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Is Prince Overrated?

Prince in the rain
Prince in the rain

Okay, calm down. I’m not necessarily saying that Prince is overrated. I’m just asking. 

On its face, this might just seem like a troll-y, click bait-y premise for an article. But it’s a legitimate question.

As Minnesotans, it’s almost impossible for us to objectively evaluate whether Prince is overrated. More than perhaps any other place in the galaxy, we value one of us. Any appraisal of Prince from a Minnesotan, then, is bound to be skewed by hometown bias.  

There’s No Place Like Home 

That doesn’t automatically mean Prince is overrated, though. Taking pride in successful people that are from where you are is natural. Our cosmic common sense as human beings tells us that there’s something transcendentally important about place. That’s why we take pride in where we’re from, that’s why we love people who are from where we were born. There’s no place like where we’re from. There’s no place like home. 

As Minnesotans, we often go way overboard with this, though. At this point, “one of us” is a cliché/punchline for how we try desperately to find a Minnesota connection with everything, and how much we fawn over people who are from here. Feeling a special connection to those who are from where you are is natural, but we often take it to an unnatural extreme. 

Prince to the Outside World 

Courtsey: First Ave, Prince Star on First Ave

But exactly how much does that color our view of Prince? 

Judging by how the music world views him, it doesn’t seem like that much.  

Although Eric Clapton never said Prince was a better guitar player than him – those memes are fake news – he obviously has a lot of respect for him. He just recently covered “Purple Rain” at a concert, and it wasn’t even here! This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg as far as famous musicians paying him tribute, and speaking to his importance, goes. We heard about it over and over again for weeks after his death. We still do.  

Even when he was still alive, though, Prince was largely seen as an innovator and genius by the music world. This included both critics and fans, which rarely happens. His fusion of funk, rock, pop, and blues hadn’t been done before, and still, influences pop music today. Purple Rain is one of the quintessential pop culture moments of the ‘80s, and the soundtrack practically defines the decade musically.  

Dropping Some Philosophy (You Got This)

So why would I even ask the question whether Prince is overrated? 

It comes back to the question of the subjectivity of terms like “overrated” and “underrated.” Personal feelings, tastes, and opinions certainly come into play.  

But that doesn’t mean the terms have no objective value, or can’t be proven true or false to some degree. The strength of an overrated/underrated claim is in the arguments that a person has to back it up. That there is some degree of actual truth to overrated/underrated claims can be easily proven. We know “Prince is underrated” and “Erik Ritland is overrated” are objectively false statements. There’s no getting around that. 

The overrated/underrated question is fun precisely because of this tension between fact and opinion. We can’t come to a scientific answer to a discussion of this nature, but we know that there is some element of truth and objectivity to it. It is why we care to have these sorts of discussions at all.  

Everything is Just So Overrated 

Prince hair

Often, “(fill in the blank) is overrated” is a cynical way for people to put down a band they just don’t like. I used to play this game all the time until I realized most artists I thought were “overrated” were simply popular and not something I particularly enjoyed. When I said something like “Jason Isbell is overrated,” what I really meant was “Jason Isbell is really popular and I personally don’t understand why.” The problem was with me, not Jason Isbell, his fans, or his popularity. 

The overrated tag is also often placed on any band with a huge amount of popularity. This is often done, as I alluded to at the beginning of my article, to troll people who like those popular bands. People also do it just to be different, or to accentuate just how different (and better) they are than the ignorant masses.

This, of course, is self-aggrandizing bullshit. 

I Don’t Like Prince. Sorry. 

There was a time when I would have said Prince is overrated for a combination of those reasons. Since I don’t really enjoy Prince’s music – sorry, guys – all the adulation he gets always seemed like a bit much.  

Despite that fact, I did listen to a lot of the Current’s wall-to-wall Prince after he died. I do understand the connection to people from your hometown, after all, and I kind of wanted to see if there was anything I was missing. I find it’s best to look into myself to see if I’m missing something when I disagree with most people, as opposed to automatically assuming I get something they don’t.  

What I heard didn’t surprise me. It was mostly the funky combination of pop and rock I expected from Prince. Objectively, the quality of his music is clearly high: the songwriting, the production, the vital combination of the expected and unexpected that underlies all genius. 

Is Prince Overrated? 

Prince on stage fro

Still, his music didn’t really resonate with me. I could tell it was creative and high-quality, but it just doesn’t speak to me.  

But I know this is a problem within myself and has nothing to do with Prince. Just because his music doesn’t do much for me personally doesn’t mean it isn’t as good as most people say it is. In fact, I can tell objectively that it is. It just isn’t something I’m into. 

Is Prince overrated? Judging by the majority opinions of the most talented musicians, the most intelligent music critics, and a huge worldwide fanbase, no.  

We might go overboard with our Prince love in Minnesota, but that’s natural. If we were the only ones who thought he was amazing, it could more easily be argued that he’s overrated. As I’ve shown, though, we’re far from alone in feeling this way. We simply take his reputation and add a little something extra due to the emotional attachment that comes with Prince being from Minnesota. 

If I, as a person who doesn’t even like Prince, know he isn’t overrated, then I truly doubt that he is. I’m guessing I won’t get much argument from the audience of Music in Minnesota.

