Prince’s music has been available on all major streaming services since February 12th; today, his classic album Sign o’ the Times turns 30. Regardless of how you feel about the artist formerly known as The Artist’s wishes being lowkey disregarded in his absence, this is a good chance to take a look at a genius’ extensive discography.
This could be a daunting task for the uninitiated, so I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down albums from Prince’s most impactful years and telling you what it means if you were born in the same year as one of these albums were released. (Hint: you don’t want to be born in 2001.) It’s the same concept as Chinese astrology, but, you know, completely invented by me and vetted by no one else.
1978 – For You
I haven’t really listened to For You too much, and I can’t really be bothered to because it’s boring, but I figured I’d start at ’78 just to include more people. Wikipedia tells us that “critical reviews were mixed” for this one, though it did go on to sell over 2 million copies worldwide. The standout here is certainly “Soft and Wet,” which is an amazingly sexy song.
If you were born in 1978, I’d have to conclude that perhaps you’re not an immediately obvious winner, but you get there eventually through grit and raw talent. People might find you a little slow-paced and uninteresting at first, but then you go and hit them with your own personal “Soft and Wet,” and they be like *MIND BLOWN*.
Dream jobs: accountant, cruise ship magician
1979 – Prince
This album is pretty good – it has some classics like “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad,” “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” and “I Feel For You,” and Prince’s true personality starts to shine through. Example: if you have a physical copy (which you don’t because you’re streaming it, you millennial) turn it over. Prince is atop a MOTHERFUCKING HORSE WITH WINGS. NAKED. Also the song “Bambi” is everything. Yes, it puts forth problematic notions of women’s agency in matters of sexual orientation. But it’s just too ridiculous to take all that seriously, and why is the girl’s name Bambi? Is this all taking place in a strip club?!
If 1979 is your birth year, then you are probably a confident, sexy, likeable person who sometimes suffers from excessive flamboyance. Perhaps you don’t rock the single huge gold hoop or deep deep leopard print v-neck shirt that Prince did in the video for “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” but you always find ways to make your originality shine through regardless, and people love you for it. Shine on, you crazy Pegasus rider.
Dream Jobs: Equestrian, Greek mythology professor
1980 – Dirty Mind
This was the album that really started the damn thing. After two albums of relatively dreamy and romantic fare, no one was expecting the Kid to come back with Dirty Mind, which is basically a half hour of raunchy sex and rebellion spread over a funk-punk backdrop. The cover features Prince’s famous bikini underwear and trench coat combo, which shocked the world just as much as the line “incest is everything it’s said to be,” from the track “Sister,” and just the entirety of “Head,” which is about exactly what you’d imagine it’s about. After all this, Prince still amazingly leaves room for romantic laments, with “Gotta Broken Heart Again” and “When You Were Mine” standing as some of the finest ever made.
If you were born in this year, I can’t imagine that you are anything less than fucking brilliant. You’re probably a bit of a rebel too, and you might find yourself in trouble every now and then for sticking political statements in where they don’t belong. It’s quite possible that your genius is misunderstood by a terrible and stupid world – as Prince’s was when he opened for the Rolling Stones wearing the aforementioned bikini underwear and trench coat combo and was summarily pelted with garbage for his trouble – but there’s no denying that your courageous originality is needed now more than ever. Keep going!!
Dream Jobs: Political guerrilla, Victoria’s Secret model
1981 – Controversy
I wouldn’t deny that this album is a classic, though it feels like a more palatable extension of Dirty Mind rather than the leap in Prince’s musical evolution – and music as a whole – that most of his albums in the 1980s represented. Throughout Controversy, Prince builds on the concept of a sexual utopia where everyone is accepted regardless of race, appearance, or sexual identity that he first introduced in “Uptown.” He does it all over jack-swing funk and roaring guitars, with some otherworldly keyboard work thrown in for good measure. The album is notable for the inclusion of Prince’s first real grown and sexy ballad, “Do Me Baby,” and not notable for the inclusion of whatever “Ronnie Talk to Russia” is supposed to be.
If 1981 was the year you chose to enter the world, you probably have a very strong sense of your own sexuality. Sex likely motivates many of your actions, but for you it’s not an empty act, but rather a way to find joy and meaning in the world and to connect with others. You may also be known for your strong social conscience, but not your political acumen, which is likely unremarkable to nonexistent. Stick to sex and let the big kids do the political strategizing please.
