In honor of Prince’s stellar new album, Planet Earth, here’s a playlist of buried Prince treasures “” songs that never became hits, songs he hid on contract-filling albums that no one ever heard, or songs he salted away on albums that were just plain terrible. All these tracks are guaranteed to be as great as “1999,” “Gett Off” or “Raspberry Beret.” But not as great as “Little Red Corvette.” Because if the Vanity 6 in the Sky had any other songs that good, she kept them for her damn self. The rest, she gave to us, which is why We Love Her. Take me away!
“Jack U Off,” on Controversy (1981)
How could this catchy tune fail to become a hit? Maybe because the title, chorus, and lyrical content consists of Prince helping some lucky sex-shooter get to third?
“One Of Us,” on Emancipation (1996)
You may not remember this icky Joan Osborne hit from the 1990s (Dr. Evil claimed he wrote it in Austin Powers), but the bluesy pain in Prince’s guitar and voice (“What if God was one of us “” just a slaaaave like all of us?”) turns folk-pop theology into a funk-dread gem.
“Lady Cab Driver,” on 1999 (1982)
Where’s the twenty-fifth-anniversary deluxe-edition of this best-album-ever classic, from the guy Rolling Stone proclaimed 1982’s Rock Artist of the Year? All the songs are about having sex with cars (“Little Red Corvette”) or planes (“International Lover”); this one’s about getting fucked by a taxi.
“Mad Sex” on New Power Soul (1998)
One year before the party’s over (whoops “” out of time), Prince makes disco love with a vow to “Do it till your tattoo’s dizzy / And the stud in your mouth turns gold.”
“Anna Stesia,” on Lovesexy (1988)
In the dawn of the CD era, Prince refused to release this album except as one long continous track, rendering it unlistenable unless you know how to to hack it so you can isolate this spine-ravaging piano ballad. The title track is fucking righteous, too. In fact, the whole album’s great if you can ditch “When 2 R N Love.”
“Pheromone,” on Come (1994)
It’s about sex.
“Endorphinmachine,” on The Gold Experience (1995)
Really excellent sex.
“P. Control” on The Gold Experience (1995)
No, really, really excellent sex, complete with one of Prince’s only competent hip-hop jams, from an album unfortunately remembered for the sappy ballad “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World.” Although even that one isn’t bad. Ladies, start your little red Corvettes!
“Cinnamon Girl,” on Musicology (2004)
Neil Young, you can bite him.
“My Computer,” from Emancipation (1996)
Another one from Emancipation, a pre-Mariah three-CD set from the era when the Artist Formerly Known As Prince was becoming just the Artist Formerly Known. Everybody ignored the album, for the excellent reason that it blew, but this remains one of the great cybersex ballads (let’s just forget about “Emale”). How badass was Prince in 1996? He saved the only good songs on the album for the third disc!
“Everyday Is a Winding Road,” from Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)
And on the road, there’s a lady cab driver, who maybe looks a lot like Sheryl Crow. If it makes U happy, why the hell are U so sad?
“I Like It There,” on Chaos and Disorder (1995)
Released at the height of his ’90s anti-corporate career sabotage, an outtake from nothing in particular, the Purple Kurt drops a punk riff proving he could out-grunge, out-groove, out-Prince anybody.
“Let’s Pretend We’re Married,” on 1999 (1982)
OK, this one’s a cheat because it was kind of a radio hit. But his hits are weirder than anybody else’s cult items, which is one of the reasons he’s Prince and nobody else is. Another reason? He can turn the new wave party chant “Hooo-eeee Zsa Zsa cuckoo yeah all the hippies sing together” into black sweat, pink cashmere and purple rain. And we haven’t even gotten into “High Fashion” from The Family’s album, or “Tambourine” from Around The World In A Day, or “New Position” or “Bambi” or “Face Down” — we owe this man a lot. Thanks, Prince! You always have the keys to our red love machines!