For a Christmas present, he sent for me to come out on the road to see him, all expenses paid. It was New Year’s Eve in Dallas for the 1999 tour. That’s when I totally got it. I had never seen anybody give so much to an audience. I got weak in the knees. I was by the soundboard and the soundman got me a chair. Then I was literally up screaming with the crowd and dancing, and it was like, ‘Oh, my God. This guy’s incredible.’ That’s when I realized who I was working with.
Oh, I’m sorry, did you forget about my Prince Journey? Did you think that albums on the journey couldn’t possibly finish this high? I regret to inform you that we’ve already entered the greatest run of albums in music history, so we’re likely to see Prince albums populating Necessary Evil’s top five until likely ‘Batman’ in around 2028. Also, it’s my (29th) birthday today, and you’re not going to let me talk about one of the greatest albums ever??
Back in 1982, this must have felt like it. Prince’s fifth album must have sounded like the ultimate and crowning masterpiece of His career. Not just ‘to date’, either, as ‘1999’ is such a comprehensive set of searing yet succeeded ambitions that it would have seemed unfeasible that Prince had anywhere left to go. He seemed to have finally perfected his mission statement: combining His formative ‘Minneapolis Sound’ with rock, reggae, electro pop, and heavy metal guitar screeches to create something entirely new, and to combine it with perfectly crafted pop songs to appeal to the mainstream. Prince had a one off hit song back in ’79 with the peppyI Wanna Be Your Lover, but as He’d grown as an artist and expanded his palate with more experimental and ambitious albums His commercial success had’t matched his critical one. Now, promoted by pop hits like Delirious, the inescapable title track and Little Red Corvette – legitimately one of the most perfect pop songs ever crafted – ‘1999’ provided that proper breakthrough. Despite being a double album, it entered the the US top 10, sold a million copies in only a few months and – despite being released in late 1982 – it’s staying power was enough for it to be the fifth biggest selling album of 1983.
Of course, this was no surprise to Prince, and only exactly what He had planned for.
(*yeah, that song isn’t actually included. It’ll be on Legit Bosses 2022 though! I’m just a bit slow with these things…)
So, only 121 this year, a marked decline on 2020’s 125. So was it a notably worse year? Absolutely chuffing not. Despite the 2.928% drop in numbers, the quality on show is outstanding. Never mind the weight, feel the quality. The top maybe twenty songs especially are on some next level shit, and you haven’t seen so many GOATs since you traumatically happened upon Weird Uncle Colin’s problematic porn collection back in 92. I also shaved a few songs last minute, mainly because they were from albums due to be released in 2022 and I decided to make them Next Year Alex’s problem. Also, one or two I realised… weren’t… actually… that… good… So that just means the 121 that made the cut are all of such spectacular quality that you may want to warn the people around you before you start reading this list, as the floor between your legs is about to get soaked.
No, no, hey, maybe it’s you that’s too gross, ever considered that??
Anyway, let the festivities begin, here are the playlists:
It’s a long way to the end if I want to jack you off. Year four of my approximately thirty year crusade to revisit and document each Prince album annually. I’ve so far found that His first two albums, unfortunately, really don’t stand up to modern scrutiny, but his third album ‘Dirty Mind‘ was as demonstrative a mark of His genius and as revelatory an LP in 2020 as it was in 1980. That album reached #7 on the year end chart and, fair warnings, we’re going to see a fair few of his following albums do the same, as that masterpiece officially kicked off one of the greatest run of albums any artist has done, ever.
While ‘Dirty Mind’ is much lauded over and intensely debated to this day, and His fifth album frequently joins it on lists of greatest albums ever (as does His sixth. And His seventh. And His eighth. And His ninth. And occasionally His tenth. Probably not His eleventh though), His follow up and fourth album ‘Controversy’ doesn’t get anywhere near the same attention. It seems to be looked upon as merely a transitional point between Prince really nailing down the style and the look on ‘Dirty Mind’ and then later finding the right mix of invariables to make him the biggest star in the world.