Dream jobs: President of the United States of America, sex therapist
1982 – 1999
1999 was the album that put the world on notice that Prince had arrived. This album set the blueprint for the mid-1980s sound, and had an impact on dance and pop music for decades to come. The song “1999” is just as relevant as it was when it was released: the line “everybody’s got a bomb we could all die here today” resonates even more strongly now in today’s political landscape. The sounds are amazing throughout the album, with synths and automated drum beats holding up songs that welcomely meander far beyond the seven minute mark, and the subject matter is cohesive in its apocalyptic tone; whether Prince is lamenting his romantic situation, or pondering the state of the world, he does it from a space that perpetually feels as if it’s about to collapse in on itself. Also his bum is showing in the liner notes, but again, you wouldn’t know this because you last held a physical copy of a record sometime in the early 2000’s.
If 1982 is your birth year, then chances are you have a tendency to be long-winded. Luckily, everything you have to say is held in high regard by others, so you usually get away with it. You are likely a visionary who is able to synthesize seemingly unrelated events and elements of a situation into one coherent and grand picture; you are thought of as a front-runner and those around you follow without questioning your ability and talent. You tend toward the dramatic and are prone to hyperbole, but you also know that there’s a time and place for restraint too…and that place is not on the dance floor. You have moments of weakness in which you wonder if you’re enough – as Prince did in “Little Red Corvette” – but just know that you really, really are enough. Like really.
Dream jobs: Corporate Executive, Actor
1984 – Purple Rain
Well well well. If you aren’t familiar with Purple Rain, I’d advise you to start here – you’re in for a life-altering treat! By far Prince’s most famous and popular creation, Purple Rain is nothing short of a masterpiece. From the sparse beat of “When Doves Cry” to the all out joy of “Let’s Go Crazy” to the searing guitar solo of “Purple Rain,” this album is a master class in how to make a great rock n roll record. It was a runaway hit and accompanied a movie of the same name that, while lacking in quality, has no shortage of amazing live performances. Prince’s musical diversity and mastery over every genre he touched are on full display, and this is some of the best songwriting and performing that has ever been recorded. More than at any other time in his career, Prince’s side acts were also along for the ride in a very visible way: Apollonia lends her dubious vocal talents to “Take Me With You” (sorry not sorry – team Vanity 4 lyfe) and Morris Day shines in the movie, giving a hilarious performance that serves as the perfect foil for Prince’s brooding presence.
If you were born in 1984, I probably don’t need to tell you that you’re awesome – your dozens of super cool friends already tell you this on the regular. You are versatile and able to bring together different people and seemingly disparate elements to make something effortlessly legendary. At times you may feel trapped under the weight of other people’s expectations of you, given your reputation for excellence, but in the end, your own ambition, pride, and desire to make an impact on the world wins out, and you succeed regardless. Overconfidence may be a stumbling point for you, but is it really overconfidence if it’s true?
Dream Jobs: Fashion Blogger, Installation Artist
1985 – Around the World in a Day
This is where Prince starts to confuse everyone. Up until Around the World in a Day, the trajectory of his career was pretty intelligible. He was revolutionary, to be sure, but everyone was basically on board with what he was trying to do. After the success of Purple Rain, the people expected Prince to make a certain type of album. He did not make that album. Instead, we have a psychedelic, at times bluesy, mix of songs about red hats, heart conditions, and utopian parks made entirely of paisley. It was a bold move away from everything that had made Prince popular thus far, and it was met with a certain level of disdain and disappointment at the time of its release. But looking back, this album is actually really fucking good, exploring complicated themes and new sounds in between its descriptions of horses watching Prince and his lady friend fornicating.
If you were born in 1985, chances are you’re not completely understood by the world, and perhaps you’re not completely of this world anyway. While you technically exist on this plane and move through the world accordingly, your mind is often floating light years away, or sometimes in a different dimension altogether. You’re a dreamer who defies others’ expectations of you, choosing instead to forge your own path, difficult though it may be, and your rules are the only rules you live by. You’re not one for safe bets, whether we’re talking about life paths or clothing choices, and you probably have a pretty sweet collection of hats to underline this truth. It’s lonely being different and standing out, but others tend to admire you from the distance you insist on keeping. That suits you just fine because you’re a bit of a natural loner.
