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, most of Prince's videos just aren't that great. Especially when considered in comparison to the sheer mind-boggling breadth of Prince's 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. Most of these writeups began as an ongoing Twitter thread that I've been updating as the estate released new videos (Questlove said it was worthy of his NYU class!) but here I've updated and expanded all the information on each video.
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.
Little Red Corvette
Let's Pretend We're Married
When Doves Cry
(You can check out the short edit, too, but why would you want to?!)
Let's Go Crazy
Amazingly, this one is not online!
I Would Die 4 U
Baby I'm A Star
Take Me With U
4 The Tears In Your Eyes
Girls & Boys
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.)