Sarah Larson at The New Yorker:
Prince moved in mysterious ways. He invented his own aesthetic, his own symbol, his own style of music. He was short and slim. He dressed in purple. He liked canes, pajamas, ruffles, scarves. He lived on a giant compound named after one of his songs, where he sometimes hosted mysterious, thrilling events with strict rules. (No cameras, no photos, no alcohol; he might play or he might not.) He was masculine and feminine and casually, frankly sexual. He was forever prolific. His music was deeply satisfying, with a sophistication that was both intellectual and physical. It got to us everywhere. When I first became aware of him, in fourth grade, it was because of “Little Red Corvette,” which sounded irresistibly cool, unassuming yet sly, brilliant but not necessarily indicative of the lengths that Prince would take us to. That became clearer when we heard “1999,” with its eye on the future, its talk of Judgment Day, purple skies, and destruction, and the sensible response of observing this calamity with dancing: “So if I’ve got a dime, going to listen to my body tonight.” That was 1982; one of the joys of being a young adult on New Year’s Eve as the calendar turned to 1999 was playing this song, dancing like a nut, and considering the passage of time. (I also loved that album’s single “Delirious,” a great, hyper song for a fourth grader to expend some after-school wiggliness on.)
“Purple Rain,” of course, was like a gift from the gods, and not just because of the churchly intro to “Let’s Go Crazy.” There was “When Doves Cry,” so smart and electrifying it was almost shocking. That fierce opening guitar lick, for starters, and then the beat—Prince’s beats! I’m going to cry—and then that weird, funky vocal, like a mouth harp or a rubber band, and then the minimal, irresistible melody, and the amazingly hilarious first line “Dig if you will the picture.” We dug it, all right.