Prince’s Performance and the Wisdom of Solomon

The reviews of Prince’s Superbowl halftime show are already rolling in. The New York Times
says:

“Just when it seemed time to give up on that quaint ritual known as the halftime show, along comes Prince. His performance last night at Super Bowl XLI will surely go down as one of the most thrilling halftime shows ever; certainly the most unpredictable, and perhaps the best. ‘Dearly beloved,’ he whispered, intoning the famous first words of ‘Let’s Go Crazy.’ What followed was a dizzying demonstration. . .

“Yesterday’s command performance was yet more proof that Prince has made that familiar journey from pariah to American treasure. He has a catalog of hits that everybody seems to love (even the players, who normally take little interest in the halftime show, were quoted praising Prince), and he sings and plays and moves as well as he ever did.”

As the article makes clear, the ironic thing is that Prince was once considered to be one of the most controversial singers in America. In the 80’s he hardly would have been considered the safe alternative to the infamous shenanigans of Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake. But now he is hailed an “American treasure,” the consummate performer who can be relied upon to deliver a show. That he did.

What is it about aging superstars like Prince who are leaving behind provocative, hyper-sexualized performances? Even the provocateur extraordinaire, Madonna, seems to be favoring mommying over pushing the sexual envelope in her public appearances and performances.

Maybe in some intuitive way even superstars discover the wisdom of Solomon:

And all that my eyes desired I did not refuse them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure . . . and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).

The passing of years has a way of illuminating the emptiness of vainglory. Perhaps this is what we are seeing in the aging performers. Perhaps not. In any case, we would all do well to take stock of our own lives and to listen to Solomon’s warnings against the vanity of the godless life. Life is too short to waste on chasing after the wind.

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

16 Responses to Prince’s Performance and the Wisdom of Solomon

  1. Jonathan Moorhead February 4, 2007 at 11:43 pm #

    I thought the silhouette of prince (when the curtain came up) with his guitar was quite provocative. I suppose I shouldn’t elaborate on where the curves appeared to come out on Prince’s body, but did anyone else notice this?

  2. dennyrburk February 4, 2007 at 11:47 pm #

    Jonathan,

    I don’t want to give the impression that I think Prince is providing wholesome entertainment these days. He’s not. I’m saying that he appears to have left behind some of the excesses that characterized his career in the 80’s and 90’s. What you saw and heard tonight was mild compared to what he used to do.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  3. Mark February 5, 2007 at 7:40 am #

    You’re right Denny. I saw prince for the original Purple Rain tour in Detroit (1983 – 84?) and it was pretty crazy.

    The silhouette looked eerily like a tail more than anything else. Overall it was a great performance. He is an excellent song writer.

    U2’s half-time show after 9-11 was really good.

  4. Mark February 5, 2007 at 7:46 am #

    lest we forget

  5. Paul February 5, 2007 at 9:53 am #

    Prince really did bring it. I’m glad he did some guitar playing and reminded everyone that beyond being a star, that he is a VERY capable musician as well.

    I could have done without all of the covers (in case you weren’t counting, he did Proud Mary, some Foo Fighters’ tune and All Along the Watchtower in a version closer to Dylan’s original than Hendrix’s recasting), but all in all, considering the context, it was probably the best purely musical performance at the super bowl in years.

  6. Jada Bown Swanson February 5, 2007 at 3:01 pm #

    See, even though, sadly I might add, I was a closet Prince fan in highschool and college…that bad boy thing that girls go through, I suppose. Yet, I just wasn’t impressed last night. The only thing I did enjoy was the guitar playing–I LOVE electric guitar and totally would play it if I could, but I am too old–and the college band (college, yes?) that was with him.

    Both my husband, and myself, are very production-oriented. I know there was rain, but that wasn’t it. His performance just didn’t grab me, or make me want to stop what I was doing (cooking, then feeing a 23 mth old little girl dinner) and watch it.

    I agree, though, it was not at all as provocative as in days past. Is that b/c he is not as provocative? Or is it b/c our culture/society is even more so that we don’t even realize he is still the same Prince????

    And Denny, I am not so sure that Madonna favors mommy-ing over sensual, sexual performance i.e the KISS a few years back with Brittany. Perhaps, that backfired on her and didn’t propel her career the way she had planned.

    Paul, usually we agree or are closer in agreement to each other’s opinions than most:). I can’t believe how off I am from your view this time!!!! However, Paul I will agree Prince is not only a star but a musician. Sadly, most who have contracts nowadays are neither in my mind, but boy does the studio make them sound good.

  7. señor jefe February 5, 2007 at 3:56 pm #

    I thought it was an excellent performance that looked exactly like what he was doing 20 years ago.

    The curtain thing was a cool effect. But if there were any misplace extremeties in the shadow, I do not think they were intentional.

    Sometimes I wonder if we Christians don’t have dirtier minds than the rest of the world, in our search to identify “sin”.

    Regarding Prince’s age, I think everyone, “stars” included, come to a point where aging, overt-sensuality simply becomes a little pathetic (and kind-of dirty-old-manish…)

  8. Debbie February 5, 2007 at 5:54 pm #

    I personally don’t care for Prince. I did enjoy Billy Joel do the national anthem though.

  9. Paul February 5, 2007 at 6:18 pm #

    Do you even know how many clams (sour notes) Billy hit during that rendition? I stopped counting at 10. For a professional singing a song that’s only 1:30, that’s more than a few.

