It is the one year anniversary since the passing of Prince, and with a hefty catalogue of music he left the world we decided to rank his albums.
A musical innovator he was known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, and wide vocal range. Through the years his music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop, meaning his albums are quite diverse. Selling over 100 million records worldwide and amassing seven Grammy Awards below is our ranking of his work.
40. The Very Best of Prince (2001)
Condensing four decades of artistry into a cash-grabbing album just feels cheap and meaningless to his overall creative vision. While it may be cool to have a selection of his greatest tracks, it leaves us a little cold.
39. N.E.W.S. (2003)
Less an official album, and more a vehicle to propel saxophonist Eric Leeds the album featured just four tracks of instrumental at 14-minutes each. Due to the discernable lack of Prince featured, this was reportedly his lowest selling album, shifting 30,000 units though it did garner a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
38. Xpectation (2003)
With the popularity growth of the internet in 2003, this album was released just two weeks following his previous album. The record featured nine tracks each beginning with an ‘X’ and was available as a digital download only. A physical copy was never made, but bootlegs are available. Again this was an instrumental album, and was officially slated to be titled Xenophobia, which could have possibly been a much more interesting release.
37. Planet Earth (2007)
Bizarrely marketed, the album was given away free with copies of the Daily Mail. The newspaper states that over 2.5 million copies were distributed by the outlet. While the Mail themselves described it as being among his best albums, it was given poor reviews by outside critics. While the album was not terrible, it was not very Prince with little intrigue, the rhythms just simmered, and the hook never really catches. It felt like a half-hearted effort than a constructed notion.
36. Chaos and Disorder (1996)
Released as the final installation in his ‘slave’ adorned contractual obligation with Warner Bros, Prince refused to promote this album and his disdain is audibly obvious. Quite cheesy, and lacking heart many of the tracks were so-so intended to be shitty with a guitar-heavy collection of disjointed songs.
35. Lotusflow3r (2009)
Prince works overtime with his guitar on this record, and while Prince can play for sure, it often sounds as though it is being used to cover up unfinished tracks. While the record is enjoyable on the surface, it adds little in terms of substance with a handful of great moments rather than great tracks.
34. New Power Soul (1998)
A typical Prince album, the songs on this record are a mixture of lightweight pop and cool R&B. There are a handful a superb cuts on the album, with the two singles ‘Come On’, and ‘The One’ being particular stand outs. Despite the brilliance of these, the majority of the record stands as filler neither here nor there in his overall discography. Cool enough, but rather forgettable.
33. Plectrumelectrum (2014)
Teaming up with the ladies of 3rdEyeGirl, their sounds did not gel as well as one would have hoped. Rather than the original hopes of a comrades jam out, the collection felt quite strained and soulless. There is very little to speak about in terms of the music, but a few decent structured pop songs.
32. MPLSound (2009)
Released alongside Lotusflow3r, this is an enjoyable record of synth driver tracks that are great for a spin but in the end completely inessential. A nod to his hometown roots, he returns to his original sound with a party album full of sultry, heavy R&B and souled out songs that will have you listening.
31. Kamasutra (1998)
Credited to The NPG Orchestra, Kamasutra is an instrumental album featuring Prince as a musician alongside saxophone, horn and orchestra. Recorded in 1995 the music was played at Prince’s wedding to Mayte Garcia, but wasn’t released to the public until 1998. While it is not a groundbreaking record it was an exploration of Prince’s many talents and allowed us to share in his personal life.
30. HITnRUN Phase Two (2015)
His final album, Prince was firmly established as an icon by this point meaning his political statements, and social activism sprinkled throughout felt a little done, and not as powerful as it once may have been. That being said it is for sure a lot of fun throughout as he rocks out with infectious beats.
29. HITnRUN Phase One (2015)
A two-part album they pretty much go hand in hand, though this one edges out the latter with some great synthesising production, and deep R&B tunes throwing us back to his heyday. Here Prince is at his most fun, displaying some great dance tracks and a whole lot of guitar shredding.
28. 20Ten (2010)
One of his better albums during his later years, this record has its moments that entertains but still doesn’t quite hit the mark. Perhaps due to his older age, or perhaps because he now has more in his life than just music but Prince lost a bit of his electric spark he was known for in the earlier years. The songs were decent but a pale imitation of his former glorious self.
