Prince’s music is chopped, screwed, remixed and/or generally ruined. Because all of Prince’s catalog exists online only in its official form, his music was never diluted by non-geniuses who thought they could improve on his original masterpieces.
So let’s go crazy, and find ways to dig in to his vision without bemoaning the fact that it might not be readily available. It may take a little extra effort, but Prince’s music is worth it, right?
Fuse's Dearly Beloved, a tribute to Prince, premieres Thursday, April 21 at 7/6c, and airs again at 11/10c. Plus, catch the tribute throughout the day on Friday, April 22.