  10. barry February 5, 2007 at 9:40 pm #

    Jada,
    I had the opposite reaction. I was supposed to be getting my 2 year old ready for bed, but instead, I completely stopped what I was doing and sat there with my mouth open. I was a big Prince fan (thanks, Denny!) during high school and college, and loved the music last night. He looked the same as he did 20 years ago, and “Purple Rain,” done IN the rain, was fantastic. I was reaching around searching for a lighter to hold up.

    Glad you enjoyed the guitar playing. Most never realized that he can flat play the thing, and his musical creativity was what set him apart from a lot of the ear candy in the 80’s and 90’s. (I mean, c’mon, what IS “Kiss” anyway, musically? What genre is THAT?) I know that he is not exactly wholesome, but kicking Prince is like kicking smoking. Do they make a patch for this? Never mind, I was hooked at “Dearly beloved . . .” two decades ago.

    Barry

  11. barry February 5, 2007 at 9:54 pm #

    . . . and can someone tell me what exactly IS “purple rain”?

  12. dorsey February 5, 2007 at 11:05 pm #

    I agree that Prince owned that half-time show. I sat in a room with a half-dozen forty-somethings, and only two of us knew that Prince was a guitarist. Well, now everyone knows. I hope he tours.

  13. Jada Bown Swanson February 6, 2007 at 12:16 pm #

    Barry, Jon, my dh, was like you. He was at a Superbowl party and was totally intrigued. Loved it! I don’t think it was bad, just didn’t hook me.

    However, I am so re-living “Dearly beloved….Let’s go CRAZY” Back in my cheerleading days that was THE song to choreograph a routine. Totally sounded cool going thru the system at NSU where we played our highschool games. My parents on the other hand abhored his music, and I am sure still do. (I wonder what music I will hate that my kids love, or maybe it will be the other way around for Jon and I).

    Geez, now I have Prince songs running thru my head when I should be grading Theory papers.

  14. Matthew February 7, 2007 at 3:02 pm #

    I realize your point was about Prince, not Madonna. However, I definitely thought I had seen this past year where she was still stirring the pot pretty effectively. I don’t think she has quite made that transition yet.

    To the main point about the formerly edgy artists now being the family-safe alternative – I thought that having Paul McCartney as the safe option the year after Whitney’s malfunction was hilariously ironic.

  15. Julie February 8, 2007 at 1:41 am #

    Okay—my two cents worth–

    First of all, as a 40-something mom and housewife, will someone PLEASE tell me what kind of soap, etc…that man uses on his face because he looks EXACTLY the same as he did 20 years ago, and it’s REALLY beginning to get on my nerves!!! :O)

    Okay, seriously…about his show…The dancers needed to go. I don’t think they added anything to it. At all. They were really just in the way.

    At the same time, I guess I’m one of the few who realized eons ago that Prince is basically a virtuoso when it comes to that guitar. He just flat out burns it up!! There are alot of guitar players in the world…but there’s a huge difference between music and noise, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard noise come from one of his performances–instrumentally speaking. I honestly believe the man could play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and I’d be riveted.

    I also could’ve done without the “Proud Mary” cover. But was also so impressed that he went on and performed so well in the rain!! They said on a newscast that he put sandpaper on the bottom of his shoes to keep from sliding.

    When I was in college, Prince was a staple at every frat party! (Yes, this was back in my heathen days of youth…) It’s funny to think back on that time, and really—the only other song that got people movin’ toward the dance floor quicker than Prince was “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” by Michael Jackson!!! :oO Oh my, how the times have changed!!!

    But seriously, back to what we were supposed to be discussing…

    The bottom line for me, regarding Prince, is this: He has always had some funky underlying spiritual thing going on. Even when I was lost, I was searching, and I really believe that there were times I was being prodded by the Holy Spirit through secular music. I didn’t know it then, but I believe it now, in retrospect.

    I would love to know what Prince truly believes. I’ve heard that he is a Jehovah’s Witness (figure that one out!)…but that’s just rumor as far as I know.

    Still I’ve always wondered about him in that respect. Someone else posted about “Purple Rain”…what IS purple rain?? I STILL don’t know…23 years later, and I still don’t know! But I’ve heard theories that it has something to do with the love of God. No kidding! Again, I don’t know if that’s what he was driving at with it…just hearsay…BUT there’s a common thread running in alot of his lyrics…generally—GENERALLY speaking…he sings about one of two things: sex and God (God-related subjects/ideas).

    I’ve always loved the lyrics to “I would Die For You.” While it’s not a “nail-on-the-head” depiction of Jesus, he’s not so far off the beam that it wouldn’t give someone some food for thought, especially when you consider the character and nature of Jesus as opposed to the icons/idols of other (false) religions. Here’s a sampling…”I’ll never beat you; I’ll never lie. And if you’re evil I’ll forgive you by and by…No need to worry; No need to cry; I’m your Messiah and you’re the reason why I would die for you…
    You’re just a sinner, I am told, [I’ll] Be your fire when you’re cold, make you happy when you’re sad, make you good when you are bad…I’m not human, I am a dove…I’m your conscience. I am love. All I really need is to know that you believe…”

    Anyway…just something to chew on and think about…my point to all of this is simply that I think—wherever he is spiritually—he’s been searching for a long, long time. And maybe that search has made him re-evaluate the content of what he’s dishing out…???

  16. Paul February 8, 2007 at 4:08 pm #

    Prince IS a Jehovah’s Witness these days and has been for a while. The album that he put out before Musicology (you wanna talk great music? Put on Musicology and you’ll forget you own Purple Rain!) was about his becoming a JW, and it was slammed pretty hard by the critics (and rightfully so, it was awful).

    While he’s hearing a false gospel, it’s clear that being a Jehovah’s Witness has helped him to clean up his act. Now only if someone can talk some sense into him and get him to a real church, that would be something!

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