Prince in concert at the annual Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, 2011

Prince in concert at the annual Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary, 2011 (Photo by Northfoto on Shutterstock)

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called the best Prince songs. If you are a solid Prince fan then you know that this is the beginning of “Let’s Go Crazy.” Prince left behind one of the deepest, most beautiful, and most complicated collections of work in pop music. He wrote and performed 85 singles. Of those, 47 made Billboard’s Hot 100, all of them before digital streaming opened up pop’s flagship chart to viral flukes.

It just so happens that listening to your favorite songs can send your brain into “pleasure overload.” We all have experienced that joyful sensation when our favorite song comes on the radio. So what causes this hair-raising jolt to the system? Study authors discovered specific electrical activity in the orbitofrontal cortex when music lovers experience a chill. This region is involved with emotional processing. There was also more activity in the supplementary motor area and the right temporal lobe, which handles auditory processing and musical appreciation on the right side of the brain. All these regions work together to help humans process music, stimulate the brain’s reward centers, and release the “feel good” hormone dopamine. No doubt the following five Prince songs have this effect.

The dopamine is released quicker than you think. A study out of University College London finds that the brain is capable of recognizing familiar music in an incredibly short amount of time — within one-tenth of a second of being played. The results of the pupil diameter analysis indicate that people’s pupils dilate quicker to familiar music than to unfamiliar music at a time of about 100-300 milliseconds after the song started playing. At 100 milliseconds the brain already senses that it knows the song being played.

Out of 85 of the High Priest of Pop’s singles, the legendary tunes listed below stand out. StudyFinds researched 10 expert websites to find the best Prince songs from his fans. Which song do you think should top the list? Leave a comment below.

Mural of Prince
Mural of Prince (Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash)

The List: Best Prince Songs, According to Music Experts

1. “Purple Rain” (1984)

The number one Prince song is a doozy. It is nine minutes of perfection that sets him apart from the rest. “It’s arguably Prince’s best-known tune, but that’s for good reason too. Every guitar lick and gospel wail hits home with precision and euphoria. Brash, ballsy, self-indulgent, and at the same time technically brilliant: it’s everything that’s loved about Prince condensed to a nine-minute epic,” says NME.

Prince asked none other than Stevie Nicks to help him with this track. She said that she listened to it a hundred times, but didn’t know where to start and that it’s a movie and epic. How cool! “This was the measure of Prince as an artist. As Waterboys frontman Mike Scott said, artists like Prince ‘seemed to see so much and explore issues much more deeply than most people.’ Prince’s ballad is not just a timeless radio hit, beyond the catchy and emotive instrumentation is the following motif: ‘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.’ Not many artists could turn such profundity into an ear-worming success,” explains Far Out Magazine

With “Purple Rain,” Prince not only captured the spirit, he singlehandedly created it. Many fans label this his most famous song. “Purple Rain closed the movie of the same name on an unambiguous note: this icon-in-the-making was ready to take center-stage. From its soul-searching lyrics to Prince’s virtuoso guitar solo, it has everything required of an epic power ballad – and then pushes it all over the edge to out-epic them all. Oh, and that performance you hear at the end of the Purple Rain album? The basic tracks were recorded live, in one take, during The Revolution’s first official concert together, on 3 August 1983 at Minneapolis’ First Avenue. That’s self-belief, and this is the moment where Prince forever wrote himself into superstardom,” adds This Is Dig.

2. “When Doves Cry” (1984)

You may need to be a musician to notice, but there is no bass line in “When Doves Cry.” No one noticed it at first until a more musically inclined individual pointed it out. “This was one of Prince’s favorite tricks; he dropped the bass out of ‘Kiss,’ and it might’ve been his biggest hit since ‘When Doves Cry.’ But it wasn’t a gimmick. It was an instinctive understanding of what the song needed, and for reasons we’ll never understand, ‘When Doves Cry’ didn’t need bass. You can’t argue with success,” states Yarbarker.

Fun Fact: Prince supposedly couldn’t recreate the guitar intro for “When Doves Cry,” from when he was fooling around when he created it. “A lot of times he would just use the recorded version of the intro for the performances. If this is true, that makes ‘When Doves Cry,’ even more brilliant in our eyes. A top ten on any Prince songs list,” says ONE37pm.