Author: Erik Ritland

Erik is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to writing and editing for a number of local outlets, he founded Rambling On, a Minnesota-focused blog and podcast about music, sports, and culture, in 2012. He began working for Music in Minnesota in 2018 and is a writer, editor, and social media content strategist.

Written by Erik Ritland

Erik is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. In addition to writing and editing for a number of local outlets, he founded Rambling On, a Minnesota-focused blog and podcast about music, sports, and culture, in 2012. He began working for Music in Minnesota in 2018 and is a writer, editor, and social media content strategist.

6 Comments

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  1. Interesting perspective. Prince’s music doesn’t really speak to me either, but I have a feeling he’s actually underrated, considering the fact he wrote, produced, sang, and played instruments on much of his music.

  2. I love almost all of his music ,but there was a period in my life where i strayed away from him.But I always come back because he was always reinventing himself.Thats the genius of Prince.When he walks out on stage, be prepared to be blown away. So I dont think he is overated @ all.

  3. Of U want a précisé response to This 1 U Need 2 All someone like me , a Fan from Paris France since 1983’s 1999 who loves and enjoy many artists ( Not Only Prince or Funk )
    Obvioulsly Prince is , was and will always B underrated . When you’ve seen / heard him live or on records …ans still have close to Everybody around U , Family , friends, Co Workers, mainstream media…telling U that they All prefer MJ or think he is Gay or weird and that is All they have 2 say….u clearly get the Gap between what U know ( having listening 2 all his records and witnessing his performances)
    The vast majority of people just don’t care for who wrote the song, Who plays this solo or just don’t care.
    They just buy the new Hit record, this new hot « artist ».
    To get Prince U have 2 fall in love with Him: His look, His Starr, his sound, his attitude, all his persona.
    If not. Like 99% of people of Planet earth ( those who actually knew he existed) U couldn’t care Less
    Prince has and to this date hasn’t been rated Yet by the masses as the True incredibly rich fascinating entertaining energetic magical musical genius performer he was
    I sincerely doubt he ever will b recognize as such
    And clearly it’s perfectly normal …people don’t care and have other issues…2 deal with.
    So Yes: Most underrated Musician, Artist Pefformer of all time award goes 2 Prince

  4. Obvioulsly Prince is , was and will always B underrated . When you’ve seen / heard him live or on records … have close to Everybody around U , Family , friends, Co Workers, mainstream media…telling U that they All prefer MJ or think he is Gay or weird and that is All they have 2 say….
    U clearly get the Gap between what U know ( having listening 2 all his records and witnessing his performances) and what they don’t.
    The vast majority just don’t care for who wrote what and who’s credited 4 it.
    Who plays this solo or chorus…
    They just buy the new Hit record, this new hot « artist ».
    To get Prince U have 2 fall in love with Him, His look, His Stare, his sound, his attitude, his moves, all his persona .
    If not, Like 99% of people on Planet earth (I mean those who actually knew he existed) U couldn’t care Less.
    Prince has and to this date hasn’t been rated Yet by the masses as the True incredibly rich fascinating entertaining energetic magical musical genius performer he was
    I sincerely doubt he ever will b recognize as such
    And clearly it’s perfectly normal …people don’t care and have other issues…2 deal with.
    So Yes: Most underrated Musician, Artist Pefformer of all time award goes 2 Prince

  5. No, he is UNDERrated.

  6. Most underrated Musician, Artist, Performer, Composer of all time award goes 2 …Prince !

    Prince is , was and always will B underrated .

    When you’ve seen / heard him live or on records … countless times through decades and never ceased to B amazed and have – close to Everybody around U – Family , friends, Co Workers, mainstream media…telling U that they All prefer MJ or think he is Gay or weird and that is All they have 2 say.Subject close.

    U clearly see the huge Gap between what U know and what they don’t.

    The vast majority of your average audience just don’t care for who wrote what and who’s credited 4 it…Who plays this solo or sings this chorus…who composed this amazing Song…

    They just buy the new Hit record, this new Hot «Artist »…they play constantly on the radio, TV, YouTube or elsewhere…onto the next 1.

    Getting Prince, falling in love with Him, His look, His Stare, His sound, His attitude, His moves, His persona …Takes Time

    It doesn’t happen overnight !

    U have 2 dig further…2 listen & discover the B sides 4 examples…2 see Him Live & after !

    To listen to Him on repeat sometimes …Stop…wait a few weeks…and get back to Him …because U cannot help it…he grows on U.

    99% of people on Planet earth (I mean those who actually knew he ever existed so far…) couldn’t care Less…

    To this date he hasn’t been rated by the masses as the True incredibly rich fascinating entertaining energetic magical musical genius performer we all know he was…but it’s cool …he never did it 4 the masses.

    I sincerely doubt he ever will b recognize as such,
    and it’s perfectly normal …reassuring even comforting…Prince is our Private Joy, not every1 deserves since most don’t care and have other issues…2 deal with.

    So Yes: Most underrated Musician, Artist Performer , composer of all time award goes 2 Prince.

    Hands down.

    He didn’t care 2 Win awards anyway…

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