BY JIM WALSH
On Valentine’s Day 1996, Prince married Mayte Garcia at Park Avenue Methodist Church in South Minneapolis. In honor of the funky nuptials that day, I took the opportunity to compile a list of Prince’s greatest love songs for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, reprinted in Gold Experience: Following Prince in the ‘90s and again here, complete with music videos, although on second blush and with 20 years worth of hindsight, there could easily be 50 more songs added to this list, starting with “Adore.”
Lord knows I’m missing the little love god something fierce this Valentine’s Day, but I’m glad to have all his music finally streaming across the planet. Happy Valentine’s Day to all lovers and Prince lovers out there, I give to thee:
15 SYMBOLS OF LOVE
In honor of Valentine’s Day (and the royal nuptials), here’s one man’s list of the former Prince’s top 15 love songs:
Nothing Compares 2 U
An instant classic that the ever-prolific Prince gave to Sinead O’Connor, whose no-holds-barred vocal took it to another stratosphere. That rarest of songs, which can make lovers pine for each other – even when they’re right next to each other.
Do Me, Baby
Unlike the clumsier “Head” or “Sister” of the same era, this is vintage Prince at his raunchy best. A make-out song for the ages.
I Would Die 4 U
An echo-drenched, drum machine-swathed testimonial of endless love worthy of Romeo or Juliet.
A Case of You
Oft-bootlegged cover of the Joni Mitchell gem, performed – to my knowledge – just once, at the July 1983 benefit for the Minnesota Dance Theater at First Avenue. At the time, Prince never performed covers, which made this lithe, liberating performance even more special.
I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man
Wonderfully ambiguous tune from the left field of Sign o’ the Times. Such an exquisite slice of perfect pop-rock, the Replacements saw fit to cover it.
Carnal knowledge as show tune.
An invitation to turn the lights down low and slow dance, very closely, with a very close friend.
How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?
Backed by a piano, this bluesy B-side to “1999” features one of the finest vocal performances of his career. A toss-off, perhaps, but every time I hear it, I dream of the day when he’ll make a record with just him, a piano and his songs.
I Wanna Be Your Lover
This is the one that made the world sit up and take notice, and for good reason: Bubbly rhythm-guitar track, seamless groove, smoking guitar solo and a coy come-on that goes, “I don’t want to pressure you baby, but all I ever wanted to do …”
If I Was Your Girlfriend
While his social commentary occasionally leaves something to be desired, when the former Prince philosophizes about amour, he can come up with simple twists of genius. Such as: “If I was your girlfriend, would you let me dress you, and help you pick out your clothes before we go out?/ Not that you’re helpless, but sometimes, that’s what being in love is about.”
U Got the Look
Boy vs. girl in the world series of love. One of the little guy’s all-time catchiest grooves, this cartoon-funk duet with Sheena Easton is great fun.
If this spare classic doesn’t make you wanna dance, then your name is Ricky Rigormortis.
A tantalizing, effortless rocker that captures that specific kind of initial infatuation that a boy gets about a girl – fixating over not personality or even looks, but over something that catches the eye: a haircut, smile, glance, or yes, a raspberry beret.
Little Red Corvette
Dark, mysterious, cocksure and wholly original, with a little “Equus” storyline thrown in for good measure.
The Most Beautiful Girl in the World
Reputedly inspired by Mayte, this lush crooner harkens back to the “women, not girls, rule my world” feminism of “Kiss.”
Jim Walsh is a Minneapolis-based writer, journalist, columnist, and songwriter and the author of Gold Experience: Following Prince in the ’90s; Bar Yarns and Manic-Depressive Mixtapes; The Replacements: All Over but the Shouting: An Oral History and, with Dennis Pernu, The Replacements: Waxed-Up Hair and Painted Shoes: The Photographic History.