While not arguing that is any kind of Foucauldian theorist, I
maintain that his critiques of the music industry and his constant focus on the importance
of the text as the object that labels an individual resemble some of Foucault's important
For one, he insists on defining himself by his lyrics, not by his personal life. Clearly, he
has attempted to blur his identity both in his interview
techniques and in his own reporting of his past.
I ask him whether he feels the public's perception of him is accurate. "There's not much I
want them to know about me," he says, "other than the music."
- But hadn't he been cheered by the album's almost uniformly rave notices? "That's not
what it's about," Prince had said. "No one's mentioning the lyrics. Maybe I should have
put in a lyric sheet."
- I suddenly realized that we can die at any moment, and we'd be judged by the last
thing we left behind. I didn't want that angry, bitter thing to be the last thing. I learned
from that album, but I don't want to go back."
I wanted this album to be listened to, judged, critiqued as a whole. It's hard to take a
trip and go around the block, and stop when the trip is 400 miles. Dig?
However, he manipulates, even within his songs, the distinction between the
"I" of the song and the "I" that is Prince and . For instance, after
an incident in which one of his body guards snatched a camera from a photographer in
the wake of Prince's not joining in with the "We are the World" collaboration (he
contributed with his own song, but did not join the large group of celebrity singers), he
released "Hello" as a musical explanation of the whole situation. In other words, he
wants to keep attention on his lyrics, not on him; but then he brings the two together,
making the distinction difficult to maintain.
- As far as the incident concerning the photographer goes, it's on the flip side of "Pop
Life." The main thing it says is that we're against hungry children, and our record stands
Accounts of Prince's attitudes toward the big business and the controlling interests of that
business that had woven themselves into the fabric of his life are part of the forces that
moved him toward his change in identity. He claims variously that "Prince" is a business
and that "Prince" was a person. The blurred distinction is one of identity and it forces
into view the blurring between an "author" and the individual who embodies that author
function. As the final claim in the following list suggests, in Prince's struggle to deal
with the complexity of embodying an author-function that is so immediately accessible,
he raises the very issues that Foucault himself found important:
"Prince was a company. It wasn't my career. It's embarrassing, when you've got a whole
machine behind you making sure your record is in every store that they own and on every
radio station that they own . . . You're being programmed."
Q: Is it possible to shed a entire personality?
: It's not like it's a real personality."
Q: It's a person then?
: "Yeah, I think it is."
A genius, certainly, who manages to be on top of everything; but set apart, rewriting
reality, plucking people so that they can become a new integral piece of the jigsaw of
Sure, doesn't need the extra money, but if he's making you
question the ownership of intangibles like music (and the political implications thereof)
then deserves much respect.