Prince: 12 Underrated Classics That Should Have Been Hits

From ballads like "Sometimes It Snows in April" to rockers like "Fury," they should have been hits.

By Brian Ives 

As we hit the one year anniversary of Prince’s passing (on April 21), fans are speculating about when his estate will begin opening up the vaults to release the hours of unheard jams he allegedly recorded throughout his life. Of course, his commercially available body of work is pretty vast, and some of his greatest songs have not been released as singles.

So, there’s nothing here that the die-hard fans don’t know about, but if you’re mostly familiar with Prince’s insane catalog of hits, here are some classics you may have missed.

“When You Were Mine” (from 1980’s Dirty Mind) – One of Prince’s first songs to be covered; Cyndi Lauper recorded it for her breakout album, 1983’s She’s So Unusual. It’s a great rock tune featuring Prince’s falsetto, which gives the song an otherworldly quality.

“17 Days” (a B-side from “When Doves Cry,” from 1984’s Purple Rain) – It’s hard to find anything that Prince released in 1984 that you could call “underrated”; this song probably would have been a centerpiece for most other artists’ albums; for Prince, it was just a B-side. Years later, Living Colour covered it.

“Erotic City” (a B-side from “Let’s Go Crazy,” from 1984’s Purple Rain) – See above: while Purple Rain was as close to a perfect album as has ever been recorded, but “17 Days” and “Erotic City” are great songs that might have actually improved the LP. This song marked Prince’s first collaboration with Sheila E.

“Around the World in a Day” (from 1985’s Around the World in a Day) – Around the World in a Day was the daring follow-up to Purple Rain, and the title track that opened the album was most fans’ first taste of the record (since, per Prince’s request, the label didn’t start releasing singles until after the album came out). For a lot of folks, the psychedelic jam was shocking at first. But after repeated listenings, the song revealed itself to be pretty awesome, just like the album that it shares its name with.

“Sometimes It Snows in April” (from 1986’s Parade) –– One of Prince’s greatest ballads, it’s surprising in retrospect that this song never became a hit, but it took on new relevance following Prince’s death in April of last year; D’Angelo paid tribute to Prince when he performed this song on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

“Starfish and Coffee” (from 1987’s Sign ‘O’ The Times) – If Purple Rain was Prince’s RevolverSign ‘O’ The Times was his “White Album,” a sprawling masterpiece encompassing a diverse array of styles. It’s a bouncy and underappreciated gem that should have been a hit.

Related: Prince’s ‘Sign O The Times’ 30 Years Later: A Look Back at His Magnum Opus

“The Cross” (from 1987’s Sign ‘O’ The Times) – One of the highlights of one of Prince’s greatest albums. Lenny Kravitz recently performed this song at a tribute to Prince at this year’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” (from 1996’s Emancipation– With such a catalog of originals, it might seem weird to select a cover, but Prince’s version of this 1991 Bonnie Raitt hit showed that he was also an incredible interpreter of other people’s songs.

“I Love U But I Don’t Trust U Anymore” (from 1999’s Rave In2 The Joy Fantastic) – A sad piano ballad (featuring acoustic guitar picking by singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco), that many fans thought was about his ex-wife, Mayte Garcia. The title itself is heartbreaking; the song itself is devastating.

“Fury” (from 2006’s 3121– Prince certainly never felt bound to basing his songs around guitar playing, even though he’s one of the six-string greats of his generation. But every once in a while, he likes to remind of us of that, which he does here.

“Guitar” (from 2007’s Planet Earth) – Another face-melting six-string showcase, in which he tells us, “I love you baby, but not like I love my guitar.” And that shows in his playing.

“FixUrLifeUp” (from 2014’s Plectrumelectrum) – One of his best songs with 3rdEyeGirl, the band he worked with towards the end of his life. On this song, he weighs in with his opinion on modern-day rock bands when he sings, “Girl with a guitar is 12 times better than another crazy band of boys/Tryin’ to be a star when you’re just another brick in the misogynistic wall of noise.”

 

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