Prince was so prolific that we needed to split our list of his best yet most unheralded songs into two parts. Part 1 took us up to the beginning of the ‘90s, and if you thought his catalog was unwieldy up to that point, well, that was just the tip of the purple iceberg. Due to contractual squabbles, an ever-expanding vault of unreleased music, and an almost insatiable desire to write and record new stuff, it seemed like hardly a year went by without a triple-album or two, from the ‘90s right up until his sudden death in 2016. Sifting through all of that is no small matter, but it’s a fun one because his quality control rarely dwindled. Here are ten more wonderful songs from Prince, that relatively few know well.
1. “Walk Don’t Walk” (1991)
Diamond and Pearls was one of the last times that a Prince album really commanded the public’s attention throughout the entirety if its release cycle. It churned out four Top 25 singles, including the Number One “Cream.” This sprightly gem wasn’t one of those singles, although, at first listen, you can immediately sense that it could have been. With infectious “sha-na-na” backing vocals and a buoyant rhythm, Prince makes his case for individualism in a world full of followers.
2. “Pheromone” (1994)
Around the middle of the 1990s, Prince’s dispute with Warner Bros. intensified to the point that he would release albums like the fiercely funky Come while doing little to promote it. With a relentless beat and lyrics that hint at S&M tendencies, it’s understandable that a song like this one would never quite be ready for mass acceptance. But that doesn’t make it any less captivating, as Prince locates that dangerous line between lust and pain, and dances fearlessly all over it.
3. “Shy” (1995)
If you’re looking for Prince’s finest album after the ‘80s glory years, you can stop your search with The Gold Experience. Throughout the album, he rides high on some of the catchiest funk of his career, but this exotic, mysterious number effortlessly changes the pace. Amidst the hazy atmosphere conjured by his one-man band efforts, Prince recounts the tale of a one-night stand where one member of the rendezvous turns the dynamic of the evening on its head.
4. “Don’t Talk 2 Strangers” (1996)
Prince’s soundtrack for the Spike Lee movie Girl 6 contained mostly rehashed older material. This ballad was newly-released, although it had been sitting around since he penned it for a different film project that never came to fruition. The narrator gives fatherly advice in case he’s not around to do it in person, as he prepares to separate from his child. It’s one of his sweeter rarities.
5. “Goodbye” (1998)
This was the last track on Crystal Ball, Prince’s massive unearthing of buried treasures. Poring through these three discs can give you whiplash, with styles and personas veering wildly from song to song. But it ends on a heart-tugging note with this beautiful soul ballad. Prince alternates between his tender falsetto and multi-tracked harmonies and ends up sounding like some forgotten Stax group. Nobody bared his soul quite like he could on the slow ones.
6. “I Love You, But I Don’t Trust You Anymore” (1999)
Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic found Prince once again showing off his dexterity on a number of different genres. But this showstopper features his just him on the piano with indie heroine Ani DiFranco helping out on acoustic guitar. It finds him going back to his “Beautiful Ones,” blood-on-the-piano mode. For all the bravado he attempts to put across about leaving a torturous love in his rear-view mirror, his pained vocal betrays the fact that the separation is going to hurt him more than it hurts her.
7. “3121” (2006)
The opening track off the 2006 album of the same name sparked many theories about the numerical symbolism. Chances are it was just Prince sending us on a wild-goose chase. It’s best to just settle into the groove, which is somehow woozy and unstoppable all at once. The lyrics promise a futuristic party with clothes on the floor and glasses with chocolate handles. And while he paraphrases “Hotel California” in the lyrics, why would anyone want to leave this scene?
8. “Mr. Goodnight” (2007)
If you’ve ever heard the standard “Mr. Sandman,” you might expect this song to be a gentle paean to slumber. Well, you’d be wrong, as Prince promises a different pathway to sleep. The cooing female vocals should clue you in that there will be more than warm milk involved. If that doesn’t do it, Prince’s smoother-than-smooth rap in the verses, which involve an experience that titillates every one of the senses, should seal the deal.
9. “Another Love” (2014)
The all-girl rockers 3rdeyegirl were Prince’s backing band on Plectrumelectrum, and, if nothing else, they gave him an excuse to rock out with abandon. This crunching track has a little bit of the New Wave catchiness of “When U Were Mine” to it, albeit with a harder edge. It also builds from a grinding pace until, by the end, it’s going full-tilt while Prince screams out his lyrics and burns down the whole thing with a frenzied wah-wah solo.
10. “Shut This Down” (2015)
It is a shame that Prince’s final album releases, the 2015 double-whammy of HITnRUN Phase One and Phase Two, didn’t quite find him at the top of his game. But he was at least exploring interesting new territory, such as the tinges of electronica that liven up this banger. “Straight purple mack, Baby,” he promises, and the pounding beat, combined with his playfully boastful declarations, ensures that he delivers.
Photo Credit: Prince circa 1992 photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images