(Top 101) #56. When Doves Cry – Prince

A few years back in the middle of a housewives class that I was teaching, one of the ladies asked me the difference between a “dove” and a “pigeon.” She said that in Korea, they were referred to by the same word: bee-dool-gee. I was rather stumped but expressed doubt that they could be the same bird. After all, when I think of a dove, I think of this pure, all-white bird (hmm, sounds rather racist now that I think back; my apologies) symbolizing peace and the end of Noah’s flood. As for a pigeon, I picture gray, overbloated rats with wings that hop because they’re too lazy to fly. Well, as it turns out, I was wrong, wrong, oh so wrong. They are indeed one and the same, at least according to Wikipedia.

It’s rather interesting that pop icon Prince chose to sing about doves (he made the right choice; “When Pigeons Cry” just doesn’t feel right), since he had an almost-synonymous doppelganger himself in Michael Jackson. Both hugely talented, both rather androgyonous, racially ambiguous, forever eccentric (to put it mildly), and fond of eyeliner, Prince and Michael formed one of the great musical rivalries of one time.

But unlike doves and pigeons, they did have one major difference. Michael’s energy was of the external kind. He wanted to show YOU a heck of a good time. He wanted YOU to see him and jump up and down and start weeping and buy his records. Without us, the audience, Michael would have had nothing to spur him on (and in fact, when most people turned their back on him following his legal troubles, he pretty much seemed to lose interest in his musical career until the comeback concerts just before the end).

Prince, on the other hand, didn’t care about us quite that much. I always got the feeling that Prince was just doing HIS thing and doing it HIS own way, and he wouldn’t have changed a thing whether a million people were watching or no one was watching at all. He truly walked (and sang and danced) to the beat of a different drummer. Sometimes, it allowed him to reach through limits and reach true excellence (pretty much everything he touched in the 80’s and early 90’s), but sometimes it led him to spiral within himself so much that everything became too self-esoteric for anyone to understand or like (his constant name-changing, his battle with his record companies, and most of his musical output since then).

But there is no denying that he had it all during his Purple Rain heyday. He was a pop singer, a rebel, a sex symbol, a mystery, an artist, and an absolute superstar. And “When Doves Cry” was the song that catapulted him to icon status and proved he was an artist that comes along once in a purple moon…

56. When Doves Cry – Prince

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