Prince was an astoundingly prolific artist, releasing nearly 40 albums under his own name(s), and thousands of songs for himself and others. His concerts were legendary, spellbinding from arenas to intimate clubs, flooring audiences around the world.
But videos? Prince was a lot more ambivalent about videos. He made dozens of them, some great, some... well, some were barely more than home videos he threw together with his friends or bandmates around Paisley Park.
It's in his videos, though that we see Prince's relationship with his music as a commercial artist. A few times, Prince really told a story or expanded on the narrative of a song using a video. In his performance-oriented videos, he was often mesmerizing, capturing much of what made Prince the best live pop musician of his era.
And importantly, it is in his videos that we see Prince exploring the edges of his identity and public persona. There are hints and clues of what Prince wanted to do next at almost every phase of his career. Frustratingly, though most of Prince's videos, including some of his very best, remained obscure, getting almost no airplay back when there were music video channels, or being distributed through one-off VHS video collections, CD-ROMs or uneven and short-lived video streams on Prince's websites. As a result, it's been almost impossible to evaluate Prince's videos as a whole body of work.
Until now. With the Prince estate's release of his entire video collection, in high resolution, some easily accessible for the first time ever, we get a different glimpse at Prince. While Prince's recorded albums seldom featured his absurd humor, his videos often gave free reign to Prince's sillier side. While many of his songs were solo productions where Prince (as his album credits so often proclaimed) produced, arranged, composed and performed the entire song, in his videos, he would often cast his bandmates, friends and proteges in roles where they would mime his work and represent facets of Prince himself. We even get to see Prince directing (or ghost-directing) a number of works, as he grew in ability and confidence as a director over the course of his career.
Now, the truth is, many of Prince's videos just aren't that great. Especially when considered in comparison to the sheer mind-boggling breadth of Prince's musical genius, or the groundbreaking video innovation of his pop contemporaries like Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson and Madonna, the fact that Prince has fewer truly extraordinary music videos is a stark contrast. But as with all things Prince, when he was doing his best, there was absolutely nobody better.
Here, then, is a look at all of Prince's music videos, in chronological order. There are 124 released during the 35 years of his pop career, and I've included the 2 estate-released videos as well. Many of these annotations on these videos began as an ongoing Twitter thread that I've been updating as the estate released new clips (Questlove said it was worthy of his NYU class!) but here I've updated and expanded all the information on each video, and covered the videos I omitted on Twitter, as well as a number which are not available on the streaming services, but which were released over the years.
I hope having the full library of Prince's videos available will help people appreciate the extraordinary breadth of his musical gift, and provide a new lens on not just how remarkably prolific he was, but how absolutely fearless Prince was in constantly exploring new aspects of his expression. Enjoy!
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Prince's first incontrovertible hit, from his second, self-titled album, featured an incredible look that nobody else could pull off. The open-necked blouse, with Prince still young enough to be openly aping Mick Jagger's prancing, also served to let a lot of new fans know that the new act they'd fallen for was, in fact, an individual man — not a group.
Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad
The first time Prince ever appeared in a video fronting a band, Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad is also the only appearance of early band member Gayle Chapman. The single dropped just as Prince was about to embark on his stint opening for Rick James on his 1980 tour, the biggest stage he'd yet commanded.
In the first video for his third album, Prince debuts a new look, an expanded band — including the first video appearance of Revolution stalwart Lisa Coleman on keys — and the stage set he'd use in that year's Dirty Mind tour. Also notable is one disappearance: pants. Prince is sporting bikini briefs, a dramatic way of introducing the coordinated looks he'd sport throughout the rest of his career, where the look on an album cover matched the looks on stage and the looks in his music videos.
Following on the heels of the Uptown single was this video for the title track of the Dirty Mind album. Filmed at the same time as the only other video of this era, the crowd stays excited throughout the clip, even as Prince shows off what must be his goofiest dance ever during the fade-out of the song, flailing his arm around while gripping his trench coat tight.
A huge upgrade in production values makes Controversy the turning point toward Prince's visual identity that launched him to superstardom in the 80s. There's a stained-glass window behind the set, just like on his hugely successful tour that year. The song itself is a thumping, all-time classic, and would remain a staple of his live sets for the rest of Prince's life. The band has nearly evolved into the Revolution with the addition of Mark Brown on the bass guitar, and Prince has his custom-tailored long trenchcoat with the studded epaulets already. The only thing missing? That slick custom coat is still colored black. A little splash of a signature color, and Prince was just about ready to show off the look he'd sport when he took over the world.
