Turning 30: Prince’s “1999″

It’s no surprise really that the song “1999” by his royal highness, Prince, still reigns supreme as it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Aging as gracefully as its singer and songwriter, “1999” captures a youthful vitality that is instantly catchy while being simultaneously dystopian.

You probably remember where you were when you first heard the tune. Maybe you were in elementary school, into that new thing called MTV and an addicted fan of Soul Train. Perhaps you were a bit older, in high school and sporting your Jheri curl. Whatever you were doing in that moment when you heard the song, you were undoubtedly intrigued. From the layered female vocals of Prince’s band mates Lisa Coleman and Jill Jones on top of Prince’s scorching voice, the song sizzles and captures you. You almost disregard the lyrics, but you can’t help but try to decipher them. All you could pick up at first was a verse about the sky being “all purple” and “people running everywhere”. You know that you heard something dying from destruction but that didn’t scare you really. You were too intrigued by then. Plus, this was the 80s. Zombies and camp horror were pretty big.

Released as the second single from the album of the same name, “1999” is Prince’s signature tune that propelled him to the top and into the same league as such legendary artists as Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Retaining its intrigue over the years, “1999” still has people scratching their heads—“What does it mean?” “Is it a prediction?” For, after all these years, we really don’t know. But, seriously, it doesn’t matter. We know that it has forever earned its place in history as one of Prince’s biggest classics, and, for that, we’re quite satisfied.

-Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman

Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a music writer based in Maryland. Visit her on KhadijahOnline.com.

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