10 of Prince's greatest ever songs - the ultimate setlist

1 June 2018, 17:18

Prince

Picking just 10 Prince songs is no easy task, but we're going to try it.

Prince was a true musical chameleon. He took on (and succeeded at) so many genres throughout his career, and released hit after hit after hit.

Two years after his passing, we've chosen what we reckon would make for a perfect Prince setlist or mixtape. Is your favourite in there?

1. 'I Wanna Be Your Lover'

Perhaps not as famous as other songs on this list, but it's a catchy cracker. This was Prince’s first hit in the US, and was written after Warner Bros requested a follow-up to his debut album For You, which had underperformed commercially.

It details Prince’s love for a woman and how he would treat her better than the men she is with, and frustration that she thinks of him as “a child”. It was later revealed that the song concerned a crush Prince had at the time on pianist and singer Patrice Rushen.

2. '1999'

The ultimate party anthem for anyone that lived before the millennium. And after it, come to think about it.

Taken from the 1982 album of the same name, this was one of the songs that helped turn Prince into an international superstar.

3. 'Diamonds and Pearls'

Featuring the vocals of New Power Generation member Rosie Gaines, this ballad is an expression of love and not lust, as is the theme on most of the other singles from the album of the same name.

Dancers Lori Werner and Robia LaMorte, known as ‘Diamond’ and ‘Pearl’ respectively, appeared on the album’s holographic cover.

4. 'The Most Beautiful Girl in the World'

This was Prince’s first release since changing his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol, and became his only chart-topping single in the UK. 

Although most of the song is sung in falsetto with Prince reaching some extremely high notes, the bridge has him using his regular voice as well as a lower baritone range in parts. Not many others could attempt that!

5. 'When Doves Cry'

From his seminal 1984 album and movie Purple Rain, it was the best-selling single of that year in the US.

According to Per Nilsen, Prince's biographer, the song was inspired by his relationship with Vanity 6 member Susan Moonsie.

6. 'Purple Rain'

Perhaps his most famous and celebrated song, this epic track was the main theme from the movie of the same name.

It was originally written as a country song and intended to be a collaboration with Stevie Nicks. Explaining the song, Prince said: "When there's blood in the sky – red and blue = purple... purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain."

7. 'Let's Go Crazy'

This is the pulsating opening track to Prince’s Purple Rain LP, and the song is thought to be an exhortation to follow Christian ethics, with the ‘De-elevator’ in the lyrics acting a metaphor for the Devil.

In the song, Prince takes the persona of a preacher and is joined by a church organ as he gives a sermon, reminding us that we should enjoy this life, knowing that we can look forward to a world of never-ending happiness when we die. After his death, Bruno Mars performed this in tribute dressed in full Prince regalia at the 2017 Grammys.

8. 'Kiss'

This was a number one track around the world, and was taken from his 1986 album Parade.

Two years later, the song helped give Tom Jones a comeback when he provided vocals for a cover version by The Art of Noise.

9. 'Sign 'o' the Times'

The title track from Prince’s ninth album was noticeably more downcast, both melodically and lyrically, than any of his previous singles, addressing various socio-political problems including AIDS, gang violence, natural disasters, poverty, drug abuse, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and impending nuclear holocaust.

Its video is considered one of the earliest forms of the lyric video. Prince performs the entire track except for backing vocals by then-girlfriend Susannah Melvoin, sister of Wendy, then a guitarist in The Revolution.

10. 'Raspberry Beret'

The lead single from his 1985 album Around the World in a Day, it amazingly only reached number 25 in the UK.

The song tells of a teenage romance between the singer and a girl who wears the titular hat. Well done you if you can pull one of these off.