Played in a minor key, its lyrics are alternately desolate, soul-searching, and just weird. Yet, it’s a work of era-transcending genius. “Again, the familiarity of Prince’s most famous song tends to obscure what an audacious and daring piece of music it is. Everyone knows that funk is utterly rooted in the drums and the bass. When Doves Cry – the biggest-selling single of 1984 – insouciantly turns that on its head. It originally had a bassline, but Prince thought it sounded ‘too conventional’ and removed it, leaving only a sparse framework of drums and synth. For a song that inexorably propels people to the dancefloor – whether at a hip club or a wedding reception – it’s remarkably downcast,” shares The Guardian

3. “Kiss” (1986)

The song “Kiss” was on Prince’s “Parade” album, and it is just as legendary as his other hits. “The Parade era was an interesting time for Prince as he turned 28 years old, cut his hair, and began channeling the 1950s with a shortcut and suit look. Except for the music video for ‘Kiss,’ you almost exclusively saw Prince in suits during this period, which was certainly a switch up from the glittery purple ensembles from just a couple of years prior with the Purple Rain era,” says ONE37pm.

The lyrics of “Kiss” are playful and flirtatious, with Prince inviting a love interest to kiss him rather than waste time with conversation. “The song was a commercial success, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and it remains a beloved classic in Prince’s vast catalog of music. ‘Kiss’ showcases Prince’s unparalleled talent as a musician, songwriter, and performer, and its catchy beat and infectious energy have made it a dancefloor staple for decades,” explains Singers Room.

“Kiss” speaks to the joys of romantic love and features the signature Prince falsetto and unique guitar playing. “Right when the opening beat comes on, people’s ears pick up and get ready to take in this funky, sexy song. It features an infectious beat and romantic sensual lyrics that will have you sing along in no time,” writes Music Industry How To.

4. “Little Red Corvette” (1982)

Prince got the idea for “Little Red Corvette” after falling asleep in band member Lisa Coleman’s pink Edsel. To easily produce such a hit while sleeping is talent! “It’s the perfect example of his startling ability to take inspiration from seemingly anything and turn it into pop magic. ‘Little Red Corvette’ was yet another mammoth hit from his fifth album ‘1999’; and with euphoric, pitch-defying vocal ad-libs like these, it’s hardly surprising is it?” says NME.

Prince dreamt the lyrics of this song. It sounds like “Little Red Corvette” is a waterfall of inspiration trickling into Stevie Nick’s creativity as well. “The track would go on to inspire Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks to create ‘Stand Back’. Nicks and her new husband Kim Anderson were driving North to Santa Barbara for their honeymoon when she first heard the single. Humming along to the track, she found new lyrics coming to her, leading her to demand her husband pull over and buy a dictaphone from the gas stations so she could record a rough demo,” states Far Out Magazine.

Talk about subliminal messages. Let’s just say that in “Little Red Corvette,” Prince was not talking about a car. We’ll leave it at that.“Prince at his most unrepentantly commercial. If MTV and US rock radio wouldn’t play black soul artists, then there was a black soul artist who could make pop-rock singles of a caliber they couldn’t ignore. It was his biggest hit to date, censors apparently missing a reference to its heroine’s pocketful of condoms (‘some of them used’) in the second verse,” adds The Guardian.

5. “Let’s Go Crazy” (1984)

For Prince fans, “Let’s Go Crazy” was the conversion moment. It is the perfect opening to the “Purple Rain” album. “Following When Doves Cry to the top of the Billboard R&B and Hot 100 charts, it confirmed that the US was all too ready to go nuts for his Royal Badness – who, in turn, used the song to cement himself as a guitar hero as much as he was a rock messiah come to save the world from sins of unfunkiness,” informs This Is Dig.

“Let’s Go Crazy” has one of the greatest intros of the 80s. It leads into a relentless rhythmic clatter. Yarbarker boasts, “No one has ever touched a recording studio like Prince and the Revolution did the day they laid this rocker down. Prince’s wordplay is exquisite (”Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill’), and the Revolution steps up to the sonic task. It’s a musical narcotic — a controlled substance in 4/4 time.”

After Prince’s death, Bruno Mars performed “Let’s Go Crazy” in tribute dressed in full Prince attire at the 2017 Grammys. “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,” states Smooth Radio.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

About Janelle Davis

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21 Comments

  1. 1817 says:

    Most would agree picking only 5 Prince songs is near impossible. His genius goes well beyond the 80s and 90s.