Dream Jobs: Hat store owner, Mad scientist
1986 – Parade
After the lukewarm reception of Around the World in a Day, Prince redeemed himself in the eyes of critics with Parade, the world’s introduction to something called “new funk” that never quite caught on, despite being undeniably delightful. Parade’s instrumentation is sparse and baroque; the casual Prince fan will also remember it as the vehicle for Prince’s mega-hit “Kiss,” and perhaps for the song that would later become his unofficial eulogy, “Sometimes It Snows in April.” The casual fan will probably forget that this album was actually the soundtrack for Prince’s catastrophic second motion picture, titled Under the Cherry Moon. I wish I could forget that too, but alas, here I sit saying “wrecka stow” to myself and snickering guiltily. Trust me that you don’t want to know. All traumatic movie recollections aside, Parade is notable for its heavily stylized take on funk, life, and fashion – Prince revitalized his entire look ahead of this era, and he looked great. Parade is a classic.
If you rolled into the world in 1986, then I’m willing to bet that you’re an old soul. You can be old-fashioned in some ways, but you also understand that there are many lessons to be learned from thoughtful examination of the past. You could also be wise beyond your years, and friends and strangers alike tend to gravitate to you for advice and council. But while many of your sensibilities are old school, you use these to construct a new and different vision for the future, which makes you a born innovator. Your ideas may not catch on every time, but when they do, they make an indelible mark on history. I mean, we’re still singing “Kiss” today.
Dream Jobs: Psychologist, Start-up founder
1987 – Sign o’ the Times
Critics tend to be pretty evenly divided over Prince’s best album: about half will go for Purple Rain, and the rest usually vouch for Sign o’ the Times, a double album sometimes regarded as Prince’s magnum opus. But even as a Prince fan, to tell you the truth I never understood why Sign o’ the Times is so highly regarded. Blasphemy, I know. But the album is so diverse in terms of style and subject matter that it feels like there’s no thread tying all the themes and sounds together – it’s kind of a mess, TBH. I went through my entire young adulthood holding this opinion; when I turned 30, something changed. I noticed that life is kind of a mess, TBH, and things are confusing and intense and incoherent. Then I went back and listened to Sign o’ the Times and finally, I understood. Here’s an album that explores grown ass feelings like wanting to settle down, falling in love, and acknowledging that you can’t give someone the relationship they want. There’s no sexual utopia or new world order here, just some mature and wistful ruminations about the human condition. And also whatever “Housequake” is supposed to be. (Camille 4 lyfe.)
If you were born in 1987, you’re probably a lot to handle. Some people will take one look at you and say, “this is too much for me.” Their loss, because underneath that complicated exterior is a rich and insightful person with plenty of life experiences. The phrase “grown and sexy” describes you perfectly: you’ve lived, learned, and loved, and because of it you know what you want. Sometimes you’re a little all over the place, to be certain, but you’re never boring or unoriginal. Your dynamic nature will lead you to great success in life, once you learn how to manage it, and your characteristic sassy attitude will help you get there.
Dream Jobs: General practitioner, Film director
1988 – Black Album / Lovesexy
I’m cheating a little bit here, as the Black Album was technically released in 1994. It was scheduled to be released in 1988 though, when, as the legend goes, Prince learned through a vision (i.e. acid trip) that the album was the work of an evil entity named Spooky Electric. He shelved the album as it was already being manufactured, leading to widespread bootlegging until its official release, and quickly made and released the more upbeat Lovesexy instead. TBH I think that both these albums get a bad rap. The Black Album is filled with funky jams and some pretty hilarious lines (ex: if you don’t wanna lick my knees, I’m sure your mama will), while Lovesexy is all percussive pop goodness. The albums feel like two sides of the same coin, which is pretty cool: a sense of impending doom pervades the Black Album, while Lovesexy is infused with a feeling of childish joy and wonderment at the human condition. Sure, “Positivity” is not a good song, but I think the album cover of Lovesexy more than makes up for that. Lovesexy is seen by many as the end of Prince’s legendary run of commercial and critical smashes, but I positively (!) disagree.
If 1988 is the year you emerged from the womb, you are probably a complicated person. You have a very pronounced good side, but when you want to be bad, holy crap are you bad! Much like those born under the gemini astrological sign, you possess an unpredictable duality that can be frustrating and even frightening to those around you. You tend to turn on a dime, but your sense of humour and strong will keep people coming back for more, even if they’re never sure what they’re going to get. You have a rich inner life that outwardly manifests itself as creativity and at times ingenuity.
