Taboo Artist # 3: Prince

Posted: June 9, 2013 in Taboo Artists
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If David Bowie paved the way for some of Prince’s antics—which the case can be argued if you compare their careers—then Prince perfected those so-called antics. His 1980 album Dirty Mind is a tour de force, thirty minutes of one man allowing you to see inside an untamed mind.

On stage, the shirtless Prince slipped on high-heeled shoes and leg-warmers that questioned his sexuality. He didn’t seem completely straight; he wasn’t quite gay. He was aggressively ambiguous. Breaking every remaining taboo, the pansexual polymath sang in a girlish falsetto while manhandling his macho Stratocaster, then crossed the color line to french-kiss the white woman playing on keys. 1

Dirty Mind “proclaimed the prodigy’s disregard for convention” while focusing on the notion of “taboo dreams.”2 The track “Uptown” actually speaks of a place where “it’s all about being free”: “Where I come from we don’t give a damn/we do whatever we please.” That freedom allowed Prince to take art to strange places both lyrically and musically. His androgynous  appearance very much did the same.

Truly Prince does whatever he pleases. He changes musical styles from song to song and album to album, delving into R&B, rock, funk, gospel, heavy metal, jazz, fusion, punk, rap, country, etc. He has worn clothes that most wouldn’t even attempt to wear, and linked sexuality and religion in ways most wouldn’t dare. At the height of his popularity, he was the boundary-maker, breaking old taboos and making new ones.

Because of Prince’s recent tameness, we forget that his album Purple Rain helped bring about the parental advisory stickers. For years he was taboo seeker, willing to flaunt his ass as much as his willingness to push the boundaries further than his predecessors. His desire for individuality led him to be one of the ultimate taboo artists.

1 Matthew Carcieri, Prince: A Life IN Music (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2004) 11.

2 Matthew Carcieri, Prince: A Life In Music (Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, 2004), 9.


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