27. Rave Un2 The Joy Fantastic (1999)
At this point in his career Prince was known as being a pioneer in music but this album seemed to be a regression from that. It wasn’t terrible in any way, as an uptempo pop record it was great fun, it just felt like a step away from the style he was known for. What the album did accomplish were great features from a range of guest artists.
26. The Vault… Old Friends 4 Sale (1999)
Released as a contract filler to help get out of his Warner Bros contract, the album is a short 39-minutes but holds some great moments for sure. The mixed stylings of the album demonstrates real energy and is home to a number of lesser known gems.
25. The Slaughterhouse (2004)
Released exclusively through his NPG Music club, The Slaughterhouse was an amalgamation of songs compiled from those that had been released through his website or at his shows. As the tracks were each solo cuts, the album felt very disjointed with little flow through the varying styles. Certain tracks, and mostly the vocals were decent efforts though others were not good enough to warrant a wider release.
24. One Nite Alone… (2002)
Released exclusively through his NPG Music Club, this album is a lesser known record that features a whole track list of Prince at his piano. His performance on the keys is absolutely breathtaking, and his stripped back vocals are a stand out. A truly heartfelt, gorgeous piece of work.
23. The Chocolate Invasion (2004)
Released alongside ‘The Slaughterhouse’ this was the better of the both, and a good album. With a poppy, mainstream sound it had a good overall sound and quality, but lacked the standout appeal to make it special. Unfortunately due to the nature of its online release many of the better tracks such as Supercute were not as celebrated.
22. Musicology (2004)
Returning to a major label made Prince return to form. There wasn’t a bad track amongst the bunch, and he had the public swooning once more with his melodic tone. In an age where autotune, and EDM music was running rampant he stripped things back to “real music” hence the album’s title.
21. 3121 (2006)
Making the most of his latter days comeback, Prince got a little more daring with this album with his off-kilter sensibility. Working with a number of of-the-moment producers he swapped out a bit of his old school sound for a more youthful pop rock sound. Despite this, he kept his soul with tracks like the traditional gospel duet with Támar Davis.
20. Graffiti Bridge (1990)
This is a great album from Prince with a variety of highly inventive ideas throughout, and great sonic movements from song to song. He truly flexes his impressive vocals while navigating his way through the funky beats. The film to the soundtrack may have been a bust, but the album should not be tarred with the same brush.
19. Emancipation (1996)
Finally free of his contractual obligations, this album is a celebration of his artistry. One of the most ambitious products he has taken on, he has 36 tracks ranging from uptempo jams, R&B, hip-hop, disses, covers, and love ballads to his new wife. With so many tracks some worked and some didn’t but it was captivating the whole way through.
18. For You (1978)
His first ever album, at just 19-years-old Prince was already a remarkable talent writing, producing and playing all the instruments on this collection of slick pop, funk and R&B sounds. There are a number of strong moments that sees the musician move between tender moments, to sexy anthems. There are standout hits for sure that would have hit harder if he was perhaps more known by this point.
17. The Rainbow Children (2001)
A very divisive album amongst fans, many were turn off by the heavily religious subject matter following his conversion to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The quickly dismissed focus of this album is unfortunate due to the outstanding musicality behind the record. It contains a lot of very sophisticated, nuanced, and boundary-pushing references.
16. Crystal Ball/ The Truth (1998)
This whole concoction was a whole mess upon release, spread over three discs with outtakes, remixes, and live production it was everywhere. Regardless, there was more than enough fabulousness to make up for any unsavory cuts. Alongside this was ‘The Truth’ which was a host of phenomenal acoustic songs.
15. Prince (1979)
While he had not yet reached his full artistic potential yet, Prince made a huge step forward in exploring new themes with this sophomore album. With a high calibre of material it is mind-boggling to think he crafted the entire record alone. His fierce efforts here led to his big breakthrough with the public thanks to some killer tracks.
14. Art Official Age (2014)
Prince shows he has still got it with this record of pure R&B jams. Injecting slick, seductive electro funk rhythms into this sci-fi concept album creates an array of impressive tracks with a quirky, but substantial edge. The ingenuity of crafting some alt tracks keep Prince an enigma 40 years into the game.
