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Prince Teaches An Important Musical Lesson At The Super Bowl Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 February 2007
As a long-time Prince fan, I was lured into my home theater this Sunday afternoon to watch the half time show of the Super Bowl. Despite his many quirks, Prince is an amazing artist on many levels. His ability to play more than a dozen instruments, his prolific songwriting and his cross-generational appeal all make him one of the greatest musical entertainers and performers of our time. By my standards Prince ranks up there with the likes of Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Igor Stravinsky, Miles Davis and John Coltrane as a twentieth century musical master. During Prince’s brief performance on national television, I couldn’t help but notice a few things that really stuck out for me. Did you notice that he was taking guitar solos? Unquestionably, Prince is a crossover pop artist of the highest caliber however when was the last time you heard one of today’s best bands or artists crank out a solid guitar solo? Tune into any “alternative” terrestrial radio station and the closest thing you will hear to a guitar solo is a band mimicking the melody.

When you want to know what makes classic rock and the best of pop appeal to the masses I think you need to look to the musicianship as much as the vocals or the production. The Police will reunite at the Grammy’s in a few weeks marking a return of a band that could really play. Mainstream consumers and music fans likely can’t articulate that they love the syncopated drum fills of Stuart Copeland however millions upon millions of fans can tell you that they love the music of The Police. Van Halen is slated to reunite with David Lee Roth this year for a highly anticipated concert tour of a band that has strong musical chops and appeals to kids today as well as older listeners.

Is it possible that rap and hip hop are played out? Production can be aurally appealing but today it seems like trying to live on a diet of icing and no cake. Angry ghetto babble over a predictable beat with a stolen familiar melody from a hit song from yesteryear. The formula is simply too formulaic leaving music fans still hanging on every self-indulgent note Prince ripped on his many guitars.

Super producer Rick Rubin has been reported to have signed on to be the “music Czar” at Sony Music. With his understanding of successful rock, heavy metal, country and hip-hop – he is the perfect person to start a trend back towards bands that can really play. Production should be more about musical complexities and acrobatics and less about dippy little rap beats. The classic rock and classic pop genre prove this is what people want to hear. I would bet it is also what they want on their iPods, playing in their cars, on their computers and beyond.

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