(There were a few signs that Prince's production team was still getting its act together in this pre-MTV era: check out the cameraman visible on stage left at 2:05.)
Prince at the peak of his No Pants Mode era, sporting his thigh-highs and briefs. At 2:30, Prince premiers his signature split, the move that would define his onstage presence during his greatest years of superstardom, and shape his life offstage long after he'd stopped doing that kind of dancing. But do stick around for the laser show at the end, as it evokes the lighting of Michael Jackson's Rock With You video from two years prior.
Now this is a superstar. Prince vaults into the stratosphere with the entire band (still not quite called the Revolution) sporting distinctive custom stagewear, nailing meticulous choreography for every note of the song, oozing sex appeal with each move, and becoming the purple force that would change the sound of pop radio for good. Standouts here are Jill Jones looking absurdly hot in a vaguely nautical hat, and the first time Prince showed off coordinated lighting synched to the motifs of the song.
Though this video was technically released first, it wouldn't get substantial airplay, or debut on MTV, until after his next video took off.
Little Red Corvette
More than any other, this is the video that made Prince a star. Alongside Michael Jackson, Prince would smash the color barrier at MTV through the sheer undeniable force of Litle Red Corvette's appeal. Beautiful, moody lighting carries through the whole video, making it look like nothing else on TV at the time.
Shot separately from the rest of the rest of the 1999 era videos, which had all been done in one session, Little Red Corvette was Prince's first video recorded on film. Bryan Greenburg, who directed the video, offered up a number of deeper insights into the creation of the video, including a cut sequence that would have featured Prince and Vanity tooling around in an actual little red Corvette. It's striking to think of Prince as just a 24-year-old still learning to do things like work with film cameras instead of videotape; he actually didn't realize he'd need to block out his dance moves with the cameraman, so when he did his signature split during the guitar solo, on the first take he had dropped below the frame of the camera.
It's also interesting to consider Prince's little spin moves in the pop culture moment of the time. Breakdancing was just starting to take off as a mass phenomenon, and even the few seconds of spinning Prince did in this video put him in the conversation as part of that movement, despite his having had almost no connection to hip hop.
None of that mattered, though, once the video premiered on MTV. The video rocketed the song up the charts, revived the fortunes of both the 1999 single and album, and set the stage for world domination. Suddenly, everything was purple.
This was one of the first videos that Prince's estate shared online, and it's a scorcher. Recorded as part of the same marathon shooting schedule that captured the videos for 1999 and Let's Pretend We're Married, this shows off Jill Jones at her best, an unparalleled foil for Prince. And with the full song running for well over 8 minutes, Prince can fully let his freak flag fly; by 7 minutes on, Prince is tied to the bed onstage, and it's not long until Lisa is flogging him with a cat-o-nine-tails.
This one did not get any MTV airplay in 1982, sadly.
Let's Pretend We're Married
Unlike its sibling video Automatic, Let's Pretend We're Married was actually released as a single, albeit more than a year after the 1999 album had come out. By this time, Prince was already fully in the midst of creating the Purple Rain album and film, so this song was only a minor hit on the charts and the video, synched to a shortened edit of the song, basically never got an official release until it showed up online.
When Doves Cry
Prince's most famous video, the debut of the Revolution (with the addition of Wendy Melvoin, the band was now complete), exciting footage that acted at the time as a trailer for the Purple Rain film that was then to come, and additional scenes that worked in the years that followed as a glimpse at what was cut from the movie. When Doves Cry had everything to bring Prince to the unprecedented plateau of having the number one film, album and single in the United States, all at the same time.
While the special effects at the end haven't necessarily held up as well as the rest of the clip, it was only appropriate that a song which sounded like nothing else on radio before or since was accompanied by a video that couldn't have been created by anyone but Prince. The full integratino of Prince's visual identity into his presence across media was perfected with this song and the launch of Purple Rain. In the video, he sports looks that would show up in the film, on stage during the Purple Rain tour, and in other videos from the project. The Purple Rain album even came with a poster of the backdrop illustration from the end of the clip.
And through it all, there's tons of purple, paisley and the subtle appearance of a peculiar and portentous little symbol. Just two months before this video was recorded, Prince had been in a studio all by himself, writing, recording, performing and producing every single sound on the track. By a month later, when the video debuted, he'd become one of the biggest stars in the world.
(You can check out a short edit of the When Doves Cry video, too, but why would you want to?!)