Dream Jobs: Good cop, Bad cop
1989 – Batman
People sometimes hate on this album, but there’s not really too much to hate about it IMHO. It’s a collection of mid-tempo songs with the odd slow jam and ballad thrown in for good measure. Batman contains some of the weirdest, most inventive and moody work Prince has ever released…and also this is the soundtrack to the BEST Batman movie and Michael Keaton’s Batman is THE BEST and I don’t even care if I get destroyed in the comments section.
If 1989 is your birth year, you are probably quite mysterious. You may have a secret, or you may just project an aura of mystery; either way, people dig it. You’re known for being a passionate lover, and can also get down with the best of them. You are what some might call a “Partyman:” you love hosting and you really love dancing, especially when it’s you choosing the music. When the party’s over, you can grow distant and hold people at arm’s length, but you’ll come around once the right Kim Basinger/Sheena Easton enters your life.
Dream Jobs: DJ, Party planner
1990 – Graffiti Bridge
Graffiti Bridge is a collection of songs by Prince, the Time, Tevin Campbell, Mavis Staples and George Clinton that serves as the soundtrack to Prince’s third and final motion picture, also called Graffiti Bridge. The movie is pretty rough. The album certainly plays like a soundtrack in that it’s comprised of a bunch of outtakes dating back to 1982 that Prince had already reworked multiple times, and of course, there are a lot of different performers here. Regardless, the compilation format works, and it allows Prince to show the range he inspires in other performers who are basically doing his bidding anyway. I’m talking to you, Morris Day. Many of the songs on here are insanely catchy – when I hear “Can’t Stop This Feeling I Got,” I can’t help but begin to bop – and there are moments of profound hope too – see: “Still Would Stand All Time.”
If your birthday resides in the land of 1990, I’m going to bet that you’re a pretty upbeat person. You acknowledge that our world has problems that need to be addressed, but you know that with love and teamwork, human kind can overcome these problems. Barf, right?! However, you possess more than your fair share of charm, which helps to dilute the hokeyness of your deeply held convictions, which is always helpful. You are also a born leader capable of mobilizing talented people to do meaningful and important work…and Morris Day will probably listen to you too. (Sorry not sorry.)
Dream Jobs: CEO, NGO founder
1991 – Diamonds and Pearls
This album is great for some of the catchiest pop songs Prince has ever released: “Diamonds and Pearls,” “Cream,” “Daddy Pop,” and “Gett Off” are all savage. This album is terrible for each and every moment that “Tony M.,” an alleged rapper, is given the chance to take the mic. Hip hop began to take off commercially in the late ’80’s, and Prince wasn’t sure how he felt about that. We know from the Black Album that he felt that all rappers were tone deaf – though later in that same album he spends most of “Superfunkicalifragisexy” rapping – but by 1991 Prince had apparently decided to co-opt the art form without really understanding it. The lamentable result is Tony M. His liberal use of double time is pretty standard for the times (a young Jay Z was doing something similar in the early ’90’s), but so many of his bars are so cringeworthy that he ends up ruining entire songs. Just stay away from “Jughead” – trust me!! I mourn for what could have been had Prince embraced hip hop in earnest – imagine a Prince and Nas collab! – and the irony of someone who was so revolutionary completely misunderstanding the next revolution is not lost on me. I think hip hop was the beginning of the end for Prince in terms of his forerunner status, but this album is still worth your time. (As a sidenote, if you want to hear what a hip hop conscious Prince would have sounded like, check out former NWA member Arabian Prince’s debut album Innovative Life.)
If you were born in 1991, the most important thing for you to keep in mind is to stick to what you’re good at. Trends may come and go, but remember what makes you unique, and always try to bring that to light. It’s enough – I promise! As long as you stick to things you’re strong at, you’ll find great success and wealth. You likely have an appreciation for luxury and the finer things in life, but your relationship to money can be complicated, as you believe that people should be judged not by what they have, but by who they are.
