There are only a handful of arguments in pop music that fundamentally bother me, and here they are: When people think The Beatles are overrated, when people hate Springsteen for reasons that they can't articulate, when people think John Bonham was a better drummer than Keith Moon, and when people think Michael Jackson was better than Prince. In the case of the first three, the contrarian opinion is simply wrong. The last one is trickier.
Prince versus MJ can be approached in any number of ways, and I conceed that there isn't necessarily a "right" answer. But the two biggest things I think Prince has indisputably in his favor are that he was more interesting and more prolific. Arguing the merits of being "more interesting" and why that makes someone better is a topic for another day. But beyond simply being more prolific (which is just fact), I think Prince just released a lot more great music than Michael. Prince reached his A+ territory with startling regularity for a longer span of time than Michael, and a song like "17 Days" helps to illustrate that.
This song was the B-Side (!!) to "When Doves Cry," and the only place you can own it on CD is the 3-disc Hits/B-Sides compilation. The song doesn't even exist on YouTube, which is why I can't embed a video in this post (but here's a link to the song). It allegedly received a bit of radio play in 1984 (I can't exactly be an authority on that), but it's otherwise a pretty unknown song. Michael Jackson's discography, despite its many merits, doesn't feature any lost classics. With Prince, on the other hand, you could burn someone an 80-minute CD that featured entirely great songs they probably haven't heard. Of course, part of that's his own fault; he just released too much material and some of it was frankly bad. But that's the thing with Prince--his genius never had an "off" switch. The shit was just spilling out of him 24/7/365. There are so many great Prince songs out there, just waiting for people to discover them. For most artists, "17 Days" could have been their break-through hit. Prince threw it away on a B-side because he knew he had ten more songs to write the next day.
This was originally written and posted on Facebook on May 28, 2014
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