Let's Go Crazy
Mirroring much of the opening scenes of the Purple Rain film, the video for Let's Go Crazy is one of the best performance videos that Prince and the Revolution ever made, while also functioning as an irresistible trailer for the film. And though it's over-edited in the final cut of the video (this was at the dawning of the hyper-fast-cutting MTV editing style), Let's Go Crazy is the first video to feature Prince soloing on his guitar in true rock god mode.
Amazingly, Prince's signature song is among the very few of his videos that's not officially available online. (Though of course a fan has uploaded it.) Presumably, this is because the video was almost exactly the scene from the film where he performs the song, and perhaps the studio didn't want to simply share a lengthy clip of the film online.
In lieu of the proper video, here's a brief video about Prince's legendary 2007 Super Bowl halftime performance, where Prince commanded the heavens to unleash a genuine Purple Rain, and pulled off the most dominating victory of any Super Bowl ever.
You'll want to know the amazing story behind Prince's conception of Purple Rain; I've written a detailed history of his influences and inspirations for the masterwork here: I Know Times Are Changing.
I Would Die 4 U
Prince at the height of his stardom, in his very first live performance video, featuring an expanded Revolution that incorporates Sheila E. and her band, setting the stage on fire in front of 20,000 fans.
Baby I'm A Star
Flowing seamlessly from the I Would Die 4 U video, since it was recorded at the same concert in Maryland in November of 1984, the Baby I'm A Star is the Purple Rain tour at its most indulgent and over-the-top, giving the band a full work out for more than 13 minutes straight.
You might think it goes on too long, but check out where you're at by 11 minutes in, where Prince is going harder than James Brown in his cues to the band, controlling the dozens of people on stage and in the crew with just the twitch of his hand. Unstoppable!
Take Me With U
Another scorching live performance, Take Me With U finds Prince and the Revolution at the height of their fame, during the Purple Rain tour, when they broke records selling out every seat in The Summit in Houston 5 times in one week.
In lieu of Appolonia's duet vocals as on the recorded song, the song becomes a rocking jam session with Prince's searing guitar solo rocketing into another gear with an interpolation of his own "Controversy" at the 3-minute mark. Add in some weird but fun special effects that make you feel like you're flying through the air while Prince shreds on his guitar, and it's hard not to love this one.
4 The Tears In Your Eyes
As the phenomenon of the Purple Rain movie and tour wound down, Prince found himself in a more pensive mood. When the entire industry focused its attention on the USA for Africa effort, Prince chose to contribute a new song to the album rather than join in the "We Are The World" singalong. And in lieu of showing up for the mega-concert staged by USA for Africa, he decided to contribute an exclusive video for that new song: 4 The Tears In Your Eyes.
An unabashedly spiritual song, the version released on the charity album was a conventional rock arrangement, but the video was a very human, pensive acoustic version with just Prince, Wendy and Lisa. It was almost never aired again after the day of the USA for Africa concert.
Also notable here: this is where Prince debuted a totally new look after Purple Rain. The short hair, black and white film, and conventional trenchcoat (sans signature purple and spiky epaulets, after years of sporting the look) seemed to presage the sober aesthetic he'd adopt the following year for much of his work around the movie Under the Cherry Moon.
Now, Prince might have cut his hair off after the Purple Rain tour, but that doesn't mean he was happy with how it turned out. You see, he'd also bleached it, perhaps trying to use his hair to indicate just how dramatically he was changing direction after the mega-success of his last album. But when it looked a mess, he decided to dye it back to black, with an end result that looked like a wig.
That wouldn't have been so bad, except that's the look he was sporting during one of his most famous videos ever: Raspberry Beret. Prince had first fought to not put out any video for the song, then tried to have it only be an animated video (the animation did end up being featured prominently in the clip), and finally eventually consented to appearing in the video. Accompanied by some of his best tailoring and costuming ever, with the absolutely beautiful cloud suit that perfectly evoked the song's vibe, the video helped put Prince back atop the charts almost instantly.
Despite the success, a lot of folks in the Prince camp (including members of the Revolution!) felt his hair looked like Liza Minelli in the clip, as they've mentioned in interviews. Prince himself felt that his hair evoked the style sported by Lou Ferrigno, who was then portraying The Incredible Hulk on the 80s TV show.
If you've ever had a bad haircut and hated your bangs, Raspberry Beret is the Prince song for you. (And keep your eyes peeled for a way-before-Nirvana Pat Smear in the background of the clip, too!)
