Introducing Kids to Prince’s Music

Image Credit: Scott Penner (https://www.flickr.com/photos/31648498@N00/2450784866)

Prince’s music is now streaming on Pandora, Spotify, and iHeart Radio. That’s great news for Prince fans, especially those still reeling from his death last April. And while I never attended a concert, I could appreciate the immense talent that Prince possessed.

Before his death, Prince had aggressively prevented his music from being shared freely online, making a principled stance that artists’ works ought not be exploited. It was consistent with his move to replace his name with the Love Symbol back in 1993 as a result of a dispute with his record producers (feel free to read up on his history on Wikipedia, if you’re so inclined). But obviously, those in charge of his estate now have made a different call.

As a parent, I do like to introduce my children to good music. That said, introducing kids to Prince’s music and talent can be complicated. After all, his songs, videos, and movies could hardly be considered family-friendly. I say this not to condemn him, or to insult his music, but because many of his songs were not written for young ears, and it behooves us as parents to keep that in mind.

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One thing to consider, before playing Prince’s music, is how you’re going to answer your kid(s) when asked why a particular catchy tune is being skipped. Because yes, it’s likely to happen. If you’re comfortable saying that he sang songs about subjects that they’re probably not old enough to listen to, and you’re sure that they’re not going to turn around and look those songs up on their own (and if so, that this doesn’t bother you), then have at it.

Or you could use his music as an entry into The Talk, which could perhaps have the side effect of forever making those songs awkward for both you and your child. Or not.

One thing to consider is that while many of his songs were sexual (or at least sexually suggestive), they were ultimately about consensual encounters. Seduction and intimacy, yes, but there was definitely consent. So you never get the sense of exploitation that you get from songs like, say, Robin Thicke’s rape anthem “Blurred Lines.” On the contrary, “Little Red Corvette” and “Raspberry Beret” are both about strong, sexual women in control.

That said, the man was a musical genius, and there are plenty of recorded performances to find online to demonstrate that. And I would simply suggest looking up the lyrics ahead of time to be sure you’re comfortable with your kids listening to them (if you either believe the innuendo will go over your kids’ heads or don’t mind answering their questions, then by all means, proceed freely).

Songs that I would start with:
“Let’s Go Crazy”
“I Would Die 4U”
“1999”

Songs with innuendo that really depend on your comfort level and your kids’ grasp of metaphor (and how closely they listen to lyrics):
“Raspberry Beret”
“Pop Life”
“Little Red Corvette”

But I, for one, am thrilled by the possibility of streaming his music. Prince was a prolific musical genius, a few examples of which are below:

Super Bowl Performance

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Starfish and Coffee

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Nivi Engineer is a novelist and playwright in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a mom of three boys, and escapes the never-ending sports calendar through reading. This month, she's learning that the capital of Bhutan is Thimphu. And now, so will you.