    1. David L Watson says:

      You guys a far from Prince fans with this list. I’ve seen Prince 14 times in concert back from the Prince “Prince” album. Anyone who likes Purple rain is a fake fan. Go listen to Sister, Head, something in the water does not compute, controversy, Do me baby…….and on and on! That list is commercial bandwagon fans who don’t know anything about Prince.

      1. Xtraloveable7 says:

        FACTS! As soon as I saw Purple Rain I was like who the fug are they talking to because ain’t noway a FAM would list ANYTHING from that album with the exception of Computer Blue (extended). This type of “journalism” shows just how clueless and out of touch with the genius of Prince this person really is. Shameful

      2. Nathaniel a Williams says:

        He’s ri
        ght they have to be fake he’s that’s the beginning of prince and my friend what about soft and wet I would have to agree with him

    2. Bennett says:

      Exactly, The Beautiful ones is my FAVORITE, Girl’s go crazy on that one, PRINCE SUNG HIS ASS OFF,ESPECIALLY IN PURPLE RAIN.

  2. Repored says:

    Who do you ask about his songs?

  3. Derek says:

    There’s no way this is a list made by true Prince fans. Prince, himself, didn’t believe Purple Rain was his best work. So many post-Revolution songs have been overlooked. Dolphin, The Holy River, Avalance, Adore, and many songs that fans who never got past Purple Rain have never even heard before, yet real musicians hold in high regard. There are already too many lists from Purple Rain fans who basically choose the same songs (most off of the Purple Rain album) repeatedly as if he wasn’t even more prolific post-Purple Rain. I would like to see a list from current artists next time. Or at least from fans who have heard most of his released material.

  4. Fred says:

    I would take out Kiss and put 1999 in it’s place. I thought Kiss was kind of a boring song Imo.

  5. Jon Olmstead says:

    Get on the Boat from 3121 Album is the jam.Probably the most unrated song. Check it Out! It’s a Prince jam fest of percussion!

    1. Lorie says:

      Agreed

      1. John says:

        I highly disagree with this for it is basically his biggest selling album doesn’t make a real Prince fan. Do you know Prince’s other great albums? For You, self titled, Dirty Mind, Controversy… WHERE ARE THESE SONGS. I would argue his first releases are far better than “Let’s Go Crazy” and “When Doves Cry”.
        My top 5:
        5: I Wanna Be Your Lover
        4: Dirty Mind
        3: Controversy
        2: Diamonds & Pearls
        1:Fury
        You see my favorite song of his comes from the album 3121 released THIS century! Some of Prince’s Greatest works came well after Purple Rain. Please listen to his ENTIRE catalog before pulling known top 40 Billboard’s best. True Prince fans love ALL of his work.

  6. Jorge says:

    This is, quite frankly, the lamest “top 5” Prince list I’ve ever come across! Tell me you’ve never spent much time actually listening to Prince without telling me you’ve never spent much time actually listening to Prince.

    He deserves better effort!!

  7. Dawn says:

    Say you know NOTHING about Prince without saying you know nothing about Prince…🙄🙄🙄🙄🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️🤦🏽‍♀️

  8. Meka Granderson says:

    Well these songs are great but he had a whole lot more then that. Those are the main ones people know.

  9. Bennett says:

    PRINCE MUSIC IS THE BEST.

  10. LORIE JONES says:

    Thank you….💜💜💜

  11. Shelia D. Atkins says:

    Dark

  12. Cong says:

    This list are the songs that get the most AirPlay.Every best of list is biased!

  13. Alexander Nevermind says:

    According to this list, Prince didn’t make any noteworthy songs after 1985. How is there not anything from Sign O’ the Times? Dirty Mind? Controversy? Lovesexy? Black Album?

    This list is comprised of his commercial songs.

  14. Shocker says:

    Agree Prince had way better songs than these 5…He was a genius but in my book these were definitely not his best 5…his music prior to purple rain and after had more impact than you are giving it credit…get past the typical billboard bs and actually ask the fans their list Im sure purple rain would not be in the top 5…

  15. Robaire says:

    Good songs, super unimaginative list.
    Joy in Repetition
    We Can Funk
    Computer Blue
    Email
    Friend, Lover, Sister, Mother, Wife
    Human Body
    Housequake
    Electric Chair
    Glam Slam
    LoveSexy
    and on and on and on…