Prince finally got his wish to disppear from his video, ironically on the song that would give a name to one of the most lasting parts of his legacy. Unfortunately, the video was essentially never released, and even diehard fans could only find bootleg copies of it that were sourced from a rare promo video years made by his record label years after the song came out.
Much of the public perception of the album Around The World In A Day (which included Paisley Park) was that it was Prince's "psychedelic" album. Though the influence of The Beatles and others on the album's sound has been a bit overstated, if this video had come out back then, its unabashed evocation of the aesthetics of 60s psychedelia would have undoubtedly cemented the idea that Prince had just been trying to evoke that era. Maybe it's better, then, that this video never came out at the time, allowing Paisley Park to come to represent a vision that is purely Prince's.
Now this is what I'm talking about: one of Prince's greatest videos ever. Prince and the Revolution, in the south of France, going all-out on the funkiest jam from the Around the World In A Day album— America.
It's damn near 10 minutes long, and you will be knocked on your ass when, at 8 minutes in, after scorching guitar solos and an unbelievably funky horn section, Prince runs back and takes over the drum set. If you've ever met anybody who says, "I don't get why people like Prince so much?", show them this video. If they don't get it then, they can't be helped.
(Why were the Revolution in France? Well, as was always the case during the 80s, Prince had already moved on to his next project while he was supposed to be promoting the current one. They were filming the movie Under the Cherry Moon, the inspiration for his next album, Parade.)
One of Prince's biggest videos, and maybe because it's the first one where fans got to see that Prince was really, really funny. Effortlessly sexy, mugging constantly for the camera, and featuring a stripped-down set that's as minimal as the song itself, Kiss was delightful, efficient and funky.
Like When Doves Cry, Raspberry Beret, and Paisley Park before it, the video for Mountains has Prince and his band bluescreened in front of a video background. Like Take Me With U, there's footage of flying through the skies (though much more appropriate to the lyrics of this song). But this time, there's a cinematic breadth to the video, both due to the expansive arrangement of the song, and the presence of irresisible personalities like Kristin Scott Thomas and Jerome Benton, both of whom joined Prince in Under the Cherry Moon — the film for which this song and video were created.
In contrast to the minimalism of Kiss, this is the maximalism of the Revolution at its biggest, adding in horn players, dancers, and Prince's biggest sound yet.
Girls & Boys
Unlikely as it may seem, one of the Revolution's funkiest songs ever is also its most elegant video ever. The expanded band shows up decked out in tuxedos and ball gowns, strutting to the unforgettable baritone saxophone riff that anchors the song. After weeks of filmng and recording in the south of France, Prince and the Revolution look as comfortable as if they'd been there their whole lives, breaking out some simple but delightful choreography at the song's fade.
But the highlight has to be Prince and Jerome Benton riffing as only they can, at 3:12 in the video. It's still absurdly funny after decades, and again shows a side of Prince's sense of humor that casual fans almost never got to see.
A wonderful glimpse into one of the most important concerts of Prince's career, his 1986 performance at Detroit's Cobo Arena on June 7, 1986 — his 28th birthday, a new maturity that was hinted at by one of the first times we ever see Prince ina suit and tie. The song was one of Prince's best slow-burning songs of the era, and as the final video appearance of the Revolution it marks the end of an incredible era.
Sign O' The Times
U Got The Look
I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man
I Wish U Heaven
(There's a short version of the Partyman video, too.)
Thieves In The Temple
(The much more common short version of the video is available, of course.)
New Power Generation
The Question Of U
Gett Off (Houstyle)
Violet The Organ Grinder
(This is one of those videos that has a short edit, omitting all the introductory drama.)
Diamonds And Pearls
Money Don't Matter 2 Night (Spike Lee version)
Money Don't Matter 2 Night (performance version)
Willing And Able
Call The Law
Live 4 Love
My Name Is Prince
Love 2 The 9's
The Morning Papers
Hmm! I wonder why this one isn't online yet.
Nothing Compares 2 U
Though there is a video of the live version of the song released in 1993, the estate hasn't yet released the footage.
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
Eye Hate U
Rock 'N Roll Is Alive! (And It Lives In Minneapolis)
Dinner With Delores
The Same December
I Like It There
Betcha By Golly Wow!
The Holy River
The Greatest Romance Ever Sold
Hot With U (Nasty Girl Remix)
U Make My Sun Shine
When Eye Lay My Hands On U
The Daisy Chain
Call My Name
Te Amo Corazon
The Song Of The Heart
(There's a totally different version that's a Verizon ad, too.)