13. Love Symbol Album (1992)
With a new energy, and much to say Prince tackles a number of musical genres in this record and despite reaching out into complete opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of musicality he manages to meld them through into one consistent album. Mostly consisting of futuristic rock opera, he makes his first reach out into reggae which he slays once more.
12.The Black Album (1994)
A cohesive piece of work from beginning to end, this record carried a number of outstanding tracks mixing hip hop with funk. With an assortment of satirising humour, the piece feels lighthearted despite the weight of impressive tracks. In the groove of his musical genius he crafted a tightly-focused collection of white-hot R&B
11. Diamonds And Pearls (1991)
A return to his black roots following musical exploration in his previous albums, Prince goes all out with the hard R&B and sizzling sensuality. The album was top-notch in an effort that will have you dancing along to its intense upbeat tunes in a sweat, as well as flipping the script with some mature, and heartfelt numbers. The lightning sexuality of Cream returned Prince to the top of the Billboard charts with his fifth #1 single.
10. Batman (1989)
In a bizarre turn of events, Prince was given free roam over the soundtrack of Tim Burtons’ Batman. While it may not have been one of his career defining records it was a triumph in commercial pop music, and was an innovative stroke for a soundtrack album. While the production behind the record is phenomenal, it is the high concepts that stack it up as one of Prince’s best, crafting songs around the movies rich characters.
9. The Gold Experience (1995)
One of his most focused, and consistent records, Prince performs confidently throughout the lavish record. Effortlessly eclectic, he bares his heart, mind, and soul that capture the listener’s attention from track to track. The layering of his artistic sensibility throughout the edgy music adds depth to the album despite feeling uplifting, and fun.
8. LoveSexy (1988)
Known as the final instalment in the era that was “classic Prince”, this was rush released instead of the raunchier The Black Album but that says nothing to the quality of the peace. Here, the tracks held a highly whimsical and ethereal tone that spoke to its message of positivity and love. It has been divisive amongst fans, but contains brilliant work nonetheless.
7. Around The World In A Day (1985)
Completely underrated at the time of its release, it took years for people to fully appreciate the stunning work on this album. Super funky, soulful, and surreal, the album is nothing but gorgeous psychedelic triumphs. A complete change from his much applauded previous record, Prince demonstrated with this just how much of an innovative artist he is as to not rely on old successful sounds.
6. Parade (1986)
Containing some of his most successful tracks, Parade is a solid record of well crafted songs that range from psychedelia, European influences, to minimalist pop and funk. A fabulous experiment in music he mixes things up in a way few artists were doing at this time, especially during the height of their fame.
5. Controversy (1981)
Through this album, Prince was not holding anything back in relationship to his own life or his political beliefs he unabashedly went all out. Despite more complex themes, lyrics and catchy songs this album did little to move forward his sound. One of his more simplistic albums it’s a straightforward enjoyment fest.
4. Dirty Mind (1980)
A tripped back Prince, this album was much more concise, and less flamboyant than his previous efforts. His minimalistic approach reached to instrument, themes, and lyrics all taking a simplified root. The unexpected output was a major turning point in his musical direction, and was a prime example of ‘less is more’. Cut to its bare bones, the record was left with zero filler and just gold.
3. 1999 (1982)
Here is where Prince perfected his pop, R&B, synth sound that become a staple for the artist. In a psychedelic experiment, his themes are clear and concise throughout the double feature. One of his lengthiest track lists to date, there are endless tracks here to be marvelled at a range of musical change ups to slay.
2. Purple Rain (1984)
Purple Rain is by and large Prince’s most iconic album. It is one of those that will be ranked among the best of all time. Perfectly crafted, incredibly innovative, and full of creative spirit, it is interchangeable with the number one spot and unparalleled in artistry. If there is any record to begin a Prince journey with, this would be the choice. A true spectacle, here is where his superstar status turned iconic.
1. Sign O’ The Times (1987)
A true masterpiece, this is an album full of unequivocal musical experimentation that transcends genres and conventions. All grounded in a hyper-thematic reality, the flawless ingenuity of the album takes the listeners on a journey throughout the extended tack list. So varied and daring in the unique avenues it takes, it is a sonic supernova like no other.