Dream Jobs: Jeweller, Socialite
1992 – Love Symbol
This album is kinda weird. It begins as a pretty good pop and funk record, holding it down with standout tracks like “Sexy MF” and “The Morning Papers;” however, around track 14, this record morphs into a confusing rock opera, made even more confusing by the decision to cut most of the segues that explained the storyline. As on Diamonds and Pearls, Tony M.’s presence is grating, but transcendent songs like “The Continental” and “7” put this album pretty firmly in the Prince essential cannon. Um and if you really want to know more about the storyline, you can always check out the film Prince made to go with the album, entitled 3 Chains o’ Gold, because, of course he did.
If 1992 is your birth year, you probably have a tendency to do your own thing. Perhaps you go through some of life following a typical path, only to leave your corporate job to start your own nightclub, or perhaps you can see right off the bat that a normal life isn’t for you. Spirituality is very important to you: if you grew up with religion, you’re likely focused on deepening your commitment to that religion; if you don’t have a strong sense of your spiritual self, you’re liable to take your quest to find deeper meaning in life all around the world, making pilgrimages and meeting gurus until you have achieved self actualization. You are drawn to fascinating stories, and love to tell the stories of others: just make sure a wider audience can understand your the nuances of your unique storytelling methods!
Dream Jobs: Yogi, Religious anthropologist
1994 – Come
Um this is lame of me, but I don’t fuck with this album at all. It was pretty badly reviewed, but performed well in the UK and reasonably well in the US despite Prince’s refusal to promote it. Depending on who you ask, he had good reason for this: Prince was battling his record label for ownership of his publishing rights and the ability to release new music when and how he wanted to. This battle culminated in Prince writing “slave” on his face and changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol. While his methods made him seem kind of crazy, and many had no sympathy for a millionaire superstar who proclaimed himself a slave, Prince’s crusade drew attention to the abusive practices of the music industry, and schooled a new generation of songwriters to not sign away their publishing rights. I’d recommend this album for when you’ve run out of albums, bootlegs, and b-sides – I have yet to, so chances are you can get by for a few years without touching Come.
If you were born in 1994, then congratulations: you’re a born revolutionary destined to change the world. Your road won’t be an easy one, and people will laugh at you from time to time, but take comfort in knowing that getting people’s attention is only the first step on the road to changing the world. You defend your name fiercely, never letting anyone call your credentials or intentions into question. You may tend to be big on style and short on substance, so surround yourself with people who can hammer out the finer points of the grand manifesto you present to the world.
Dream Jobs: Revolutionary, Silicon Valley CEO
1995 – The Gold Experience
After a few years of Prince’s antics overshadowing his music, he got right back into it with The Gold Experience, which contains the smash hit single “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” The album is widely regarded as Prince’s best effort in the ‘90s, despite containing such asinine musings as: “if I came back as a dolphin…would you let me be your friend?” I’ll wait, Prince. In all seriousness though, there are some great songs on this album and a genuine diversity of styles that is reminiscent of Sign o’ the Times-era experimentation. “P Control” is actually a really good rap song (Tony M. had fortunately left the building and now Prince was front and centre on the mic), “I Hate U” is a great portrayal of the confusing emotions that love can unleash, and “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” is a classic.
If you were born in 1995, then chances are you are so young!! Just kidding kind of. What defines people born in this year is their fierce independence. You don’t respond well to handouts, and you don’t need them anyway because you have the intelligence and ambition to get to the top by yourself. Sometimes you err on the side of heartlessness in your quest for success and wealth, but when you meet a worthy adversary or true equal, you can be won over.
Dream Jobs: Marine biologist, Businesswoman
1996 – Emancipation
Ok I’m getting tired of doing this now, and I bet you’re getting tired of reading this. I don’t really think you’ll be able to get through all of Emancipation, as it’s a triple album and a good chunk of it is completely wack. There are some great moments, like “Betcha By Golly Wow” and “In This Bed I Scream” and there are some truly hilarious moments, as in “My Computer.” “I scan my computer looking for a site” is the best line ever. Period. So I don’t know, listen to this album if you’re desperate, but I don’t really think it holds up very well. If you want later Prince classics, I’d go for 3121 or Musicology.
If 1996 is the year of your grand debut to Planet Earth – which is coincidentally another later Prince album that arguably deserves a listen after you’re done with all these other albums – it’s likely that you are long-winded, technologically precocious, and have strong family values. Hey cool – these are all traits of a classic young millennial! This is not surprising at all, as Prince knows best. Respect.
2001 – The Rainbow Children
Lol. I actually went to the tour associated with this album, and it was awesome. This album…not so much. If you were born in this year, lol.